|Bush at Work! |
Olorgesailie, Teflon, Free FITS
AIDS Scientists Needed!
Drilling for Plasmons & More!
|Bush at Work - The Dance Goes On |
|Bush Smokescreen - Less Is More |
International Association of Fire Fighters Press Release
WASHINGTON DC July 9, 2004 – The General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, AFL-CIO/CLC, Harold Schaitberger, issued this statement today on the failure to adequately fund, staff, train and equip our nation’s first responders despite events of September 11, 2001 and despite the consistent drumbeat that a new attack is imminent:
"The Bush administration’s announcements of imminent terror attacks are a smoke screen to cover up the truth. Rather than providing tangible assistance in fighting the war on terror, these announcements do nothing but spread fear among the American People.
"The sad truth is that this fear is justified because we are no more prepared to respond to an attack today in most places in America than we were on September 11, 2001.
"The truth is that the Bush administration is doing less, not more to prepare for a response to a terror attack, and that is irresponsible.
"While our fire fighters and paramedics will respond bravely to any incident, as they do, every day, the truth is there won’t be enough of them, our responders won’t have the proper equipment or training, and people will die as a result.
"The United States Fire Administration and National Fire Protection Association, and the Council on Foreign Relations found in studies reported in 2003 that our emergency response capabilities are critically underfunded, and our first responders are understaffed, undertrained and ill-equipped.
"The Bush Administration’s response has been to zero-out the funding of key preparedness programs in its budget proposals for 2002 and 2003 and to cut the budgets of those programs in 2004.
"Then again in its 2005 budget, the administration proposes to cut homeland security and first responder programs by $700 million.
"We have reports that the Pentagon is selling faulty Haz-Mat suits to fire departments around the country. It’s being reported that urban search and rescue teams will not be able to maintain their equipment for a response because of too little funding. And the administration is adamant that no money be provided to hire fire fighters in communities that are seriously short-staffed right now.
"More than just announcing that an attack is coming, the American People deserve a government that is fully prepared to respond.
"This is simply not the case today because of President Bush’s failure to fund and equip our country’s first responders, who serve as our homeland’s first line of defense."
International Association of Fire Fighters - http://www.iaff.org
Bush Military Records "Destroyed"
WASHINGTON July 10, 2004 (AP) - Military payroll records that could more fully document President Bush's whereabouts during his service in the Texas Air National Guard were inadvertently destroyed, according to the Pentagon.
In a letter responding to a freedom of information request by The Associated Press, the Defense Department said that microfilm containing the pertinent National Guard payroll records was damaged and could not be salvaged. The damaged material included payroll records for the first quarter of 1969 and the third quarter of 1972.
"President Bush's payroll records for those two quarters were among the records destroyed," wrote C.Y. Talbott, of the Pentagon's Freedom of Information and Security Review section. "Searches for back-up paper copies of the missing records were unsuccessful."
Presidential spokeswoman Claire Buchan said Friday there was nothing new in the letter. "When we put out records in February, we indicated that third-quarter of 1972 records were lost" when the microfilm was destroyed, she said.
Bush did not perform Guard duties during the third quarter of 1972 but "fulfilled his obligation to the National Guard in full," Buchan said. "The documents we released months ago make that clear."
In February, the White House released some payroll and medical records from Bush's Vietnam-era service to counter Democrats' suggestions that he shirked his duty in the Texas Air National Guard.
Bush was in the Texas Air National Guard from 1968 to 1973, much of the time as a pilot, but never went to Vietnam or flew in combat. Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential candidate, is a decorated Vietnam veteran, and some Democrats have questioned whether Bush showed up for temporary Guard duty in Alabama while working on a political campaign during a one-year period from May 1972 to May 1973.
Bush had asked to be able to transfer temporarily from the Texas Guard to an Alabama base during that time so he could work on the Senate campaign of a family friend. Reports differ on how long he was actually in Alabama, but it's generally believed that he returned to his Texas unit after the November 1972 election. The White House says Bush went back to Alabama again after that.
The Pentagon letter was sent in response to an April lawsuit filed by the AP under the federal Freedom of Information Act. That law requires government agencies to make public information not specifically exempted for disclosure.
The letter said that in 1996 and 1997, the Pentagon "engaged with limited success in a project to salvage deteriorating microfilm." During the process, "the microfilm payroll records of numerous service members were damaged," the letter said.
This process resulted in "the inadvertent destruction of microfilm containing certain National Guard payroll records," including Bush's, the letter said.
Trying to calm the political unrest, the White House on Feb. 13 released Bush's Vietnam-era military records to counter suggestions he shirked his duty. But there was no new evidence given at that time to show that he was in Alabama during the period when Democrats questioned whether he performed his service obligation.
The records showed that Bush, a pilot, was suspended from flying status beginning Aug. 1, 1972, because of his failure to have an annual medical examination. His last flight exam was on May 15, 1971. There were no new documents, during that February release, to shed any light on Bush's service in Alabama.
|Bush at Work - Gerrymandering |
|Bush Gerrymandering Endangers Missouri River |
ST. LOUIS July 9, 2004 (US Newswire) -- Conservationists announced today they would continue their court fight to restore the Missouri River, save its endangered species, and create new economic opportunities for riverfront communities.
The groups will appeal a district court's approval of the Bush administration's management plan for the Missouri River. Some of the groups will also challenge the finding that the Army Corps has satisfied its obligation to create new wildlife habitat along the lower river.
Last summer, conservationists secured a series of preliminary rulings directing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reduce water releases from Gavins Point Dam to avoid submerging endangered bird nests and to create shallow water fish habitat in the river below.
On June 21, the U.S. District Court in Minneapolis rescinded that order and dismissed conservationists' charges that the planned operation of the dam system will violate federal environmental law.
"The law hasn't changed -- the Bush administration has rewritten the scientific and administrative basis for the earlier rulings," said Brian O'Neill with the Minneapolis law firm Faegre & Benson. "We respectfully disagree with the judge that this scientific gerrymandering passes legal muster."
