Visit eXoNews for more recent news!

DNA Book of Life!
Solar Tadpoles, The Silver Fox,
Ejaculations? Toxic Teflon?
Oldest Deity Found & More!
DNA News!
DNA Book of Life Completed!
By Roger Highfield
Science Editor

Cambridge April 15, 2003 (Telegraph UK) - Scientists have finished reading the "book of life", the three billion letters of DNA that spell out the recipe of a person.

Half a century after scientists in Cambridge first unveiled DNA's double helix molecular structure, an international team yesterday unveiled an accurate DNA recipe - genome - of a human being.

The completion of the Human Genome Project, ahead of schedule and under cost, was announced yesterday by the International Human Genome Sequencing Consortium.

The largest contributor was the Wellcome Trust Sanger Institute near Cambridge, which carried out nearly a third of the work at a cost of £150 million.

The effort was welcomed for providing "the fundamental platform for understanding ourselves" and "a healthier future" said the Prime Minister and the heads of government of the consortium's six member countries.

Scientists also unveiled their vision for the future of genome research in Nature, the journal that published the landmark paper by James Watson and Francis Crick in April 1953.

The Watson and Crick paper described the double helix structure of deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), which contains instructions - coded as a series of chemical "letters" - needed to build and operate every organism.

The human genome project is considered one of the most ambitious scientific undertakings, likened to splitting the atom or going to the Moon. But when it was launched in 1990, many were skeptical - not least because it was then thought it would cost about £2 billion and take until 2005.

In fact, the project has cost around £1.7 billion and published its first draft in June 2000, which covered 90 per cent of the gene-containing part - at an error rate of one in 1,000 "letters" - with more than 150,000 gaps.

Yesterday's "finished" sequence contains fewer than 400 gaps and 99 per cent of it has an accuracy rate of less than one error every 10,000 letters.

"Never would I have dreamed in 1953 that my scientific life would encompass the path from DNA's double helix to the three billion steps of the human genome," said Dr James Watson, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and first leader of the Human Genome Project.

"When the opportunity arose to sequence the human genome, I knew it was something that could be done - and that must be done. The completion of the Human Genome Project is a truly momentous occasion for every human."

When the project began, scientists had discovered fewer than 100 human disease genes. Today, more than 1,400 disease genes have been identified. Prof Allan Bradley, a director of Sanger Institute, said: "The health benefits could be phenomenal."

The US National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, has set out a series of "Grand Challenges" to energize the field, such as to understand the relationship between genomics, race and ethnicity. Another aim is to find new technologies that can read the entire genome of any person for less than £650, a challenge already being taken up by the company Solexa, which has come out of Cambridge University.

"We will begin to gain valuable new insights into human evolution, as well as human health and disease," said Dr Richard Gibbs, director of Baylor College of Medicine's Human Genome Sequencing Centre.

DNA Pub Honored
By Patricia Reaney 

CAMBRIDGE, England April 14, 2003 (Reuters) - If walls could talk, what a story the Eagle pub's would tell. 

From a 16th century coaching inn to a hang-out for British and American airman during World War II, Cambridge's most famous watering hole has played host to travelers, tradesmen, tourists and a fair share of academics and students. 

But its finest hour, and the one which has gone down in the history books, was on a winter day 50 years ago when two scientists working at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory burst through its door and announced that they had discovered the secret of life.

James Watson, a rangy 24-year-old American, and Briton Francis Crick, 36, had unraveled the three-dimensional structure of deoxyribonucleic acid, better known as DNA, the molecule that contained the human genetic code. 

It turned out to be the biggest scientific discovery of the 20th century, an achievement that set the stage for future advances in biology, medicine, agriculture, pharmaceuticals and forensics. 

So where better to reveal it than their favorite pub? 

"They came rushing in through this door," said Sian Crowther, the Eagle's current manager, pointing to a side entrance from the courtyard to one of the oldest parts of the 500-year-old building. "This was the first place that they actually announced it." 

FROM CARDBOARD CUT-OUTS TO HUMAN GENETICS 

Earlier that Saturday morning in late February in his laboratory, a stone's throw from the Eagle where he regularly lunched with Crick, Watson had shifted around cardboard cut-outs of the components of DNA, like piecing together a jigsaw puzzle, to work out how they fit together. When Crick arrived he knew the double helix model of DNA, resembling a twisted spiral staircase, was the answer and could eloquently explain how hereditary information is stored, replicated and passed on to the next generation. 

Watson has admitted that he thought Crick's announcement that day in the Eagle seemed a bit immodest, particularly in a country like England, known for its understatement. 

"I felt slightly queasy when at lunch Francis winged into the Eagle to tell everyone within hearing distance that we had found the secret of life," Watson wrote about that famous day. 

Half a century later it is evident that Crick was right. But it was not until their research was published in the science journal Nature on April 25, 1953, that the larger scientific community and the world became aware of the discovery. 

"A lot of people didn't realize the significance of what they had discovered," said Crowther. 

Nine years later they were awarded the Nobel Prize. 

To mark the golden anniversary of the discovery, Watson, now president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in New York, will revisit his old stamping grounds for a series of celebrations in the quaint university city where it all happened. The Eagle pub will play a prominent role in the festivities when Watson is expected to unveil a plaque at the pub on April 25 to mark its role in the discovery.

BEST IS YET TO COME 

Tourists aware of its significance already make pilgrimages to down a beer, or something stronger, while sitting in its low-ceilinged, timbered rooms gazing through stained glass windows across Benet Street or out onto the side courtyard. 

"We get people coming specifically to the pub for the DNA connection," said Crowther, who is preparing for the dignitaries, academics and media who are expected to descend on the pub for Watson's anniversary visit. 

Academics and scientists still frequent the Eagle, just as Watson and Crick did, to drink, eat or to ponder their research and discuss its significance. 

