|Anthrax Key Found! |
Ancient Rome's Space Visitor,
Counting Cheetahs, Amazon Threat,
Mars Frosty, Summer TV & More!
|Anthrax Key Found!|
|New York University Medical Center and School of Medicine Press Release |
June 30, 2003 - In a new study, NYU School of Medicine researchers have found what may be an Achilles' heel of deadly anthrax -- a system that the bacteria use to communicate their presence to others of their kind. The researchers, Martin Blaser, M.D., the Frederick King Professor and Chairman of the Department of Medicine, and Professor of Microbiology and graduate student Marcus Jones, describe a "quorum-sensing system" in anthrax that is a type of bacterial "calling card."
Disrupting this system may open new avenues to prevention and treatment of anthrax, says Dr. Blaser.
"It is essential that we pursue new vaccines and therapies to control anthrax, a highly lethal bacterial infection and a potential bioweapon," says Dr. Blaser. "Now that we know that anthrax has a quorum-sensing system it may be possible to develop specific antagonists or inhibitors," he says.
Previously, a quorum-sensing system had not been identified in Bacillus anthracis, the scientific name for anthrax.
The School of Medicine researchers now describe such a system in a study appearing in the July issue of the journal Infection and Immunity, published by the American Society for Microbiology.
|Ancient Rome's Space Visitor|
|By Dr David Whitehouse |
BBC News Science Editor
Italy June 23, 2003 (BBC) - Did a meteor over central Italy in AD 312 change the course of Roman and Christian history?
A team of geologists believes it has found the incoming space rock's impact crater, and dating suggests its formation coincided with the celestial vision said to have converted a future Roman emperor to Christianity.
It was just before a decisive battle for control of Rome and the empire that Constantine saw a blazing light cross the sky and attributed his subsequent victory to divine help from a Christian God.
Constantine went on to consolidate his grip on power and ordered that persecution of Christians cease and their religion receive official status.
In the fourth century AD, the fragmented Roman Empire was being further torn apart by civil war. Constantine and Maxentius were bitterly fighting to be the sole emperor.
Constantine was the son of the western emperor Constantius Chlorus. When he died in 306, his father's troops proclaimed Constantine emperor.
But in Rome, the favorite was Maxentius, son of Constantius' predecessor, Maximian.
The situation was not a stable one, however, and by 312 the two men were at war.
Spurred on by divine intervention, Constantine's army won the day and he gave homage to the God of the Christians whom he believed had helped him.
Jens Ormo, a Swedish geologist, and colleagues working in Italy believe Constantine witnessed a meteoroid impact.
It is the small, circular Cratere del Sirente in central Italy. It is clearly an impact crater, Ormo says, because its shape fits and it is also surrounded by numerous smaller, secondary craters, gouged out by ejected debris, as expected from impact models.
It would have looked like a nuclear blast, with a mushroom cloud and shockwaves.
|Study Suggests Biochemical Lesbian Link|
|European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology Press Release |
Madrid June 30, 2003 - Researchers have found the first evidence that a common cause of infertility in women is more prevalent amongst lesbians than heterosexuals, and they suggest that the biochemical disorder associated with the condition might contribute to the women's sexual orientation.
Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) is the commonest cause of ovarian dysfunction in women and is caused by an imbalance of sex hormones. One of the main features of PCOS is hyperandrogenism, and now that the researchers have discovered the increased prevalence of PCOS amongst lesbian women they hypothesize that hyperandrogenism could be contributing to the women's sexual orientation.
Dr. Rina Agrawal, deputy medical director at the London Women's Clinic and The Hallam Medical Centre, and her colleagues examined 618 women who attended the clinic for fertility treatment between November 2001 and January 2003. Of these, 254 were lesbian and 364 were heterosexual women.
The women did not know whether they had polycystic ovaries (PCO) or PCOS before attending the clinic, but 15% of them had been treated previously for symptoms relating to PCOS such as irregular periods, inability to conceive, acne or excessive body or facial hair.