Although the June 21 court ruling disappointed conservationists, it upheld the principle that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers must abide by recommendations from federal wildlife scientists as it operates the Missouri River dam system. On appeal, conservationists will ask the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in St. Louis to rule that a timid "Biological Opinion" issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2003 is not a lawful replacement for a visionary set of recommendations issued in 2000.
Conservationists regard the original Missouri River Biological Opinion, released in 2000, as a sound scientific document that was prepared in the deliberative manner envisioned by the authors of the Endangered Species Act. Key features include:
- It was prepared by seasoned scientists after years of study and research.
- Its underlying principles have been validated by the National Academy of Sciences.
- Its key findings were endorsed by state scientists along the river.
- It found that current Missouri River dam operations increase extinction risk for three species - the interior least tern, piping plover, and pallid sturgeon.
- It called on the Army Corps to reduce this risk by restoring more natural seasonal water levels to the river -- releasing more water from Gavins Point dam in the spring in some years and less every summer.
- The recommended flow changes are sufficient to increase the appeal of the river and reservoirs for recreational use and associated economic activity.
In contrast, conservationists sharply question the validity of the amended Missouri River Biological Opinion issued in 2003. Their objections include:
- State agencies along the river have testified that no new scientific information is available that warrants revising the original opinion.
- At the direction of political appointees in the Department of the Interior, the team that wrote the previous document was largely replaced by scientists inexperienced with Missouri River endangered species.
- The amendments were prepared in just three weeks and finalized immediately without public hearings or scientific peer review.
- The amended opinion drops the finding that dam operations increase the risk of extinction for the piping plover and least tern, and relies mostly on habitat creation rather than dam operation modification to prevent extinction of the pallid sturgeon.
- The amended opinion envisions only token flow modifications that are insufficient to increase the appeal of the river and reservoir for recreational use and associated economic activity.
"The court owes it to our children and grandchildren to uphold the law and prevent bunk science from erasing America's wildlife legacy," said Tom France of National Wildlife Federation.
Some of the groups also signaled their intention to return to Judge Magnuson's courtroom to challenge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's finding that the Army Corps has successfully created the 1200 acres of wildlife habitat that it wishes to substitute for lower summer flows.
On June 21, Judge Magnuson had indicated it was too early to rule on this facet of the case. The groups will charge that because the wildlife service certified the new habitat over the objections of its field scientists, it does not meet the Endangered Species Act's standards for science- based decisions.
"The fingerprints on the document approving these 1200 acres of purported habitat are not those of the scientists that inspected it," said Rebecca R. Wodder, president of American Rivers. "This doesn't live up to the spirit of the law and we will ask the court to rule that it doesn't satisfy the letter of it, either."
Copies of the court filings can be found at http://www.americanrivers.org
Missouri River News page (USFWS) - http://www.r6.fws.gov/missouririver
Bush Restricts Science
By Maggie Fox
WASHINGTON July 9, 2004 (Reuters) — The Bush administration is still packing scientific advisory panels with ideologues and is imposing strict controls on researchers who want to share ideas with colleagues in other countries, a group of scientists charged Thursday.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said in a report that the administration's policies could take years to undo, and in the meantime the best and the brightest would be frightened away from jobs in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other government institutions.
The union, chaired by Dr. Kurt Gottfried, emeritus professor of physics at Cornell University, said more than 4,000 scientists, including 48 Nobel laureates, had joined the call for "restoration of scientific integrity in federal policymaking."
"I don't think one should simply assume that the problem ... will go away if there is a new administration in office," Gottfried told reporters in a telephone briefing. "What is happening under this administration is a cultural change. We have to address this cultural change and fix it."
Gottfried's group previously leveled similar charges against the Bush administration in February.
Two recently appointed members to the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research, Dr. Richard Myers of Stanford University in California and Dr. George Weinstock of Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, said they had been asked inappropriate questions when they were nominated.
Weinstock said a staffer at the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) called to ask "leading political questions".
"There is no doubt in my mind that these questions represented a political litmus test," he said in a statement.
Myers said he received a similar call in which he was asked about his opinion of embryonic stem cell research, which the White House opposes.
"Then the staffer asked questions that really shocked me," Myers is quoted as saying in the report. "She wanted to know what I thought about President Bush: Did I like him? What did I think of the job he was doing?"
Dr. Gerald Keusch, former associate director for International Research at NIH, said NIH staffers in Bethesda, Maryland, were being forced to put in travel requests to visit the offices of the Pan American Health Organization "just a Metro trip away" in downtown Washington, D.C.
"You are now required to submit a travel request six weeks ahead of time," said Keusch, who resigned last year. "These are increasing bits of evidence of attempts at control over the way the business of science, the open communication between scientists, is being conducted."
White House science adviser Dr. John Marburger and HHS spokesman Bill Pierce have denied the administration is distorting science. Pierce says HHS is seeking a diversity of opinions.
But Robert Paine, an ecologist at University of Washington who chaired an advisory panel on endangered salmon and trout, said his team was warned by the government to remove facts that undermined policy.
"We were told to strip out specific scientific recommendations or see our report end up in a drawer," Paine said.
The report includes accusations of administration interference on strip mining, drug approvals, and protection of endangered species.
Bush OKs Old Growth Logging
By Jeff Barnard
GRANTS PASS Oregon July 9, 2004 (AP) — The U.S. Forest Service signed off on a plan Thursday to log thousands of acres of trees killed by a huge forest fire in 2002 — a decision that will probably bring a legal challenge from environmentalists.
Under the plan, loggers will be allowed to cut 370 million board feet of timber, enough to build 24,000 homes, from about 20,000 acres of federal land over the next two years. That is far less than the timber industry had sought.
The area in the rugged Klamath Mountains of southwestern Oregon was burned two summers ago when four fires started by lightning merged into the nation's biggest and costliest blaze of the year. It burned across 500,000 acres, threatened 17,000 people, and cost $153 million to fight.
The question of what to do with the burned timber has sparked intense political and scientific debates, and environmentalists have already indicated that they may challenge the plan in court.
Timber industry officials have also criticized the plan, saying it does not go far enough to prevent more wildfires.
Environments argue that although the trees are dead, they still provide wildlife habitat. In addition, they say logging areas damaged by fire causes erosion that spills choking silt into salmon streams.