"You just never know who is actually in here, the significance of it (their work) or what is going to come of it," Crowther said. 

With no blaring music or flashing, noisy game machines that are common in many British pubs, there is nothing to disturb people at the Eagle. 

"This pub is the social aspect of the Cavendish Laboratory, as it was then," said Dr David Applin, a scientist, author and Eagle regular. 

Back in 1953 few customers would have imagined that Watson and Crick had set the stage for the genetic revolution that could uncover the causes and potential cures of inherited diseases. 

Nor would they have known that the discovery would spark the creation of the biotechnology industry which today treats millions of people with drugs and vaccines derived from genetically engineered organisms. 

"It transformed biology, but much more than that it has the potential of transforming medicine and agriculture. There is a long, long way to go yet," Applin said. "A lot of this is long on hype at the moment in terms of what it will do. It's really only the early days yet." 

After peering down microscopes, constructing models or conducting experiments, Applin believes a pub such as the Eagle provides the ideal venue for discussion and debate, oiled by the appropriate lubricants, from which great ideas spring. 

"The data has to be discussed, has to integrated, has to be analyzed and has to be interpreted. All you need basically to do that is 1. a brain, 2. a pad and 3. a pencil, or a laptop, and where better to do it than in these sort of surroundings?" he said spreading his hands and gazing around the pub.

Solar Tadpoles!
NASA-GSFC NEWS RELEASE

April 10, 2003 - Dark features resembling Earth-sized tadpoles were seen swimming in the atmosphere of the Sun after it was heated to millions of degrees following an enormous explosion, according to scientists who made the observation using NASA's Transition Region and Coronal Explorer (TRACE) spacecraft. 

"This is the best view yet of these enigmatic shapes," said Dr. Edward Deluca of the Harvard-Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (SAO), Cambridge, Mass., who is a co-author of a paper on the observation to be submitted to the Astrophysical Journal in September 2003. The observation is expected to shed light on the physics of magnetic reconnection, the process believed to power solar explosions, which occasionally disrupt satellites and power systems. The result is presented this week as a poster at the American Geophysical Union meeting in Nice, France. 

The explosion on April 21, 2002, was an "X-class" solar flare, the most powerful kind, releasing about as much energy as a billion one-megaton nuclear bombs.

It was also associated with a coronal mass ejection (CME), a multi-billion ton eruption of electrified gas (plasma) into space. 

The tadpoles are mysterious in part because of their behavior. "In the vicinity of a solar flare associated with a CME, most matter is moving away from the solar surface, but the tadpoles move downward at initial speeds between 30 and 600 kilometers per second (about 19 to 373 miles/sec.), something you don't expect," said Dr. David McKenzie of Montana State University - Bozeman, who has observed these features many times before at lower resolution with the Soft X-ray Telescope on board the Japanese Yohkoh spacecraft. 

TRACE observes ultraviolet light from iron atoms in solar plasma at two temperatures: 1.5 million degrees Celsius (2.7 million Fahrenheit) and 10 million degrees Celsius (18 million Fahrenheit). Theories explaining the tadpoles included the possibilities that they were dense blobs of plasma, with a different temperature than what TRACE could detect, that absorbed ultraviolet light from plasma behind them or that they were voids with hardly any ultraviolet-emitting plasma in them. 

While both circumstances would create dark regions in TRACE images, the new data, coordinated with observations from other spacecraft, have now convinced scientists that the tadpoles are superheated magnetic voids in the plasma. The voids are formed when magnetic fields that lace the solar atmosphere reconnect and snap back to the surface following a flare and CME. According to the analysis presented today, the tadpoles appear dark simply because there is very little material in them. 

"Imagine a hot-air balloon lifting off the ground and stretching elastic tethers placed over its top," said McKenzie. "The tethers are like the solar magnetic field, and the balloon represents the CME. As the balloon rises, the elastic tethers stretch, get pulled together, and start to tangle underneath the balloon. If the tethers were to behave like solar magnetic fields, instead of simply breaking, broken tethers would reconnect to other broken tethers, forming new connections (magnetic reconnection)." 

"If this tangling and reconnection goes on long enough, pieces of elastic tethers that are connected to the ground (the solar surface) connect to other 'grounded' segments, and subsequently snap back down to the ground. Their snapping downwards gives the tadpoles a downward motion, as the stretched magnetic fields relax to form long rows of arches called arcades. Pieces connected to the balloon get tied to other 'balloon-connected' segments and are carried off as magnetic fields embedded in the CME." 

Apparently, the tadpoles are reconnected magnetic tubes, seen in cross section. The tube's magnetic pressure temporarily keeps the surrounding hot plasma out, forming a void. With very little or no plasma inside the tubes, there is no ultraviolet emission there, and they appear as dark blobs (tadpoles) when seen in cross section. After the reconnection, the magnetic tubes shrink away from the departing CME. As the tubes move downward, the voids gradually fill with hot plasma from underneath and disappear. 

TRACE is able to take more detailed pictures faster, allowing scientists to better characterize the behavior of the tadpoles. "No one knows exactly how magnetic reconnection works. The TRACE observations give us constraints, which allow us to select from among many competing theories," said Deluca. 

"Improved understanding of magnetic reconnection will help us better understand when a highly-magnetized region of the Sun will suddenly erupt as a flare or CME," added Deluca. 

Other members of the TRACE team include lead author Mr. Fenwick Cooper, a Ph.D. student at the University of Warwick, The United Kingdom, Prof. Valery Nakariakov, also of the University of Warwick, and Dr. Dan Seaton of SAO.

TRACE homepage - http://vestige.lmsal.com/TRACE

Australia May Outlaw Spam
By Cosima Marriner
Sydney Morning Herald

Melbourne April 16 2003 (SMH) - The Federal Government is considering outlawing spam, declaring that the practice of sending unsolicited bulk emails has mutated from nuisance to "menace". In an effort to stop mass emails promoting pornography merchants, financial scams and dubious products from clogging up people's email, a Government-commissioned report has recommended new laws be introduced.

