Giant panda Mei Xiang gives birth to first cub since 2005

A giant panda at Washington’s zoo surprised scientists and zookeepers by becoming a mom again after years of failed pregnancies.

Fourteen-year-old Mei Xiang gave birth late Sunday, her first cub since 2005.

Like all newborn pandas, the cub is pink, hairless and about the size of a stick of butter. Officials will follow Chinese custom and give it a name after 100 days.

For now, keepers said, Mei Xiang is doing well and responding to the cub’s fussy grunt and high-pitched squeal. So far, there have been only fleeting glimpses of the cub and it’s not clear what sex it is. But keepers will continue to watch the two on camera, the same view the public has online, and won’t step in unless necessary.

Zoo director Dennis Kelly said officials expect the newborn will bring an additional 250,000 to 500,000 visitors to the zoo over the next year. That’s on top of the 2 million visitors the zoo already receives annually.

Under an agreement with the Chinese government, zoo officials can keep the cub for four years before it has to go back to China, just as its older brother Tai Shan did in 2010.


Canadian auto workers face deadline with GM, Chrysler

The Canadian Auto Workers union said Monday it has reached a tentative deal with Ford, but a midnight strike deadline loomed with Detroit’s two other automakers.

CAW President Ken Lewenza said they expect Ford’s four-year deal to serve as a template for GM and Chrysler. “If they say it is unacceptable we will have no choice but to withdraw our labor,” Lewenza said. “Don’t force us to use that last tool.”

Lewenza said if there is “light at the end of the tunnel” they will extend the midnight deadline.

The CAW represents about 21,000 auto workers in Canada and about 16 percent of auto production in North America. The Ford agreement will see 800 laid-off Ford employees get back to work, partially through the creation of 600 new jobs at its Canadian operations. There are no base wage increases during the life of the agreement, which lasts until September 2016, but each employee will receive a $2,000 lump sum payment which will cover cost-of-living increases.


Scientists: Crater diamonds could revolutionize industry

Russian scientists claim that a gigantic deposit of industrial diamonds found in a huge Siberian meteorite crater during Soviet times could revolutionize industry.

The Siberian branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences said the Popigai crater in eastern Siberia contains “many trillions of carats” of so-called “impact diamonds” — good for technological purposes, not for jewelry, and far exceeding the known global deposits of conventional diamonds.

Nikolai Pokhilenko, head of the Geological and Mineralogical Institute in Novosibirsk, told RIA Novosti news agency Monday that the diamonds include other molecular forms of carbon. He said they could be twice as hard as conventional diamonds and therefore have superlative industrial qualities.

He said the minerals could lead to a “revolution” in various industries. “But they can’t upset a diamond market because it is shaped by diamonds for jewelry purposes.”

The deposit was discovered by Soviet scientists in the 1970s, but was left unexplored as the Soviet leadership opted for producing synthetic diamonds for industrial use. The deposit remained classified until after the Soviet collapse.

— From news service reports