The women had a pelvic ultrasound examination on the second or third day of their menstrual cycle, and blood samples were taken to measure levels of reproductive hormones. A clinician, nurse and counsellor or clinical psychologist took details of their medical and sexual histories in three separate sessions.
The researchers found that the prevalence of PCO was 32% in heterosexual women and 80% in lesbian women, and that the prevalence of PCOS was 14% in heterosexual women and 38% in lesbian women. The average prevalence amongst all 618 women (lesbian and heterosexual) was 52% for PCO and 24% for PCOS. This compares with European data that show that the prevalence of PCO in the general population is 22% and 10-15% for PCOS, while 40% of all women who seek fertility treatment have PCO/PCOS.
Dr. Agrawal said: "We observed a significantly higher prevalence of PCO/PCOS in lesbian compared with heterosexual women. Our initial results are also suggestive of a significantly greater hyperandrogenism in lesbian compared with heterosexual women.
Dr. Agrawal said: "When we compared lesbian and heterosexual women with PCOS, lesbian women had significantly higher androgens and lower SHBG compared with heterosexual women. We found a similar result in women with PCO only, but in lesbian and heterosexual women with normal ovaries, the androgens and SHBG levels were similar. Our research neither suggests nor indicates that PCO/PCOS causes lesbianism, only that PCO/PCOS is more prevalent in lesbian women. We do, however, hypothesize that hyperandrogenism, which is associated with PCOS, may be one of the factors contributing to the sexual orientation of women."
Dr. Agrawal said: "In 1973 the decision to remove homosexuality from the list of mental disorders was made and since then the focus has shifted from the 'cure' of homosexuality to the physical and psychological health concerns of these individuals. We do not view lesbianism as a disease that is in need of a 'cure'. The only aspects of health care we offer these women are reproductive health and assisted reproduction."
Dr. Agrawal concluded: "There are several challenges and gaps in the research and healthcare of homosexual people, and this in itself calls for focus and funding of this aspect of medicine. In the past 20 years only 0.1% of published articles were dedicated to the healthcare of homosexual individuals, and before 1990 homosexual people were invisible to healthcare research. Our study emphasizes the importance of treating these women in a non-judgmental and non-biased manner so that clinicians may offer them appropriate health advice. I hope that this study will provide an impetus and motivation to clinicians and reproductive endocrinologists to investigate and explore further the hypothesis outlined here."
|By Toby Reynolds |
BRITS, South Africa June 28, 2003 (Reuters) - The cheetah's deep, resonant purr always captivates visitors to a South African wildlife center devoted to the world's fastest mammal.
The sight of cubs, small bundles of fur tumbling over the patient head of their mother, gets spectators even more excited, say staff at the De Wildt Cheetah and Wildlife Trust near Johannesburg.
De Wildt is the world's only internationally approved breeding center for the big cats. But some South Africans are less enthusiastic about the animals, which can beat a Ferrari over a 60-yard sprint.
She says killings by disgruntled farmers and illegal hunters have put the animal in danger of disappearing completely from South Africa.
Cheetah populations are already so small that inbreeding is a significant risk.
|Man Killed for Singing Sinatra Off-key|
|Manila June 25, 2003 (DPA) - A 25-year-old Filipino man has been stabbed dead for singing a Frank Sinatra classic out of tune during a birthday party. |
Police officer Noel Albis said the victim, Casimiro Lagugad, was asked to sing Sinatra's popular song My Way during the party in the Manila suburban city of Caloocan on Sunday.
"Witnesses said the suspect, Julio Tugas, 48, one of the guests and a neighbour of the victim, got irked because Lagugad was singing out of tune," Officer Albis said. "Tugas suddenly attacked the victim and stabbed him in the neck."
Guests rushed Mr Lagugad to the hospital, but he died while being treated.
Tugas later surrendered to village security officials, who turned him over to authorities.
Police are preparing homicide charges against the suspect, who apparently admitted to the crime.
|Amazon Threat: Rain Forest Destruction Jumps 40 Percent!|
|By Axel Bugge |
BRASILIA, Brazil June 27, 2003 — The deforestation rate in Brazil's Amazon, the world's largest jungle, has jumped a dramatic 40 percent, sparking alarm Thursday among environmentalists.