The Minister for Communication, Senator Richard Alston, will release the findings of the National Office of the Information Economy's final report on spam in Melbourne today. 

It will coincide with the launch of the Internet Industry Association's campaign against spam, which makes up at least a fifth of email traffic. The report recommends banning commercial emails sent without prior consent from recipients. Emails would have to accurately detail the sender's name and physical and electronic address. Penalties would apply.

The Government intends to act on the recommendations soon.

"Spam has gone beyond a nuisance to a menace," said a spokesman for Senator Alston. "The Government will not sit on its hands while this problem grows out of control."

But as the internet transcends geographical borders, Australian laws would not be sufficient to bring spam under control. The report concedes that difficulties identifying spammers and the lack of jurisdiction over offshore spammers means legislation alone will not solve the problem. 

It recommends Australia work with other countries to combat spam, citing the International Consumer Protection and Enforcement Network as a good model for co-operation.

Australia should also work with multilateral bodies such as APEC and the OECD to develop international guidelines that would reduce the total amount of spam worldwide. These guidelines would also clamp down on false or misleading header information.

The internet office wants to encourage users to take responsibility for the problem and invest in spam filters. It believes the internet industry should develop a list of known spammers and ISPs should be made to close down servers used to send spam.
US Marines Get The Silver Fox
Office of Naval Research Press Release

Arlington, VA April 14, 2003 – Smaller than the Predator and Global Hawk, the Office of Naval Research's unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), Silver Fox, comes ready for the hunt. 

Forward "eyes on the ground" give battle ready Marines intelligence about what lies ahead of their advance and makes them better prepared for an impending engagement. Marines at the tactical level needed a system to determine what lies beyond the next hill or hiding in an ambush position. The Office of Naval Research took that need to its Tech Solutions group and developed a workable solution in short order. 

Tech Solutions teamed with Advanced Ceramics Research (ACR) of Tucson, Arizona, through the Small Business Innovation Research program and rapidly developed and deployed a new entry into the realm of UAVs.

"The right talent from Marine Corps' Warfighting Lab, Naval Research Lab, Naval Post Graduate School, the Office of Naval Research, various defense contractors, and university researchers converged at ACR to rapidly make happen what absolutely had to happen," said Anthony Mulligan, CEO of Advanced Ceramics Research. 

Built as a small tactical UAV, Silver Fox's 6-foot long fuselage, detachable 8-foot wide wings, and tail fins fit into a super-sized golf bag. Weighing only 20 pounds and powered by a model plane engine, Silver Fox can soar upwards of 1,000 feet.

Equipped with state-of-the-art "eyes in the sky" camera technology, it flies autonomously using Global Position Satellite (GPS) as one of its navigational systems--making this a true hands-off aircraft. 

Launched using a small compressed air powered launcher, Silver Fox employs high tech "eyes" and relays information instantaneously to a remote laptop computer providing intelligence for advancing Marines. It has a flight endurance of several hours that enables it to cover large areas of territory, uses combat aircraft avoidance protocols, and also has the payload capacity for other small, state-of-the-art detection systems.

"Its size, portability, and aerial capabilities make it a tactical level leaders' clear cut option to gather battlefield intelligence," said Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Jay Cohen. 

The Office of Naval Research and the ACR's response within a month resulted in the ability to provide operational systems to the Marine Corps to supplement needed reconnaissance capabilities in combat.

"We sent an ONR team into the theater to deploy the Silver Fox following its transition from the original design," said Captain John Hobday, a naval reservist and director of Tech Solutions.

Regarding its current mission, Rear Admiral Cohen said, "Silver Fox was designed to spot whales in operating areas to keep them out of harms way before conducting naval exercises. It's now being tasked to help our Marines on the ground."

Gorilla and Chimps Off the Menu
YAOUNDE Cameroon April 15, 2003 (Reuters) — Gorilla, chimpanzee, and elephant will now be off the menu in Cameroon.

Authorities in the central African country announced Monday that any restaurant caught serving meat from endangered animals could face up to three years in prison and a fine of more than $16,000.

Top wildlife official Denis Koulagna said the animals might be exterminated within a decade if hunting for so-called bushmeat was not stopped. As well as being the main source of protein for many impoverished villagers in Cameroon's forests, bushmeat is a delicacy for rich city dwellers.

Hunters can easily earn up to $1,000 a year — far more than most Cameroonians.

"Though habitat loss has often been cited as the primary cause of wildlife extinction, commercial bushmeat hunting has become the most immediate threat," said Koulagna.
Cosmic Link to Stone Circles
By Helen Briggs 
BBC News Science Reporter 

Ireland April 9, 2003 (BBC) - Stone Age people in Ireland appear to have built tombs based on a detailed knowledge of how the Sun moves across the sky during the year. Tombs at the archaeological site of Loughcrew in County Meath align with the rising Sun at the spring and autumn equinoxes. 

The inside of the chambers are spectacularly illuminated by a shaft of sunlight at dawn on these days, said Frank Prendergast of the Dublin Institute of Technology. It suggests settlers in the area some 5 to 6,000 years ago knew the yearly cycle of the Sun and perhaps centered their lives around it. 

Tombs found elsewhere in Ireland have been found to point towards the rising Sun at the summer and winter solstices. At these times, the Sun reaches its most northerly and southerly points in the sky, which can be easily observed from any place on Earth. 

The equinoxes - in late March and late September - are not so obvious and can only be pinpointed by tracking the passage of the Sun across the entire year. Why tomb builders wished to do this remains a mystery but it suggests the Sun was at the heart of ritual and ceremonial practices of ancient people. 