The industry and the Bush administration argue that the dead trees would provide much-needed timber for mills starved by logging reductions imposed to protect wildlife. They say that selling more timber would pay for reforestation efforts and that harvesting dead timber removes fuel for future wildfires.
Some activists have said they will go into the woods to block harvest of old growth trees.
Timber companies did not appear enthusiastic about bidding on the timber, which has been damaged by rot and insects since the fire.
"Some of the things that need to be factored in by these companies are not only the deterioration of the quality of the wood but the risk of putting money down and not being able to operate, whether it be from court actions or civil disobedience and ecoterrorism," said Chris West, vice president of the American Forest Resource Council, an industry organization.
|No Eat Tiger, OK? |
|BEIJING July 9, 2004 (Reuters) — China has sentenced two farmers to jail terms of up to nine years for eating a rare Manchurian tiger after leaving it to die in a trap, the Beijing Evening News reported on Thursday. |
A court in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang convicted Zhang Lichen and Gong Weisheng of killing an endangered rare species recently, the paper said.
The two men found the tiger caught in a trap in a mountain last year but did not report it to the authorities. They left the tiger to die and returned six days later to bring the beast home, skin it, and eat its meat.
"The two men knew selling a tiger was a crime, but they thought eating a dead tiger's meat did not break the law," the newspaper said.
|New Olorgesailie Find |
|By TOM MALITI |
Associated Press Writer
NAIROBI Kenya July 6, 2004 (AP) - Scientists working in Kenya have found skull fragments from what they say was an early, tool-making human that lived more than 900,000 years ago, perhaps filling an important gap in the fossil record.
Scientists from the United States, Britain and Kenya found part of a skull of a small adult with some characteristics of Homo erectus, in Olorgesailie, 100 miles southeast of the capital, Nairobi, said Richard Potts, the lead researcher.
The skull fragments were found between July and August 2003, and the scientists' analysis was published in Friday's edition of Science magazine.
Because scientists only found a brow ridge, the left ear region of the skull, and some skull fragments, it is difficult to know whether the find means a new species of pre-human, said Potts, who is director of the Human Origins Program at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C.
"This partial skull comes from a gap in the African fossil record, a gap that extends from about 1 million years ago to about 600,000 years ago," Potts said.
In the human family tree of Africa, an early common ancestor known as Homo ergaster lived until about 1.3 million years ago. One species branching from that ancestor included Homo erectus, which is believed to have survived until about 50,000 years ago and spread from Africa to Asia.
Separate from Homo erectus, other species emerged more recently along different branches, including our own species, Homo sapien, as well as Neanderthals.
All of these early humans, or hominids, were hunter-gatherers living in cooler grasslands. They had larger brains, walked upright and made stone tools, but scientists disagree whether that means the branches on the human tree should remain separate, or whether all hominids should belong to the same category of early humans.
During this sketchy period of human evolution, there are few specimens to add physical details.
Potts said these fragments will put "a bit of face, a bit of an individual" on the time period, but may not provide definitive proof. He said the skull fragments contain traits associated with Homo erectus, but it also have unique traits, including its smaller-than-expected size.
Researchers said the fossils' most significant contribution might be to convince scientists that early humans came in a variety of shapes and sizes, even among local populations and family groups.
The Olorgesailie site where the skull fragments were discovered has long been important to paleontologists. Beginning in 1942, hundreds of ancient stone hand axes were found at the site by Louis and Mary Leakey. But Potts said it the hand axes probably were made by larger individuals, raising questions as to how many types of early humans were present there.
The National Museums of Kenya manages the 62-year old prehistoric site of Olorgesailie.
Science magazine: http://www.sciencemag.org
National Museums of Kenya: http://www.museums.or.ke
|The DuPont Teflon Cover-up |
|By Chris Baltimore and David Brinkerhoff |
WASHINGTON/NEW YORK July 09, 2004 (Reuters) — DuPont Co., the No. 2 U.S. chemicals maker, failed for more than 20 years to report potential health risks caused by a key ingredient in the manufacture of Teflon, the Environmental Protection Agency said Thursday.
The Wilmington, Delaware, company violated the Toxic Substances Control Act from June 1981 to March 2001 by not reporting dangers associated with perfluorooctanoic acid or C-8, EPA said.
The chemical is crucial in the process of making the well-known coating used in a wide range of consumer products, including nonstick cookware and stain-resistant carpets. Tests by 3M, the original manufacturer of C-8, have shown that high levels of exposure may cause liver damage and reproductive problems in rats.
Traces of C-8 were found as early as the 1980s by DuPont in water supplies near DuPont's West Virginia plant and in a pregnant employee, the EPA said. In an administrative complaint, EPA accused DuPont of "multiple failures to report information to EPA about substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment" from C-8.
Shares of DuPont fell 32 cents, or 0.74 percent, to $42.77 Thursday afternoon amid a fall in the broader stock market.
DuPont dismissed the EPA's allegations as baseless and said it would file a formal denial with the agency within 30 days.
"The evidence from over 50 years of experience and extensive scientific studies supports our conclusion that (C-8) does not harm human health or the environment," DuPont said in a statement.
C-8 can remain in humans for up to four years, according to the EPA. Small amounts of the chemical are found in a large proportion of the general U.S. public. The EPA is trying to determine how C-8 finds its way into the general population, DuPont said, adding that it supports the EPA's efforts.
Tom Skinner, head of EPA's enforcement office, said the agency would seek penalties "in the millions of dollars." DuPont could face penalties of $25,000 per day for violations before Jan. 30, 1997, rising to $27,500 per day after that, the EPA said.
A straight calculation could mean fines in the range of $300 million, but "that is not what we would be seeking," Skinner said, although he would not disclose the exact amount.
As early as 1981, blood samples from at least one pregnant worker at DuPont's West Virginia plant showed that C-8 had been transferred to her fetus, the EPA said. DuPont also detected traces of the chemical in water supplies in West Virginia and Ohio communities near the plant that exceeded its own exposure guidelines in 1991, the EPA said.
Some investors had anticipated the EPA's action Thursday and said the chemical maker could absorb any legal costs.