"This is shocking," said Mario Monzoni, a project coordinator for Friends of the Earth group in Brazil. "The rate of deforestation should be falling; instead the opposite is happening."
The ministry said the new center-left government, which has an environment minister from the Amazon, would announce measures next week "to reverse this situation" which led to the deforestation of an area slightly smaller than Haiti.
|New Pot Study Reveals Little Health Danger|
|University of California at San Diego Press Release |
June 27, 2003 - An analysis of research studies with long-term, recreational users of marijuana has failed to reveal a substantial, systematic effect on the neurocognitive functioning of users.
According to researchers at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, the only deleterious side effect found was a minimal malfunction in the domains of learning and forgetting.
The findings were particularly significant considering the movement by several states to make cannabis (marijuana) available as a medicinal drug, and questions regarding its potential toxicity over long-term usage.
Published in the July issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, the study involved a quantitative synthesis of 15 previously published research studies on the non-acute (residual) effects of cannabis on the neurocognitive performance of adult human subjects.
The studies included 704 long-term cannabis users and 484 non-users. The neurocognitive performance measurements included simple reaction time, attention, verbal/language, abstraction/executive functioning, perceptual/motor skills, motor skills, learning and forgetting.
"Surprisingly, we saw very little evidence of deleterious effects. The only exception was a very small effect in learning new information," said Igor Grant, M.D., the study's senior author, a UCSD professor of psychiatry, and director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR), a collaborative, state-supported program between UCSD and UC San Francisco, that oversees 11 studies of the safety and efficacy of medicinal cannabis to treat certain diseases.
|Prehistoric Man Had Better Shoes|
|Offenbach June 20, 2003 (Ananova) - Prehistoric 'shoes' made out of bearskin and hay are better for mountain walks than modern hiking boots, claims an expert. |
Shoe specialist Petr Hlavacek has been studying the shoes found on the feet of a prehistoric iceman whose mummified body was found in an Alpine glacier in 1991.
Mr Hlavacek, who reconstructed a pair of the shoes, said they kept the foot at an optimal temperature, allowed sweat to evaporate and dried quickly if they got wet.
The footwear engineer's version went on display this week at the Leather Museum in Offenbach.
Rathke said the shoes were far from waterproof, but if the iceman stepped in a puddle he would only be cold for a few seconds and the shoes would dry quickly as he walked.
Hlavacek's reconstruction is like a slipper, with no leather upper behind the heel, just a net.
|Northern Mars Frosty|
|NASA Press Release |
June 26, 2003 - NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft is revealing new details about the intriguing and dynamic character of the frozen layers now known to dominate the high northern latitudes of Mars. The implications have a bearing on science strategies for future missions in the search of habitats.
Odyssey's neutron and gamma-ray sensors have tracked seasonal changes as layers of "dry ice" (carbon-dioxide frost or snow) accumulate during northern Mars' winter and then dissipate in the spring, exposing a soil layer rich in water ice - the martian counterpart to permafrost.
Researchers used measurements of martian neutrons combined with height measurements from the laser altimeter on another NASA spacecraft, Mars Global Surveyor, to monitor the amount of dry ice during the northern winter and spring seasons.
"Once the carbon-dioxide layer disappears, we see even more water ice in northern latitudes than Odyssey found last year in southern latitudes," said Odyssey's Dr. Igor Mitrofanov of the Russian Space Research Institute (IKI), Moscow, lead author of a paper in the June 27 issue of the journal Science.
"In some places, the water ice content is more than 90 percent by volume," he said. Mitrofanov and co-authors used the changing nature of the relief of these regions, measured more than 2 years ago by the Global Surveyor's laser altimeter science team, to explore the implications of the changes.
Mars Odyssey's trio of instruments, called the gamma-ray spectrometer suite, can identify elements in the top meter (3 feet) or so of Mars' surface. Mars Global Surveyor's laser altimeter is precise enough to monitor meter-scale changes in the thickness of the seasonal frost, which can accumulate to depths greater than a meter. The new findings show a correlation in the springtime between Odyssey's detection of dissipating carbon dioxide in latitudes poleward of 65 degrees north and Global Surveyor's measurement of the thinning of the frost layer in prior years.