"Archaeology now has a substantial body of evidence which would indicate a very sophisticated and advanced agrarian society," Frank Prendergast told BBC News Online. "They would have attached a sense of sacredness to their landscape and the sky and they would have done that by building the monuments the way they did; decorating them with a kind of rock art; and associating some of these monuments with key astronomical events such as a significant rising and setting points of the Moon and Sun."

The findings are to be presented at the UK/Ireland National Astronomy Meeting in Dublin. Details will also be revealed of how Bronze Age stone circles in Ulster relate to both the Sun and the Moon. Archaeologists believe there could have been separate lunar and solar traditions, possibly at different times in history. 

But Professor Clive Ruggles, of the University of Leicester, said great care was needed in interpreting them. 

"Just because a monument is aligned in a direction that we would be tempted to interpret as astronomically significant, such as the direction of sunrise or sunset on one of the solstices, this might not have been intentional," he said. 

He believes the study of astronomical alignments gives an insight into how people comprehended the world in the past. 

"The builders were not 'astronomers' in the sense that we would mean it today, but celestial objects and cycles were important to them in keeping their own lives in harmony with their world," he explained.

Explaining Ejaculations
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology Press Release

April 12, 2003 - How does the body know it has had an ejaculation? And why does it care? Anatomically, it is more complex than it seems, says the University of Cincinnati scientist who last year identified the spinal cord cells that control ejaculation in rats and the neural pathway by which signals travel between the body's sexual organs to the brain.

At the Experimental Biology 2003 meeting in San Diego, Dr. Lique Coolen reviews work her laboratory has done in understanding ejaculation and then discusses her current work in how chemical signals on this pathway contribute to pleasure and reward, key elements in sexual behavior. Dr. Coolen is this year's recipient of the American Association of Anatomists' C. J. Herrick Award in Comparative Neuroanatomy. 

Scientists had known for years that there must be a group of cells in the spinal center that control ejaculation. Following spinal cord injury that prevents sensation from reaching the brain, humans and other animals remain able to achieve erection and ejaculation upon stimulation.

But the location of this spinal ejaculation generator remained a mystery until last August when Dr. Coolen and a postdoctoral fellow in her laboratory, Dr. William Truitt, reported their findings in Science. Dr. Coolen had targeted the lumbar spinothalamic neurons in the lower back because these neurons appeared active only after ejaculation and not during sexual arousal or mounting.

When the researchers used a highly selective toxin to destroy the thalamic neurons in adult male rats, the rats appeared not to notice. They continued their sexual interest and behavior, including penetration of the female. But they no longer had ejaculations, confirming that these were the cells the researchers had been hunting. 

With the ejaculation machinery identified as being part of the spinal cord, Dr. Coolen then turned her interest to the neural pathway that relayed ejaculation-related signs from the reproductive system to the brain. This turned out to be the same spinal cord neural population which in turn sends ejacultion-related signals to the thalamus.

The lumbar spinothalamic neurons issue sensory signals related to ejaculation that also contribute to mating-induced activation within brain circuits involved in the regulation of motivation and reward, the mesolimbic and mesocortical system. Using neuroanatomical markers and measures of activation of receptors, the researchers were able to show that the brain released various neurochemicals during different stages of sexual behavior. 

Rats are different than humans when it comes to sex in some ways, says Dr. Coolen. The male rat can have eight to ten ejaculations over a two hour period -- with five minute breaks in between –-- before they lose interest in a receptive female. But, she says, most studies of sexual functioning have used rodents and the results have turned out to work well in humans.

She hopes other researchers will be able to locate the same cells in spinal cells in humans and then develop treatments to make it easier for paraplegic men to ejaculate (important for those men who wish to have families) and to help the 30 percent of adult males who experience ejaculatory problems sometime in their lives. 

And what about women? Dr. Coolen also is developing research plans to determine if the same cells that cause ejaculation in men exist in the lumbar spines of women and if so, what they do. 

As for her new work in the pleasure-reward pathways, learning what the chemical signals are will mean learning ways to manipulate these signals and treat other sexual dysfunction as well.
Tiny Bubbles for Future Computers
By Emil Venere
Purdue University Press Release

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. April 11, 2003 – Purdue University researchers have made a discovery that may lead to the development of an innovative liquid-cooling system for future computer chips, which are expected to generate four times more heat than today's chips.

Researchers had thought that bubbles might block the circulation of liquid forced to flow through "microchannels" only three times the width of a human hair. Engineers also thought that small electric pumps might be needed to push liquid through the narrow channels, increasing the cost and complexity while decreasing the reliability of new cooling systems for computers.

Purdue researchers, however, have solved both of these potential engineering hurdles, developing a "pumpless" liquid-cooling system that removes nearly six times more heat than existing miniature pumpless liquid-cooling systems, said Issam Mudawar, a professor of mechanical engineering. 

Liquid forced through microchannels forms smaller bubbles than expected, Mudawar said he was surprised to learn. Moreover, decreasing the diameter of the microchannels increased the cooling efficiency of the system by causing the liquid to form even smaller bubbles, which is contrary to the expected result.

Because the bubbles are much smaller than the diameter of the microchannels, they flow easily through the channels. The Purdue-developed system does not require a pump because the liquid circulates in a self-sustaining flow in a closed loop that carries heat away from a computer chip.

Findings about the new cooling system are detailed in a research paper appearing in the March issue of IEEE Transactions on Components and Packaging Technologies, published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The paper was written by Mudawar and graduate student Swaraj Mukherjee.

Innovative cooling systems will be needed in about three years for personal computers expected to contain microprocessor chips that will generate four times more heat than chips in current computers. Whereas current high-performance chips generate about 75 watts per square centimeter, chips in the near future will generate more than 300 watts per square centimeter, Mudawar said.