"I wouldn't overreact," said Earl Gaskins, managing director at Brandywine Asset Management Inc. in Wilmington, Delaware, which owns DuPont shares. "There still is no clear-cut evidence, or even overwhelming or substantial evidence, that C-8 is injurious to humans," he said, adding "there's a fair amount of insurance that would protect DuPont."
Since C-8 is used to manufacture Teflon and not in the coating itself, it may have only contaminated people near its production, Gaskins said. Nonetheless, the chemical's link with Teflon could affect DuPont's reputation with consumers, sources said.
"At bare minimum, it's a public relations issue for the company, and at worse, the full extent of the law could be implemented," said Heather Langsner, a senior analyst with Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. Innovest, based in New York, analyzes companies based on risk factors like environmental concerns and social impact.
DuPont is facing Teflon problems on other fronts. A suit, filed by residents near DuPont's West Virginia plant and due to go to trial in September, seeks medical testing, clean water supplies, and property and personal injury damages, an attorney familiar with the case said.
In 2000, 3M pulled its stain repellent Scotchgard from the market after the EPA expressed concern that a sister chemical to C-8 posed serious health risks. 3M has since stopped making all C-8-related chemicals.
DuPont said it had no plans to stop using C-8.
|Hey, Kids! Get Your Free FITS Liberator! |
|European Space Agency Press Release |
July 8, 2004 - For many years astronomical images from the world’s telescopes were reserved for an elite of astronomers and technical people. Now anyone with a desktop computer running Adobe® Photoshop® software can try their hand at crafting astronomical images as beautiful as those from the Hubble Space Telescope.
A free software plug-in, released today, makes a treasure trove of archival astronomical images and spectra from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope, the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope, the European Space Agency’s XMM-Newton X-ray observatory, NASA’s Spitzer Space Telescope and many other famous telescopes accessible to home astronomy enthusiasts.
If there is anything that unites astronomy, it is the worldwide use of a single file format - nearly all the images of stars and galaxies produced by telescopes on the ground and in space are stored as so-called FITS files.
Unfortunately this file format has been accessible to very few people other than professional scientists using highly specialized image-processing tools.
Now a new and unique tool - the ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator – developed by imaging scientists at the European Space Agency, the European Southern Observatory and NASA makes the immense wealth of astronomical images and spectra stored in data archives around the world accessible to the layman.
The only thing required is access to either Adobe Photoshop® or Adobe Photoshop Elements®, both leading image software packages.
For the professional creators of astronomical color images, the plug-in revolutionizes the workflow of the creation of color images from raw data and gives a huge boost to the image quality by giving access to the full 16 bit (65536 colors) range of the observations. In addition the plug in may be used as a powerful educational tool when teaching about light, color and digital images.
Head of the development team, Lars Holm Nielsen from Denmark, says, "FITS is much more than just an image format. It is an extremely flexible file format that allows astronomers to share images and spectra in many different ways. This very versatility has made the job of producing a plug-in for Photoshop challenging. Compared to formats like JPEG, FITS files can be incredibly diverse."
FITS is an abbreviation for Flexible Image Transport System and has been a standard since 1982 and is recognized by the International Astronomical Union.
The ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator works on Windows PCs and Macs (OS X 10.2+) and is optimized for Photoshop CS, but also works in Photoshop 7.0 (only 15 bit support) and Photoshop Elements 2 (only 8 bit support).
The ESA/ESO/NASA Photoshop FITS Liberator download page - http://www.spacetelescope.org/projects/fits_liberator
|TV Politics - History of Presidential Campaign Commercials |
|By Chris Marlowe |
LOS ANGELES July 9, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Television sets nationwide are being deluged by political advertisements in the buildup to the Nov. 2 election. Most people see them as merely an attempt to sway their vote, but an online exhibition by the American Museum of the Moving Image seeks to illuminate the artistic and cultural aspects of these quadrennial vignettes.
"The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2004" includes more than 250 television spots dating back to the very first time campaign ads aired. It is continually updated by its co-curators, Carl Goodman and David Schwartz, the museum's curator of digital media and director of new media projects and its chief curator of film, respectively.
"You learn a lot about American history and politics from this project, but our approach was looking at this content as short films," Schwartz said. "The ads create a sense of character and a narrative about the candidate and the campaign issues. They use all the filmmaker's techniques -- costume, lighting, design, soundtrack, even the setting of the White House to convey that narrative."
The site is organized in a way that encourages visitors to discover recurring themes and motifs and then notice how they were handled by filmmakers in different eras. In 1960, for example, commercials for John F. Kennedy took advantage of hand-held movie cameras -- the latest technology of the time -- to show him warmly interacting with people. Schwartz said this contrasts sharply with the same year's spots for Richard Nixon, which often showed him alone behind a desk.
The losing side's team took notice, Schwartz said. "In 1968, Nixon did a series of ads that used still photos and music in a very avant-garde way, capturing his opponent Humphrey in the middle of the Chicago convention chaos."
Hollywood's relationship with politics also can be seen in some of the celebrity endorsements as well as in Ronald Reagan's dual careers. Oscar nominee Raymond Massey, at the time best known as the wise mentor on television's "Dr. Kildare," spoke on behalf of Barry Goldwater in 1964, for instance. Four years later, fresh in the public's mind from his Emmy-winning starring role in "The Defenders," E.G. Marshall lent his reputation to support Humphrey.
Celebrities sometimes backed the winners, too, as can be seen in Harry Belafonte stumping for Kennedy in 1960 and Pearl Bailey doing her bit for Gerald Ford in 1976, among others.
It was essential that the exhibition strive for balance along with guided access, Goodman said, while retaining entertainment value.
"The experience is like TV," he said. "It shouldn't feel like a database, it should just provide various ways of getting to the material. Because those who were alive in 1952 will have a very different approach than those who are teenagers today."
The project began as a physical exhibition in 1992 and went online about seven years later, spurred by the growing influence of Internet advertising, Goodman said.
The exhibition features commentary, historical background, election results and navigation organized by year and theme. Particular attention is paid to Web-based multimedia political advertising, which the curators said reached major significance for the first time this year.
[The commercials are available for online viewing in QuickTime and Windows Media Player formats. Good show! Ed.]