"Odyssey's high-energy neutron detector allows us to measure the thickness of carbon dioxide at lower latitudes, where Global Surveyor's altimeter does not have enough sensitivity," Mitrofanov said. "On the other hand, the neutron detector loses sensitivity to measure carbon-dioxide thickness greater than one meter (3 feet), where the altimeter obtained reliable data. Working together, we can examine the whole range of dry-ice snow accumulations."
The study also found that once the dry ice disappears, the remaining surface near the pole is composed almost entirely of water ice.
|Genre News: Dead Zone, Monk, Keen Eddie, Gary the Rat, Lucky, Nip/Tuck, Peacemakers, SG-1, Ren & Stimpy and Stripperella|
|Summer TV Sucks Less Dept. - Kill Ugly Reality! |
Hollywood June 30, 2003 (eXoNews) - Summer timeslots used to be hopelessly boring. A dozen nightly choices boiled down to a single weekly rerun of your favorite or plodding through a non-favorite.
In the early days of TV we got summer variety shows. For those who missed that era, variety means a lot of singing and dancing and joking around. Summer hosts like Dom DeLuise or Paul Lynde replaced regular season hosts like Dean Martin and Carol Burnett, that sort of thing. Rowan and Martin started with a summer replacement show. [Who? Ed.]
The networks also aired failed pilots and series that didn't quite make the grade. I still remember watching thirteen episodes of a genre show called Way Out one summer as a kid, (hosted by macabre writer Roald Dahl who wrote James and the Giant Peach.) Most others are best forgotten.
Summer TV slid into hell for decades. The networks had big investment costs to recoup from regular season Prime Time ratings winners and failed shows, so variety shows abdicated to a vast wasteland of rerun reruns, talk shows, quiz shows and news magazines.
USA Network changed all that forever when they premiered The Dead Zone and Monk as original shows in the summer of 2002. Both were more successful than anyone could have imagined.
The Dead Zone is a spooky and delightfully literate series based on Stephen King. It is produced by Trek Franchise heavyweight Michael Piller and its appearance neatly filled a gap left by the demise of The X-Files.
Monk is the first genuinely funny series without a laugh track since Malcolm in the Middle. It is offbeat, demographically inexplicable, and a mystery-crime drama too.
Well, not exactly, but there is some hope for mid-season tubers.
The Dead Zone returns to USA Sunday nights at 10 PM on July 6th with the first of six new episodes, having eclipsed its 2002 summer show status with a regular season return earlier in the year. Michael Piller promises that Michael Anthony Hall and company will have us on the edge of our seats. We can't wait to prove him right.
USA also has a Western-detective summer series waiting in the wings, Peacemakers starring Tom Berenger as Marshal Jared Stone. Westerns haven't fared well of late, but USA hasn't failed us yet, so I'm willing to saddle up Wednesday nights at 10 PM with this one.
What about all those other networks?
Eddie (Mark Valley) is an American cop on loan to Scotland Yard and I like his dog Pete, but you probably haven't even heard of this show, right?
Stargate moved from Showtime to become Sci Fi's current cash cow and is oft repeated, but the new episodes maintain the high action, quality effects and genial repartee between the cast members that made it a hit.
Richard Dean Anderson, Amanda Tapping, Christopher Judge, Don S. Davis and Teryl Rothery are all back too, and a recent behind the scenes documentary on Sci Fi demonstrated genuine cast and crew camaraderie. We even got to see Christopher Judge giggle.
The season finale of Lucky airs this week on Fox's FX cable channel. This show breaks ground for modern TV - it's a half-hour comedy-drama series, something we haven't seen in a long time. The experimental placement of the show straddled spring and summer seasons. It also marked John Corbett's return to series TV as Michael 'Lucky' Linkletter, a likeable Vegas gambler who ambles into new adventures each week with comic support from sidekicks Billy Gardell and Craig Robinson.