"Any time you squeeze more circuitry into the same space, you are producing more heat per unit area and per unit volume," he said.

Today's computers use fans and heat sinks containing fins to help cool circuitry. But this technology will not be efficient enough to remove the increasing heat generated by future chips, Mudawar said.

His research team created a liquid-cooling system that uses a closed loop of two vertical, parallel tubes containing a dielectric liquid – or a liquid that does not conduct electricity. The liquid flows through microchannels in a metal plate that is touching the chip. As liquid flows through the channels, it is heated by the chip and begins to boil, producing bubbles of vapor.

Because the buoyant vapor bubbles are lighter than the liquid, they rise to the top of the tube, where they are cooled by a fan and condensed back into a liquid. The cool liquid then flows into the parallel tube and descends, creating a self-sustaining flow that eventually re-enters the microchannel plate and starts all over again.

"We were surprised to see that the dielectric liquid forms really miniature bubbles, so they slip through really fast," Mudawar said. "The bubbles don't block the flow, as you would expect."

The researchers found that the system was 5.7 times better at removing heat than existing miniature pumpless liquid-cooling systems. 

"This is only a starting point, and much better performance might be possible," Mudawar said.

Future research will focus on testing various designs to see which configurations work best.

"Now that we have a system that we know will work, we are going to test different geometries that will be beneficial to industry," said Mudawar, director of the Purdue University International Electronic Cooling Alliance. The alliance brings together researchers from industry, government agencies and Purdue to design cooling systems for applications ranging from personal computers to spacecraft.

The research was funded by the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Science.

Is Teflon Toxic?
By Christopher Doering
Reuters

WASHINGTON April 15, 2003 (Reuters) — DuPont Co., the second-largest U.S. chemical company, withheld from the government an internal study linking a toxic chemical in Teflon to birth defects in some children, an advocacy group charged recently.

The Environmental Working Group claimed that DuPont violated federal law by failing to turn over a document in 1981 showing the risks of perfluorooctanoic acid, or C8, a chemical used to manufacture Teflon.

Teflon is a widely available household product used to keep clothing such as jackets dry or to prevent food from sticking to pots and pans.

"They obviously had no intention of ever turning this over to the EPA," said Richard Wiles, a vice president of the advocacy group. "This is very damning evidence. It's not surprising to us that they withheld it, and who knows what else they've withheld?"

The group asked the Environmental Protection Agency to investigate and determine if the company broke federal law by failing to immediately disclose the health impacts of the chemical. The EPA said it was reviewing the document and did not have an immediate comment.

Wilmington, Del.–based DuPont denied the allegations by the Environmental Working Group that the company violated the Toxic Substance Control Act by not reporting information about C8.

The environmental group cited a 1981 internal study by DuPont that measured the blood levels of seven women who worked at the company's Teflon plant in West Virginia. All had detectable levels of the chemical in their bodies, according to the document.

CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT

The DuPont study also said one woman gave birth to a child with an eye and tear-duct defect, and another employee bore a child with nostril and eye defects. That same year, DuPont reassigned 50 women from the plant to reduce their exposure to the chemical, the Environmental Working Group said. Residents near the West Virginia plant have filed a class-action lawsuit against DuPont over contamination of area water supplies. The DuPont report on C8 came to light in the course of that lawsuit.

"There is no evidence or data that demonstrates (C8) causes adverse human health effects, including developmental or reproductive effects, in any segment of the human population," said Robert Rickard, director of DuPont's Haskell Laboratory for Health and Environmental Sciences.

DuPont said the company recorded the women's low-level exposure but did not conduct a formal study evaluating C8 or its effect on human health.

The federal Toxic Substance Control Act only requires companies to report information when the public is at risk, DuPont said, and it added there were no adverse effects to humans exposed to the chemical. DuPont said its records showed one birth defect but added there was "no indication" it was linked to exposure to C8.

The Teflon chemical C8 is part of a broader family called perfluorochemicals. Tests have shown that C8 and similar chemicals can cause liver damage and reproductive problems in rats, according to scientists. The Environmental Working Group said laboratory studies have linked exposure to perfluorochemicals to cancer, hypothyroidism, and brain damage.

In 2000, 3M Corp. pulled its stain repellent Scotchgard from the market after the EPA expressed concern that a sister chemical to C8 posed serious health risks. 3M has since stopped making all perfluorochemicals.

The EPA last September began a priority review of C8 under the Toxic Chemicals Control Act, which can be used to ban chemicals that can lead to health problems or defects.

An EPA official said the agency planned to release a final version of its report on Monday. In a draft copy released last month, the EPA found that C8 accumulates in the blood system and has toxic chemicals that pose a risk for childbearing women. The agency urged further study of the chemical's impact on humans.

For its part, DuPont said that the EPA document was a preliminary draft and that data recently shared with the government support the chemical's safety.

The History of Teflon - http://www.dupont.com/teflon/newsroom/history.html 
Is Human Cloning Impossible?
Pittsburgh April 10, 2003 (BBC) - Human cloning may never be possible because of a quirk of biology. Scientists in the United States say hundreds of attempts to clone monkeys have ended in failure. They think the biological make-up of the eggs of primates, including humans, makes cloning almost impossible. 

Cloning has been successful in several mammals, including sheep, mice and cattle, but there is increasing evidence that it does not work in all species. 

The research, reported in the journal Science, casts further doubt on efforts by a handful of mavericks to clone humans. Clonaid, a company created by a UFO cult known as the Raelians, claims to have already cloned several babies.

It has produced no evidence to substantiate these claims. 

Meanwhile, controversial reproductive scientist Panayiotis Zavos has published a picture of what he claims is "the first human cloned embryo for reproductive purposes". 

