|Dolphins of War! |
Baby Clones, Quasar Winds,
Lenny Kravitz, Salam Pax,
Suicide Terrorism & More!
|Dolphins of War!|
|PARIS March 25, 2003 (AFP) - The US military's use of trained dolphins to help demine southern Iraqi waters ran into crossfire from animal-rights groups and biologists, who branded the scheme both unethical and unreliable. |
"We are strongly opposed to keeping these mammals in captivity, and we're not happy with this exploitation," Cathy Williamson of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, a British-based agency, told AFP. "The animals could get hurt, and that's not justified."
Stephanie Boyles, a wildlife biologist at the US campaign group PETA (People for the Ethical Treaty of Animals), slammed the US military for "absolutely" exploiting animals.
"It is very cruel to put an animal in harm's way," she told AFP. "But our concern isn't just for the animals, it's also for the troops."
"These animals are being taught basically to do tricks and animals, especially animals as intelligent as sea lions and dolphins, have minds of their own, and the chance of their failing to fulfill a mission when life and death are at stake is quite possible," Boyles said.
Similar doubts were expressed by a French expert, Olivier van Canneyt, an expert on marine mammals at the Sea and Coastline Institute in La Rochelle, western France.
Dolphins are quite hardy animals and could probably survive the long transport and change of sea temperature quite well, he said.
"However, I have to say I am very skeptical as to whether they will be effective," he said. Van Canneyt said that a rival dolphin-training program by the Soviet Union, and then Russia, had been abandoned several years ago because of disappointing results.
"It has to be said that the reliability is low, and even if dolphins are trained for years they may not do what you want them to do," Van Canneyt said.
Even though these animals had known no other life other than captivity, "it is quite a pity that they are being used as objects and for military use," he said.
In Qatar on Tuesday, US General Victor Renuart said that dolphins were being used to help demine the Khawr Abdullah waterway linking the southern Iraqi port of Umm Qasr to the Gulf to help bring in shiploads of relief supplies.
The aid should start to arrive in Iraq on Wednesday, officers said in Umm Qasr.
|Clonaid Shows Baby Picture|
|SAO PAULO, Brazil March 25, 2003 (Reuters) - A company that claims to have produced five cloned humans but has not provided any evidence has showed for the first time a photograph of what it said was a cloned baby. |
Clonaid, a company linked to the Raelian movement that believes extraterrestrials created mankind, said the baby's parents would soon prove in Brazil that it had the same DNA as its dead, older sibling.
Previously Clonaid has failed to live up to such pledges to give evidence of its cloning claims.
Clonaid Web site - http://www.clonaid.com
[OK. Let's get serious, here. Would you let this woman anywhere near a human child? Ed.]
|How Humans Lost Their Scents |
Weizmann Institute Press Release
March 18, 2003 - In at least one type of endeavor, humans can't even begin to compete with their best friends. Dogs can be trained to sniff out drugs and explosives or to track down a crime suspect by smell. Why can't we do the same? Scientists from the Weizmann Institute of Science and the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology propose an explanation for this ancient quandary.
All mammals, including humans, have about 1,000 genes encoding smell-detecting proteins, or olfactory receptors. These receptors, located in the mucous lining of the nose, identify scents by binding to molecules of odorous substances.
However, not all olfactory receptor genes are functioning in all species. It is the percentage of the working olfactory genes that determines the sharpness of smell in animals and humans.
In a new study, published in the March 18, 2003 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the scientists tackled the next question: is the genetic "loss" a relatively old phenomenon affecting all primates, or did it occurr only in humans?
They found that 54 percent of the genes were impaired in humans, as opposed to only 28 to 36 percent in the other species.
This research has made it possible to reconstruct this sense's deterioration over the course of evolution: apparently, its decline took place within an "evolutionary moment" – only 3 to 5 million years– and occurred four times faster in the branch leading to humans compared to other primates.
The scientists conclude that the drop in the sharpness of smell is a purely Homo sapiens feature. It probably stemmed from the development of the brain in the human direction – a direction that entailed increased emphasis on vision, development of the ability to distinguish colors and the capacity to identify other members of the species by facial appearance rather than by smell.
|Quasar Winds Spur New Stars|
|Penn State News Release |
March 25, 2003 - Supermassive black holes, notorious for ripping apart and swallowing stars, might also help seed interstellar space with the elements necessary for life, such as hydrogen, carbon, oxygen and iron, scientists say.
Using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA's XMM-Newton satellite, scientists at Penn State and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found evidence of high-speed winds blowing away copious amounts of gas from the cores of two quasar galaxies, which are thought to be powered by black holes.
"The winds we measured imply that as much as a billion suns' worth of material is blown away over the course of a quasar's lifetime," said Dr. George Chartas of the Penn State Astronomy and Astrophysics Department, who led the observations.
The winds might also regulate black hole growth and spur the creation of new stars, according to the science team, which includes Drs. Niel Brandt and Gordon Garmire of Penn State and Dr. Sarah Gallagher of MIT.
These results are presented today in a press conference at the meeting of the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society at Mt. Tremblant, Quebec. Different from high-speed jets shooting off subatomic particles, the newly identified gusts arise from the disk of matter orbiting the black hole, called the accretion disk, once thought to be a one-way ticket into the black hole.
Black holes are objects so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational attraction. But this only applies once matter crosses the theoretical border of a black hole, called the event horizon. Outside the event horizon, the tug of gravity is strong, but matter and light can escape.
Theorists have suggested that a wind could blow away material from its accretion disk and pepper the interstellar region with heavier elements. The wind is created by radiation pressure, analogous to earthly winds created by varying high and low air pressure systems.