American Museum of the Moving Image - http://www.livingroomcandidate.movingimage.us
|World Scientists Help Needed for AIDS Research |
|Third World Academy of Sciences Press Release |
July 8, 2004 - During the past two decades, HIV/AIDS has had a devastating impact on the health and social and economic well-being of populations in many parts of the developing world. In 2003 alone, the disease caused the death of more than three million people, mostly in sub-Saharan Africa.
Despite the best efforts of some of the world's most prominent scientists, a vaccine that would protect against the disease is still a long way from reality. Drugs that help fight the virus and alleviate the disease symptoms are available, but are expensive and unavailable to many sufferers living in the world's developing countries.
In addition, many countries are still failing to tackle the social issues that lead to the further spread of the disease.
Against this background, and on the eve of AIDS 2004, the XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, the Third World Academy of Sciences (TWAS) and the African Academy of Sciences (AAS) have issued a Joint statement on HIV/AIDS in the developing world, calling for greater involvement of developing world scientists in research initiatives designed to treat and mitigate the disease. Both organizations are particularly keen to enlist African scientists in this campaign.
Specifically, TWAS and AAS believe that the discovery and development of new drugs and vaccines to combat HIV/AIDS should also be conducted through South-South collaboration, using the expertise present in the many centers of scientific excellence in the developing world.
"Such a programme of support would not only allow the enormous potential of developing countries' flora and fauna to be investigated for novel pharmaceutical products, but would also help stem the 'brain drain' – a major problem for the development of scientific capacity in the South, and especially in sub-Saharan Africa," says Gideon Okelo, Professor of Medicine at the University of Nairobi, Kenya, and AAS Secretary General and Executive Director.
"It would also offer potential avenues of investigation that have yet to be explored because of the dominance of Northern scientists in the design and implementation of AIDS-related research," says Ahmed A. Azad, Director of Research at the Faulty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa.
Azad and Okelo, both of whom are TWAS fellows, were the two lead authors of the TWAS/AAS joint statement, which has been approved by the TWAS Council and AAS Governing Council.
Founded in 1983 by the Nobel Prize-winning Pakistani physicist Abdus Salam, TWAS counts more than 700 eminent scientists among its membership, most of whom are working in developing countries.
Among the main aims of the Academy is to help build the scientific and technological capacities of developing countries as a means to promoting sustainable economic development. TWAS is headquartered in Trieste, Italy.
AAS was established in 1985 as a non-profit organization of scientists with the aim of developing into a continent-wide forum to champion science-led development in Africa. Headquartered in Nairobi, Kenya, it has a current membership of more than 130.
Read the full text of the joint statement (PDF format) - http://www.ictp.trieste.it/~twas/pdf/TWAS-AAS_on_AIDS.pdf
Third World Academy of Sciences - http://www.twas.org
African Academy of Sciences - http://www.aasciences.org
|AIDS Goals Unrealistic? |
|By Richard Black |
BBC Science Correspondent
Bangkok July 9, 2004 (BBC) - The target of giving AIDS drugs to three million people in the developing world by the end of 2005 will not be met, a leading expert warns. Professor Joep Lange, co-chair of the UNAIDS conference in Bangkok, told the BBC the target was "inflated and unrealistic". The 'Three by Five' initiative is part of UNAIDS and World Health Organization attempts to stem the spread of HIV.
The WHO declined to respond to Professor Lange's comments.
Discussions on the so-called 'Three by Five' initiative began in 2001, and the WHO made it a formal target on World AIDS Day last December.
Even then it was widely regarded as ambitious; and now Professor Lange, who's also President of the International AIDS Society, says it simply won't be met.
He told the BBC in an interview from Bangkok: "I think it's impossible. It's an inflated target that is totally unrealistic."
By expressing these doubts on Three by Five, Professor Lange is putting on record what many other observers have been saying privately - UNAIDS itself admits that attempts to enroll HIV-positive people in treatment programs are lagging. If Professor Lange's analysis is correct, it means that a major initiative to curb the spread of HIV is failing.
UNAIDS Executive Director Dr Peter Piot has described Three by Five as "a massive challenge, but one we cannot afford to miss."
Last week's UNAIDS report on the global epidemic showed that last year, five million people were newly infected with HIV, and three million died from AIDS.
Professor Lange says the slow progress is partly down to lack of money - in particular the Global Fund to Fight AIDS TB and Malaria, launched to great fanfare three years ago as the international community's definitive response to these developing world diseases, has received far less in donations than it initially hoped.
Ideological tussles between the current US administration and other major players have diverted money, energy and time. Many countries where there's a great need for anti-retroviral drugs don't have the infrastructure to deliver them reliably. But Professor Lange was also critical of the concept itself.
"Obviously it's good to get attention; but at the same time we need to make plans that take into account things that are not taken into account now," he told the BBC. "Just putting a number out and trying to get as many people on therapy as quickly as possible without actually making sure the structures are there to support that I think is not actually the most productive way forward."
Coming from a central figure in the international AIDS community, this is an explicit criticism of the UN's strategy.
The WHO declined to offer a response - it is due to release its own progress report on Three by Five at a news conference in Bangkok shortly before the UNAIDS conference officially opens.
The complete UNAIDS 2004 Report on the global AIDS epidemic can be downloaded here: http://www.unaids.org/bangkok2004/report.html
KaiserNetwork will provide free webcast coverage of the conference at http://www.kaisernetwork.org/aids2004
AIDS Conference site - http://www.aids2004.org
KaiserNetwork Daily AIDS Report - http://www.kaisernetwork.org/daily_reports/rep_hiv.cfm
|Drilling for Plasmons! |
|Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine Press Release |
July 8, 2004 - An ultra fine nanometer 'drill' could be used to make some of the tiniest lenses imaginable and may also allow scientists to harness light for use in optical computers of the future, thanks to research published today.
Scientists from the UK and Spain describe in this week's Science Express (8 July) how artificial materials with tiny grooves and holes drilled into their surfaces could channel and focus light beams on a chip.
When light hits the surface of a metal such as silver, as well as a reflection, another form of light is excited at the surface. This light, bound to the surface as a small mixture of light and electrons, is called a surface plasmon, its behavior likened to waves on the surface of a 'sea' of electrons. For many years a curiosity, the properties of plasmons have only recently been fully explored.