The majority of scientists agree that attempts to clone a human baby are dangerous and misguided. Many cloned animals have been born ill or deformed and successful births are few and far between.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine used the method pioneered on Dolly the sheep to try to clone rhesus macaque monkeys. They were unable to establish a single pregnancy after hundreds of attempts. Other groups have also tried and failed to clone monkeys. 

The obstacle appears to be something to do with the way genetic material is parceled up as a cell splits into two during embryonic development. Cells end up with too much, or too little DNA, and cannot survive. It suggests that attempts to clone other primates, even humans, may be doomed to failure. 

"This reinforces the fact that the charlatans who claim to have cloned humans have never understood enough cell or developmental biology (to succeed)," team leader Dr Gerald Schatten told the journal Science.

80 Million Bees Escape in Florida
Miami April 8, 2003 (AFP) - A swarm of as many as 80 million bees have suddenly found freedom in central Florida when a truck carrying them on an interstate highway overturned, local media reported on Tuesday.

The driver, identified as Conrad Cramer, was killed in the road accident that occurred on Monday near the town of Titusville.

The escaped bees swarmed around for hours after the accident forcing authorities to close parts of the highway and reroute the traffic. It was not immediately clear if the bees could be caught and returned to their hives.

Bees are routinely transported from one part of Florida to another in springtime to allow them to collect nectar from blooming orchards.
Oldest Deity Found!
The Field Museum Press Release

CHICAGO April 14, 2003 - Archaeologists have found a 4,000-year-old gourd fragment that bears an archaic image of the Staff God – the principal deity in South America during thousands of years.

“Like the cross, the Staff God is a clearly recognizable religious icon,” says Jonathan Haas, MacArthur curator of North American anthropology at The Field Museum. “This appears to be the oldest identifiable religious icon found in the Americas. It indicates that organized religion began in the Andes more than 1,000 years earlier than previously thought.”

Members of the Proyecto Arqueológico Norte Chico found the gourd fragment along the coast of Peru, 120 miles north of Lima, while collecting surface artifacts at a looted cemetery. The fragment, which was once part of a gourd bowl about the size of softball, has been radiocarbon dated to 2250 B.C.

Archaeology will publish a description of the new discovery in its May-June issue, which hits the newsstands Tuesday, April 15. The report is authored by Haas; Winifred Creamer, associate professor of anthropology at Northern Illinois University; and Alvaro Ruiz, Co-Director of the Proyecto Arqueológico Norte Chico.

According to Ruiz, “the Staff God, also known as Dios de los Baculos, is an iconic motif with a long and broad history throughout several Andean cultures. This deity figure is commonly shown in a frontal view, with a fanged mouth and splayed and clawed feet. Snakes are often part of the figure’s headdress or integrated into its garments. Most commonly, the deity is depicted holding a staff in one or both hands, hence the name.”

The incised and painted image on the newly found gourd fragment, while simple and archaic in style, clearly has fangs and splayed feet. Its left arm appears to end in a snake’s head, and its right hand holds a staff.

A similar incised and painted drawing on a second gourd fragment from a nearby cemetery represents the same or a similar figure.

The figures were found in the Patavilca River Valley, one of four coastal valleys that make up the Norte Chico region of the Peruvian coast.

This region was densely populated between 2600 B.C. and 2000 B.C. and appears to have been the ancestral home of Andean civilization that culminated 3500 years later in the Inca.

“To date, 26 major centers have been recorded in the Norte Chico region, all with monumental architecture, large-scale ceremonial structures, and complex residential and administrative architecture,” Creamer says. “It is a truly unique concentration of settlements anywhere in the Americas.”

All the sites lack pottery, which was introduced on the Peruvian coast about 1900 B.C. 

As part of a long-term project focused on the Norte Chico preceramic, the 2002 fieldwork was designed to extract radiocarbon dates, gain information on the construction of the various platform mounds, and make preliminary collections at two cemeteries east of the modern town of Barranca.

Both gourd fragments were found at these cemeteries, which today stand as large stone outcrops covered with windblown sand.

[They worshipped Felix the Cat?? Ed.]

Genre News: Buffy and Angel, Platinum, Katherine Heigl, Ono, Ice-T, Lucky, Smothers Brothers and More!
Buffy and Angel
By FLAtRich

Hollywood April 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - Buffy returns this week with "Dirty Girls", the first show of a five-episode arc that will end the series in its current incarnation.

Faith (Eliza Dushku) rejoins the Scoobies as they fight the final Big Bad. The series finale will be a two-hour episode, so you tapers out there should be able to fit all five on one VHS reel.

According to Dark Horizons, David Boreanaz (Angel) added to the Superman and Batman rumors at a "talk to college students in LA last week".

According to DH, Boreanaz has not yet heard back about his Superman audition, which contradicts what he said in an E! Online interview when he quelled the rumors a month ago.

DH also confirms that discussions were held about Boreanaz becoming Batman, but no script yet. Boreanaz also said that there would be major changes in the cast of Angel next year if the show is picked up for a fifth season.

DH said that Angel will appear in the last two episodes of Buffy.

Hollywood Reporter says that Buffy's Nick Brendon has signed for a Fox pilot called "The Pool at Maddy Breakers". It's a comedy, which sounds like a good direction for Nick.

Buffy - http://www.buffy.com

Angel is here: http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||139,00.html

And rabid fans who want to join a campaign to renew Angel can go to http://www.renewangel.com

Dark Horizons - http://www.darkhorizons.com

Platinum Spins!
By FLAtRich

Hollywood April 15, 2003 (eXoNews) - What does my boney White ass know about rap and hip-hop? Absolutely nuthin'. That's the truth, but I can say that Platinum, UPN's last best hope, is good TV.

Platinum dazed me. I didn't think the concept looked good on paper and I didn't expect to be impressed, but I was completely won over by the second half-hour of "Flow", Platinum's premiere episode.