Corbett starred in the surprise blockbuster feature My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002) and played Aidan Shaw on Sex in the City (1998), but genre fans remember him best as DJ Chris Stevens on Northern Exposure (1990-95) and the returned abductee Adam MacArthur on sci-fi cult favorite The Visitor (1997).
Lucky was an instant hit, so we assume it will return someday and that FX will show Lucky reruns this summer. If you missed it the first time, drop in and check it out. You won't be disappointed.
The success of Lucky and The Shield on FX may increase the chances for Nip/Tuck, which is due on FX in July. Dangerously set in Miami - I can think of at least six promising network series set in Miami that failed and only two (Miami Vice and Miami: CSI) that succeeded - Nip/Tuck is about plastic surgeons.
McMahon's straight-faced comic talents were overshadowed by the gals on Charmed, but he showed a lot of range as Phoebe's bad beau. If Nip/Tuck can strike the right balance of humor and drama, it could be a winner.
In a devastating blow to series fans, reality shows came in and laid waste to dramatic programming in 2003. Scriptless fare that was cheap to produce became Instant Holy Grail for the Network Suits. They worried a little about reruns - who wants to watch Joe pretending to be rich twice? - but they rarely reran their quiz shows either and quiz show sponsors still sold plenty of soap. [You Bet Your Life with Groucho Marx was a rerun exception. It was syndicated staple long after Groucho died. Ed.]
There will be a score of new reality shows this summer. You can read about them somewhere else.
Apparently there are also a lot of TV viewers who have trouble following anything but cartoons, which probably accounts for the 24-hour success of the Cartoon Network.
I don't honestly see why modern kids would watch Powerpuff Girls, so it must be the grownups tuning in.
Not that all of Cartoon Network is bad. I admit I've chortled at Dexter's Laboratory a few times and we all know Wil Wheaton watches SpongeBob SquarePants.
The "adult" Ren and Stimpy series that led off this trio on TNN was well drawn and animated but otherwise as ho-hum sophomoric and humorless as a Hustler cartoon.
No big surprise. I watched the Cartoon Network ("kids") version of Ren and Stimpy exactly once with about the same reaction. Moronic-looking characters who scream a lot don't strike me as outrageous or funny. I live in Los Angeles. I can look out my window at Sunset Boulevard anytime and get the same thing without commercial interruptions.
Speaking of rodents, Gary the Rat was only a little better. Kelsey Grammar adds class to anything he does, but the overall idea of a neurotic self-depreciating animated lawyer is boring - rat or not. There were a couple of laughs, but there are more in an average Fraser episode and Fraser nowadays is about as funny as Cops.
I was not a Baywatch fan, but I do like Pamela's bad attitude. She's cute for a buxom sex symbol, sort of like Jayne Mansfield before she lost her head. A throwback to my more innocent, snickering schoolboy days.
I'm an adult now and the previous entries failed to convince me that TNN was pointing its "new" network at grown men. Stripperella took deliberate aim and missed by a mile.
Whether TNN ever becomes "Spike" Network or not, no one on this planet could ever confuse Spike Lee joints with the crap TNN is trying to pass off as entertainment this summer.
The Dead Zone Official site - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/thedeadzone
Mr. Monk's Official site - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/monk
Peacemakers Official site - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/peacemakers
Keen Eddie Official site - http://www.fox.com/keddie
Stargate SG-1 Official site - http://www.stargate-sg1.com
Sci Fi Channel - http://www.scifi.com
Lucky Official site - http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/lucky
The Moose's Guide to Northern Exposure - http://www.netspace.org/~moose/moose.html
The Visitor - http://www.scifi.com/thevisitor
Nip/Tuck Official site - http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/niptuck
Charmed Official site - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||156,00.html
Groucho Marx - You Bet Your Life - http://www.tvparty.com/moviemarx.html
The Cartoon Network - http://www.cartoonnetwork.com
John Watkins-Chow - Gary The Rat - http://www.watkinschow.com/gtr.html
TNN (AKA "Spike") - http://www.thenewtnn.com