In their paper this week, the theorists show that holes perforating a surface can spoof the creation of these plasmons, and they suggest that the effect could be harnessed to channel light at tiny scales, overcoming one of the constraints facing designers of the first optical computer.
"They aren't really plasmons but they behave like them," says Professor Sir John Pendry of Imperial College London and first author of the paper. "They capture light and lock them up in very tiny spaces."
The holes, which may be just a few tens of nanometers wide, can be made using a special 'drill' called an ion-beam. A human hair is 100 times larger in diameter by comparison.
This work suggests that engineered surface plasmons could be as simple as drilling holes in a perfectly conducting material.
"It opens up a new dimension of design for the people looking to use surface plasmons to put light on a chip," says Sir John.
By analogy with an electronic chip full of transistors, the most basic requirement is to join the bits together with wires. But in using light instead of electrons the challenge is how to replace the wires to move light around the chip. Optical fiber is not the answer as it is 50 microns wide and as big as the chip.
"Instead of etching a path on a chip, now we could drill holes to make a path to control light on a chip," says Sir John. "The plasmons contain the same signals as the light exciting them and therefore can be used to transport information across the surface."
"Alternatively we could send the plasmons across the surface in free flight, rather than in channels. We could drill holes to make lenses to focus it."
Another use could be in shaping light. As light goes through holes in surfaces, smaller drilled grooves around the hole act to stop the light spreading out, focusing it instead, and in effect forming one of the tiniest lenses in the world at just a few microns wide.
Research by Thomas Ebbesen and colleagues in 1998 at the University Louis Pasteur, Strasbourg, demonstrated a way of forcing light to go through tiny holes at the surface of a metal. By turning light into a surface plasmon then back again, they demonstrated that the effect worked, but only with the metals silver and gold. The theorists speculated that a material could be engineered that does not naturally have surface plasmons yet still has the same effect.
"It turns out that if you take something completely inert, just by drilling holes you can make it behave as if it's got these surface excitations," says Sir John. "If you've got holes and you try to bounce light off the surface some light stays stuck in the holes, just as if it were stuck to the surface of silver in a surface plasmon."
Surface plasmons were first described by Rufus Ritchie in the 1950s and subsequently applied by Ritchie and others to energy loss by the high voltage electrons in an electron microscope.
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine - http://www.ic.ac.uk
Nanogolf with surface plasmons - http://www.nano-optic.de/Nanogolf/nanogolf.htm
|Genre News: Thunderbirds, Fahrenheit, Fantastic Four, NYPD 24-7, Boston Legal, The Librarian & More! |
Hollywood July 7, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Jonathan Frakes, director of the upcoming SF movie Thunderbirds, told SCI FI Wire that, at its core, the big-screen fantasy is a family film with a little something for everyone.
"It's a coming-of-age story," Frakes said in an interview. "There are three kids at the center of it, so it's a story of friendship and loyalty, fathers and sons and coming of age."
Thunderbirds, based on Gerry Anderson’s cult SF marionette TV series, follows the adventures of the Tracy family and their top-secret missions as International Rescue. Bill Paxton stars as Jeff Tracy, the family patriarch and team leader.
Newcomer Brady Corbet plays Alan Tracy, the youngest of five Tracy boys and a bit of an outsider, who must grow up fast when the Tracy family's archrival, the Hood (Ben Kingsley), seizes control of Tracy Island, the International Rescue home base in the South Pacific.
Frakes said that the "wow" moments in Thunderbirds will be different for different people.
"I think the adults will love the scenes between Lady Penelope [Sophia Myles, as the Tracy's super-hip and gorgeous partner,] and Parker [Ron Cook, as Penelope's chauffeur and butler]," Frakes said.
"Their scenes have some great, ironic double-entendre comedy. The kids will love the takeoffs of the ships, because they shake the seats and the palm trees separate. And I'll go out on a limb here and say little girls will love Tin-Tin [Vanessa Anne Hudgens, as one of Alan's adventurous friends], who kicks ass and saves the day. So I wouldn't say there's a single set piece that will wow people.
"I'd say that we have several 'wow' moments; that they're for different people; and that they're spread out rather nicely across the film."
[I notice that Frakes managed to get his wife a part in the film too :o)> Ed.]
Universal Pictures will release Thunderbirds on July 30.
Thunderbirds Official site (very cool!) - http://www.thunderbirdsmovie.com
[This next one really amazed me. I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 last week, which is the number 2 film in the country. It is a great film, sad and funny and honest like its filmmaker, and made even more poignant by this week's release of official Washington findings on the pre-Iraq War WMD hype / lies. Thankfully, my local theater chain was in the business of selling tickets, not preaching the Republican party line. Ed.]
Midwest Theater Chains Refuse Fahrenheit
By Nicole Sperling
LOS ANGELES July 9, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" will expand into 286 additional theaters Friday. But if you're an interested moviegoer in Marquette, Mich., or various other Midwestern cities, you may have to drive to at least the next town to view Moore's critique of the Bush administration. Illinois-based GKC Theaters and Iowa-based Fridley Theaters have decided to not screen the film.
Both theater chains, which were not in domestic distributor Lions Gate's original 800-theater release plan, are protesting the content of Moore's film. According to Fridley Theaters' Web site, the theater chain has received a deluge of e-mails, phone calls and letters, some praising the action and others criticizing it. But a statement from owner Robert Fridley said the company is not playing the film because it believes that "Fahrenheit" is propaganda.
"It has always been and will continue to be our policy to refuse to play what we feel are propaganda films, no matter the source. It was and is our feeling that 'Fahrenheit 9/11' falls into that category," he said.
In a statement to a local newspaper, GKC Theaters president Beth Karasotes confirmed that her chain, with 270 screens at 29 theaters, will not show Moore's film as long as the country is at war.
"We believe in Michael Moore's freedom to make this movie," Karasotes told the Michigan-based Mining Journal. "We trust that our customers will recognize and respect our own freedom to choose not to show it. During a time of war, the American troops in Iraq need and deserve our undivided support."