Platinum uses a tried and true TV formula. It's a Western in disguise - the big cattle baron, Nick Tashjian (Tony Nardi) of Gray Star Media is trying to buy out Jackson and Grady Rhames (Jason George and Sticky Fingaz), the fiercely independent ranchers of Sweetback Entertainment. Sweetback is also fighting for water rights with a neighboring ranch, Conflict Entertainment, and its owner Max (N'Bushe Wright). There are gunfighters and other bads along the trail, with everyone competing for the mighty dollar in the wild, wild East of New York's record business.

Fortunately, any clichés haunting Platinum are overridden by an incredibly likeable cast of talented and relatively new faces. The close camerawork and sparse sets in "Flow" betray a low budget for the opening, but the video-style quick-cut editing worked 100% of the time. The music sounded good to me - like I said, I'm no expert - and it was a grand relief from the post-new wave power pop that has infected everything else on TV for the last decade.

When I say relatively new faces, I should say new to TV. Sticky Fingaz, originally part of the group Onyx, showed up on the big screen in Spike Lee's Clockers and has been making movies ever since. Jason George, A.K.A Jason Winston George, has done his share of TV guesting (including UPN shows like Moesha and Roswell) and movies like Barbershop and Clockstoppers.

I humbly predict that the big winner from Platinum will be Lalanya Masters, who was a real standout in "Flow" as Jackson's wife Monica. Miss Masters stole the screen every time she appeared. Watch this lady! She's a star!

Vishiss (A.K.A. Seth Holland) was also effectively evil as the White rapper VersIs. I gotta say that I didn't know a White boy could be so ugleee! Wow! And he's after sexy little sister Jade Rhames (Davetta Sherwood) too!

Speaking of White guys, the only folks who got shot and beat up in Platinum's premiere were White. Well, maybe that's some sort of frontier justice, ain't it?

Platinum airs Tuesdays at 9PM/8c on UPN.

Official Platinum web site - http://www.upn.com/shows/platinum

Katherine Heigl and Roswell
By FLAtRich

Hollywood April 14, 2003 (eXoNews) - Katherine Heigl (Isabel in Roswell), who stars in "Love Comes Softly" with Skye McCole Bartusiak and Dale Midkiff on the Hallmark Channel this month, has been cast in "Vegas Dick", a UPN fall series. Katherine will play a casino owner's daughter in the show, produced by 20th Century Fox.

A serious campaign for a Roswell movie is underway at http://roswellmovie.net.

You can sign the Roswell movie petition at http://www.petitiononline.com/mlmovie/petition.html. Roswell co-star John Doe (Liz's father in the show) was quoted recently on Dark Horizons, saying that the movie was a reality, so Roswell fans should sign up now! The petition currently has 19,346 signatures. 

Sci Fi Channel aired all three seasons of Roswell in the last few months and started again with Season One at 6 PM weeknights. [Man, that finale was cool! I really want to know what happened to those kids! Ed.]

The Hallmark Channel - http://www.hallmarkchannel.com

Roswell - http://www.crashdown.com

Sci Fi Channel Roswell site - http://www.scifi.com/roswell

P. Diddy Does Robert Johnson
By Zorianna Kit

Hollywood April 11, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Sean "P. Diddy" Combs will star as blues musician Robert Johnson in the HBO Films feature "Love in Vain," which Tim Blake Nelson will helm. Production begins in September in Mississippi.

Written by Alan Greenberg, the project is about Johnson, considered one of most influential Delta bluesman even though he died at age 27 and only recorded 29 songs, including "Crossroads," "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom," "Sweet Home Chicago," "Terraplane Blues" and "Love in Vain." Jeff Abelson is executive producing. Sources said Greenberg and Nelson also are producing.

Nelson, repped by UTA, the Firm and attorney Marc Glick and Steve Breimer, has directed such films as "The Grey Zone" and "O." Combs has had supporting roles in the films "Monster's Ball" and "Made."

Yoko Remix Hits Top 10 

NEW YORK April 14, 2003 (AP) - Yoko Ono may not fit the stereotype of a typical dance music artist, but she likes the fact that anything goes when it comes to dance music. 

Seventy-year-old Ono's song, "Walking On Thin Ice," from the "Double Fantasy" album, has been remixed and the single is in the top ten of the dance music charts. Ono says when she heard the remixes, she was so touched she cried. It was the song she and former husband John Lennon had been working on the night that he was shot in New York City in 1980. 

The song is in the top 40 in national singles sales. 

Yoko Ono goes by just Ono on the track, and she says it's her way of confronting all those people who see her and joke, "Oh no!" 

She says that she also confronted being called "Dragon Lady" by referring to herself as that. Now she says, no one calls her that anymore. 

Ono has been involved in painting, drawing, sculpting, photography and film for more than 40 years. "Yes Yoko Ono," a retrospective of her paintings, sculpture, music and memorabilia of her peace efforts with Lennon, exhibited in seven cities two years ago.

Capitol Records' Ono site  - http://capitolrecords.com/yokoono

Get Full Ice-T Album for $4.99! 
By Chris Marlowe 

Hollywood April 10, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Ice-T will begin making his latest album available on the Kazaa peer-to-peer file-sharing network today. He has signed a deal with Altnet that covers the album "Repossession" by his group Sex Money & Gunz as well as an additional 16 unnamed Ice-T audio or video files.

Fans have anticipated the album since the band recorded a live-performance DVD more than a year ago. Altnet will use its TopSearch technology to make the album available for purchased download by anyone using the Kazaa Media Desktop software.

The offer, all 19 tracks for $4.99, is featured on the start page. Once in distribution between peers, however, Altnet files appear in the search results as gold icons that launch the purchase application.

Kazaa - http://www.kazaa.com

Lucky Draws High on FX

LOS ANGELES April 9, 2003 (Zap2it.com) - The premiere of FX's new dark comedy "Lucky" drew decent ratings Tuesday, providing a good start to the cable network's quest to build on the success of "The Shield."