Calls to Karasotes were not returned.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" has already grossed more than $60 million since its release two weeks ago. Lions Gate's expansion into 2,011 theaters is expected to generate an additional $9 million this weekend. Lions Gate Films president of releasing Tom Ortenberg said that, in addition to the two chains in the Midwest, a few independent one- or two-screen theaters also have refused the film.
"This is a horrible precedent to be setting for someone to be putting their personal politics above the needs of their community," Ortenberg said. "It raises a lot of issues because in some cases these guys are the only ones in some of these small towns."
But Fridley, for one, does not want to be seen as someone imposing any form of censorship.
"We do not infer that Michael Moore has no right to make his film and have it distributed," Fridley said. "In fact, if he or anyone in our nation were ever denied that right, we would be on the front line defending his or her right to make and distribute his or her film. Mr. Moore's and every filmmaker's right to make and distribute a film is no different than ours ... Mr. Moore has the right to have his message just as we have the right to choose not to be his messenger."
Fahrenheit Official - http://www.fahrenheit911.com
Click here to find Fahrenheit 9/11 playing at a theater near you - http://us.imdb.com/showtimes
By Dave McNary
Hollywood July 7, 2004 (Variety) - Fox has nearly found its "Fantastic Four."
Studio has signed Michael Chiklis to play Ben Grimm/the Thing, Ioan Gruffudd as Reed Richards/Mr. Fantastic and Chris Evans as Johnny Storm/the Human Torch. And Jessica Alba, currently shooting Dimension's "Sin City," has emerged as most likely to play Sue Richards/the Invisible Woman, though Rachel MacAdams and Keri Russell are also candidates.
Chiklis, best known for FX series "The Shield," was the first of the quartet to be set. Gruffudd is currently starring as Lancelot in "King Arthur" while Evans will be seen in "Cellular."
"We see 'Fantastic Four' as the last great jewel in the comicbook crown," said Fox production prexy Hutch Parker.
"The casting has been extremely important in terms of fulfilling expectations of an audience that's been incredibly loyal to these characters for over 40 years."
"Four" centers on four astronauts -- scientist Reed Richards, his wife, her brother and their friend Ben Grimm -- who develop superhuman powers after their experimental spaceship is exposed to cosmic rays. They band together to fight against the evil Doctor Doom.
"Four" was created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby and first published by Marvel in 1962. It subverted comicbook conventions of the time as the characters bickered among themselves.
The $85 million-$90 million pic is headed for an August or September start in Vancouver. Planned release date is July 1, 2005, when it will face off against Paramount's "Mission: Impossible 3." That will mark the second Fourth of July weekend bow in a row for a Marvel-based superhero pic following "Spider-Man 2."
"Four" is being helmed by "Barbershop" director Tim Story from a script written by Simon Kinberg. Story also directed upcoming Queen Latifah vehicle "Taxi" for Fox; that helped lead to the "Four" gig.
Producers are Marvel, 1492, Constantin and "X-Men" producer Ralph Winter. Production on "Four" is being overseen by Parker and senior veepee of production Alex Young.
[Note that earlier screenplay credits included Twin Peaks' co-creator Mark Frost. Ed.]
Humanitas Prizes Include Angels and Joan
LOS ANGELES July 8, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - HBO's "Angels in America" picked up yet another award Thursday, winning one of the annual Humanitas Prizes for writing.
"Joan of Arcadia" and "The Bernie Mac Show" also won Humanitas awards, given for the last 30 years to films and television programs that "entertain and enrich the viewing public." The writers of each winning movie or show split $115,000 in prize money.
"Angels in America," which has already won five Golden Globes, two Screen Actors Guild Awards and numerous other laurels, was cited for its "brutally honest examination of society coming to terms with the reality of AIDS." The film is also a virtual lock for a host of Emmy nominations next week.
JacQui Clay won for writing the "Bernie Mac" episode "Saving Sergeant Tompkins," in which Bernie tells his nephew Jordan (Jeremy Suarez) a lie about Jordan's deadbeat dad so the boy will have at least some good memories about his father, real or not.
"Joan" creator Barbara Hall won for the pilot episode of that series, when God first appears to teenager Joan Girardi (Amber Tamblyn).
Here's the complete list of Humanitas Prize winners:
Television/90-minute category: Tony Kushner, "Angels in America," HBO
60-minute category: Barbara Hall, "Joan of Arcadia" (pilot episode), CBS
30-minute category: JacQui Clay, "The Bernie Mac Show" (episode "Saving Sergeant Tompkins"), FOX
Children's animation: Chris Nee, "Little Bill" (episode "I Can Sign"-"The Sign for Friend"), Nickelodeon
Children's live action: Toni Ann Johnson (screenplay) and Michael D'Antonio (story), "Crown Heights," Showtime
Feature film: "Dirty Pretty Things," Miramax
Sundance feature film: "Mean Creek," Paramount Classics
NYPD 24-7 Angers Firefighters
By TOM HAYS
Associated Press Writer
NEW YORK July 9, 2004 (AP) - A gritty documentary series about police that has filled the usual time slot for "NYPD Blue" has some viewers seeing red.
After only three episodes, the ABC News series "NYPD 24-7" has infuriated a firefighters union and annoyed New York Police Department officials. Even Mayor Michael Bloomberg has panned one policeman's performance.
Publicly, police officials have taken no position on the show, which was distilled from 16 months of footage shot by film crews who shadowed detectives and other officers with the nation's largest police department as they investigated murders and fought urban crime.
But one high-ranking commander said Thursday that the brass has been "less than thrilled" with the bleep-happy series, which shows detectives cursing and smoking cigars while investigating a stabbing (where no one died).
Firefighters have focused their ire on a former Emergency Service Unit lieutenant, Venton "Vic" Hollifield.
With the cameras rolling at the scene of a car crash two years ago, the now-retired Hollifield referred to firefighters there as "amateurs." Once the show aired, the union paid more than $100,000 for full-page ads in newspapers alleging the comment "demeaned, slandered and belittled" firefighters before a national audience, and demanded an apology from Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly for sanctioning the show.