"Lucky," which stars John Corbett ("My Big Fat Greek Wedding" ) as a gambling addict trying to get his life together in Las Vegas, drew 2.5 million viewers to its 10 p.m. ET premiere Tuesday (April 8). About 70 percent of those viewers were in FX's target demographic of adults 18-49.

FX says it's "extremely pleased" with the show's performance, both in terms of overall performance and demographics. Critics gave it mostly positive reviews.

A repeat of the premiere at 10:30 p.m. drew an additional 1.3 million viewers. The cumulative total of 3.8 million viewers for the hour is about equal to the audience for the season finale of "The Shield" the week before.

FX is looking to build its slate of original series and movies. "Nip/Tuck," a show about plastic surgeons, is scheduled for a summer premiere, and the original movie "44 Minutes" is also set for summer.

Official Lucky site - http://www.fxnetworks.com/shows/originals/lucky/main.html

Stan Winston Wants Apocalypse 
By John Gaudiosi 

Hollywood April 14, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Stan Winston wants to bring "The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse" to a theater and a toy store near you in the near future. Winston, the Oscar-winning visual effects artist and seminal creature creator, continues to delve deeper into the video game realm by optioning feature film and action-figure rights to 3DO's entirely new Mature-rated video game franchise "Apocalypse."

"I've been developing creatures and characters for 30 years," Winston said. "And today I'm no longer limiting it to movies because the line has been blurred -- comics, toys, video games and movies are all enjoyed by the same audience."

He picked up the feature film option for the video game franchise through his Stan Winston Prods. In addition, he will bring a line of "Apocalypse" action figures to retail this Halloween through his Stan Winston Creatures. 

Actor John Carradine Honored 

OKLAHOMA CITY April 13, 2003 (AP) - The sons of actor John Carradine serenaded the audience and reminisced about their late father as he was inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers. 

Actors David, Keith and Robert Carradine strummed guitars and sang "Amazing Grace" at the celebrity-laced 42nd annual Western Heritage Awards at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on Saturday. 

John Carradine acted on stage, film and television for more than 60 years, appearing in more than 500 films.

He performed Shakespeare and horror movies, but films such as "Stagecoach" and "Jesse James" secured his induction into the Western performers hall.

Carradine died in 1988 at the age of 82. 

"We all wish he was here to see this, because it would bring tears to his eyes," David Carradine said.

Learn more about Hollywood's golden years at http://darkhollywood.com

The Smothers Brothers Are Back!
By Ray Richmond

LOS ANGELES April 14, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Those Democratic Party Brahmins who are out trying to round up liberal voices to take up the fight against conservatives in the talk radio and TV spin wars might want to check out the Smothers Brothers show next month when the duo heads to Sin City for a month long stand at the Las Vegas Hilton. 

The Smothers Brothers, those paragons of Vietnam-era mischief, are back in the national consciousness and ready to volunteer for the task of evening up the political scales a bit. 

Not that Tom Smothers, 66, and his brother Dick, 64, have never really gone away. They have consistently made a living at their gently whimsical brand of music and comedy for 44 years running and continue to play upwards of 100 dates a year.
But there have been unmistakable signs that -- with the nation embroiled in a military conflict in a faraway land -- the boys are becoming especially relevant again. 

It started in December with the acclaimed Bravo documentary "Smothered," which recounted their tumultuous journey on network television back in the late 1960s. (It was released on DVD in January.) They've been doing the TV talk show circuit, and they launch a four-week headlining gig at the Las Vegas Hilton on May 6. And there's talk of a deal to package uncensored episodes of their landmark CBS variety series "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour" on video. 

It was, of course, on that groundbreaking 1967-69 CBS series that they rocketed to prominence. Their benign appearance and mild manner belied an edgy, topical sensibility that perfectly dovetailed with the tumult of the late 1960s.

The hour grew into a somewhat unwitting mouthpiece for the Vietnam antiwar movement, with establishment CBS caught in the middle. 

And now, as war and free speech issues again rage, here come Tom and Dick -- once more, with feeling. 

"The war kind of fell into our laps in the '60s, and now it is again," Tom Smothers says. "It's feeling like 1968 all over again. People are questioning the patriotism and Americanism of those who speak out. We all suddenly have to watch what we say." 

In other words, it's the perfect time for a Smothers rebirth. 

"This past year has been very exciting for us," Tom Smothers admits. "There's suddenly a lot of interest in what we do. People have this nostalgic feeling for us. We're historical. But I hope that audiences are also starting to figure out that we remain very contemporary, too. We're better than we've ever been. What we're finding now is that if you stick around long enough, people will eventually rediscover you. That wouldn't happen, though, if we were a tired old act." 

Certainly, the brothers' opposition to the war remains in peak form. 

"How ludicrous it is for us to be bombing Iraq," says Dick Smothers, the self-styled more conservative of the brothers. "Those are beautiful people in that country who happen to have a (expletive) government. So we're going to accidentally kill a lot of them as punishment." 

While the latest incarnation of the Smothers Brothers act has little to do with antiwar crusading, they feel like their style is more timely than ever on a TV dial packed with right-wing pundits and zealots. 

"Maybe it's an antiquated notion, but Dickie and I still feel it's our job to question power and authority," Tom Smothers says. "We're proud of the way celebrities like Michael Moore, Bill Maher, George Carlin, Martin Sheen and others have gotten up to speak their mind and jeopardize their careers with their beliefs. It takes great courage to do what these men are doing. And every one of them is as informed as any of the (expletive) talking heads they have on these cable shows who bash celebrity while ignoring their own." 

Some guys clearly just don't realize that with age is supposed to come a certain mellowing.

The Smothers Brothers Official Site - http://www.smothersbrothers.com

Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!