A spokesman for Kelly, Paul Browne, called Hollifield's comments "regrettable." But he added that the department had no say in what ABC aired — as evidenced by Hollifield while he made a traffic stop of a suspected drunken driver.
As recounted on the show's Web site, the officer flouted guidelines by making the motorist get out of the car, then locking his keys inside and telling him to catch a cab home. The encounter ultimately ended with officers having to wrestle the enraged suspect to the ground and arrest him.
At City Hall, Bloomberg called Hollifield's comments about firefighters "wrong," and suggested Hollifield — not Kelly — needed to apologize.
Nor has ABC, which considers the show a commercial and critical success. The show had 6.9 million viewers last week, No. 27 in Nielsen Media Research's prime-time rankings. Only two other ABC shows did better.
The series' point "was to go in and explore a closed culture, the NYPD police culture, and see life as it happens," said producer Terrence Wrong. "If you have faith in your institution, you have no problem with that."
LOS ANGELES July 5, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Producer David E. Kelley's new ABC legal drama, which was known as "The Practice: Fleet Street" for a fleeting moment, will now be titled "Boston Legal."
The offshoot from Kelley's long-running series "The Practice" was untitled until ABC announced it as "The Practice: Fleet Street" at its annual presentation to advertisers in May. But after that title didn't test as well as "Boston Legal," -- not to be confused with Kelley's recently departed high-school drama for Fox, "Boston Public" -- ABC went for the name change.
The series, starring James Spader and William Shatner, is scheduled to premiere Sept. 26.
All-Star Cast in TNT Librarian
LOS ANGELES July 9, 2004 (Zap2it.com) - Kyle MacLachlan and Oscar-winner Olympia Dukakis lead a diverse of assortment of actors ready to go through the stacks on TNT's original movie "The Librarian." The pack of familiar faces and television legends will surround Noah Wyle in the action-adventure.
Wyle stars as a meek librarian protecting a store of magical objects. After some of the artifacts are stolen, it's the librarian who must fight a group bent on world domination for their return. MacLachlan ("Showgirls," "Twin Peaks") will play a former librarian, while Dukakis ("Moonstruck," CBS' "Center of the Universe") will play Wyle's mother.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the cast also will include Bob Newhart, Emmy-winner Jane Curtin, Sonya Walger ("Coupling"), Kelly Hu ("X2") and David Dayan Fisher.
"The Librarian" has also landed a director in Peter Winther. A regular collaborator with "Librarian" executive producer Dean Devlin, Winther got his start as associate producer on Devlin's "Stargate," moving up to co-producer by "The Patriot." His only directing credit is 2001's "The Tag."
David Titcher ("Around the World in 80 Days") wrote the movie, which could develop into a franchise for TNT. Titcher produces along with Phil Goldfarb, Marc Roskin and Kearie Peak.
The project is shooting in Mexico City with TNT eying a fourth quarter 2004 debut.
Summer Reruns Dominate Prime Time on TV
By Steve Gorman
LOS ANGELES July 8, 2004 (Reuters) - Summer couch potatoes are sending a rather unexpected message to the major television networks: Maybe reruns aren't so bad after all.
Contrary to new thinking that year-round original programming will spur higher viewership, this summer's hottest shows so far have been old repeats of regular-season scripted favorites like "CSI," "Everybody Loves Raymond" and "Law & Order," according to ratings released on Wednesday.
Most of those shows are on CBS, whose viewership is up slightly over the same period last year, while Fox and NBC, which have led the charge for year-round programming, have seen double-digit ratings declines.
Notable exceptions to this summer's trend are reality hits "The Simple Life 2" on Fox and NBC's "The Last Comic Standing 2." Neither cracked the top 10 in total viewers, but both scored high with the prized age group of 18- to 49-year-olds, the audience most networks use to gauge prime-time success because advertisers pay more to reach them.
Otherwise, a wave of first-run shows launched in June, three months ahead of the traditional start of fall premiere season, has failed to ignite much viewer enthusiasm.
Among the biggest disappointments have been new Fox dramas "North Shore" and "The Jury" and the NBC reality show "The Next Action Star," all of which ranked lower than a rerun of ABC's already-canceled "Life with Bonnie" sitcom last week, according to Nielsen Media Research.
"The best alternative for any network during the summer still remains repeating its successful regular-season shows," said David Poltrack, executive vice president of research and planning at CBS, which more than any other network has stuck with a warm-weather diet of reruns.
RERUNS FRUITFUL FOR CBS
CBS boasts seven of the 10 most watched series on TV from May 31 through July 4 and ranks as the No. 1 network in total viewers.
Indeed, CBS is the only one of the Big Four broadcasters to see its overall prime-time audience climb, up 2 percent, compared with the same point last summer.
Walt Disney Co.'s DIS.N ABC, boosted by strong ratings last month from its telecasts of the National Basketball Association finals, is down just 3 percent.
NBC, a unit of General Electric Co. GE.N, has slipped 10 percent in total viewers and 13 percent in its target audience of viewers aged 18-49, though it firmly remains No. 1 in that young-adult group.
Besides "Last Comic Standing," which ranks No. 4 in 18-49 ratings, NBC has done especially well among young adults with its latest incarnations of romance reality offerings "Who Wants to Marry My Dad?" and "For Love or Money" (ranked Nos. 11 and 16, respectively). Reruns of NBC's gross-out competition "Fear Factor" also are doing surprisingly well, tied at No. 9 with "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit."
News Corp.-owned Fox, the most ardent practitioner of the year-round scheduling, is down 22 percent in total viewers and 19 percent in the 18-49 demographic.
Still, Fox is sticking by its guns, in large part because the network's coverage of major league baseball playoffs in October makes it difficult to launch new shows in the fall.
"Our expectations were kind of modest," Preston Beckman, Fox executive vice president of strategic program planning, told Reuters. "We weren't necessarily doing this to create hits right out of the gate ... We have to think long term."
Still, "Simple Life 2," reuniting pampered socialites Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie on a cross-country road trip, is the summer's top show among young adults. And two new sitcoms airing with "Simple Life" on Wednesdays -- "Method & Red" and "Quintuplets" -- are among the top 15 shows in 18-49.
[Like they say: "Sh*t rises." Ed.]
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