Essentially, their light, while en route to us, was distorted and magnified by the gravity of intervening galaxies acting like telescope lenses.
|Civilian Iraqis Hunt for Water and Food|
|By Michael Georgy |
NEAR ZUBAYR, Iraq March 25, 2003 (Reuters) — Iraqis drink dirty water from wells. Others comb hospitals searching for medicine. Civilians pose as soldiers and try to surrender, hoping U.S. or British forces will feed them.
A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in southern Iraq five days into the U.S.-British invasion aimed at toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The biggest grievance is lack of water, with supplies cut off by a thunderous ground and air assault in the south, home to Iraq's Shi'ite Muslims, many of whom are eager to see Saddam go.
"We need water. All we can do is dig for water in wells. It is water that even animals would not drink," said 30-year-old Muhammad Ali, who is unemployed.
The voices on the ground in this southern town, 12 miles south of the major city of Basra, give weight to the crisis warnings from aid agencies and the United Nations.
Monday, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan called for rapid action to help the people of Basra, home to 2 million people and Iraq's second largest city, get adequate water supplies.
"I think urgent measures should be taken to restore electricity and water to that population," he said. "A city of that size cannot afford to go without electricity or water for long. Apart from the water aspect, you can imagine what it does for sanitation."
Basra's main Wafa al-Qaed water treatment plant has been out of action due to a power outage since Friday. And while other plants can supply about 40 percent of usual needs, the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva describes the situation as an emergency.
Near Zubayr, some civilians can be seen walking to the checkpoints set up by the invading forces. The civilians pretend to be Iraqi soldiers who want to surrender, a move to secure U.S. military meals-ready-to-eat (MREs) and bottles of mineral water. But they are turned away after failing to present proper identification.
"I would like to surrender," said one man, who was quickly rejected by a British soldier.
U.S. and British troops expect humanitarian aid shipments to arrive in the next few days. But Iraqis appear unaware of this.
It also depends on the invading forces' ability to secure the area and make it safe for aid workers. The U.S. and British troops are moving through the south more slowly than expected, raising the prospect of prolonged hardship for Iraqi civilians.
Frustrated Iraqis wander to checkpoints looking for relatives they said had been arrested by the U.S. or British forces.
|Lenny Kravitz Releases Peace Song with Iraqi Star|
|By Sue Zeidler |
LOS ANGELES March 25, 2003 (Reuters) - Rocker Lenny Kravitz released a peace anthem with an Iraqi pop star on Tuesday, joining a growing list of recording artists to release protest songs directly to the Internet to bypass a cautious and sometimes hostile radio market.
R.E.M., the Beastie Boys, John Mellencamp and former Rage Against the Machine frontman Zack de la Rocha have all released anti-war songs via the Internet in recent weeks.
Kravitz issued his song, "We Want Peace," which he recorded last week in Miami with popular Iraqi musical star Kadim Al Sahir, on the Web site of Rock the Vote, a national organization which encourages young people to become involved in politics.
Kravitz, who in 1991 put together an all-star ensemble to cover John Lennon's "Give Peace a Chance," said he had chosen to tie up with Rock the Vote "because of its strong stance with young people as defenders of free expression."
With opinion polls showing a majority of Americans supporting the war against Iraq, radio companies have been cautious to play anti-war songs.
Earlier this month, country music superstars the Dixie Chicks were hit by a nearly 30 percent drop in airplay on country music stations after they criticized President Bush's war plans in Iraq.
"Anti-war songs usually are not a very popular choice for program directors during a time of war. Program directors follow the lead set by their listeners. In this case, two-thirds of the American public say they back the war," said Rich Meyer, president of Mediabase, a division of Premiere Radio Networks. "It could be a dangerous move for stations to step out and take a stand against."
Premiere is a unit of Clear Channel, which syndicates 60 programs to more than 7,800 radio affiliates. One of its biggest personalities, Glenn Beck, has been leading pro-war demonstrations called "Rally for America," across the country.
|Peace Activists Transition to War|
|By Kim Campbell |
Christian Science Monitor
USA March 24, 2003 (CSM) - They couldn't stop the war, but US peace protesters are stopping traffic - reminding Americans and the world that despite what polls say, antiwar sentiments remain strong on President Bush's home turf.
Demonstrations from New York to San Francisco over the weekend drew hundreds of thousands of participants and punctuated a week of high-profile antiwar activities that included closing down major thoroughfares and lighting candles for peace.
Activists have been quick to dismiss charges that such protests are unpatriotic when troops are at risk. But at the same time, they've been waging a nuanced internal debate, struggling with how to transition from peace to wartime.
From determining the effectiveness of civil disobedience to identifying a position on a post-invasion regime, those opposed to the war are trying to define what their role in public discussion should be now that bombs are falling. Some organizers maintain that their mission remains the same: to effect long-term change.
"This is really not a war, it's an invasion," says Vicky Steinitz, a grass-roots organizer and professor at the University of Massachusetts. "I mean, the very idea that anybody could be concerned that we might lose this war is just absurd."
Thursday. The morning after the first US attack on Iraq, Ms. Steinitz contemplates the president's speech and wonders if the initial attack on the bunker reportedly housing Iraqi leaders might keep casualties down. "I had this thought of, on the one hand, the idea of assassinations being illegal, against international laws, but on the other hand feeling that maybe this would ward off the massive 'shock and awe' ... choreographed extravaganza that had been planned."
And in the first two days of the war, she returns often to her concern about how many Iraqi civilians might die as a result of the war - deaths that she calls "morally unconscionable."
She guesses no, because the US "usually misses," she says, recalling the times the government announced that it almost had Osama Bin Laden.
|Salam Pax, The Baghdad Blogger|
|By Jonathan Wright |
WASHINGTON March 25, 2003 (Reuters) - A mysterious Iraqi who calls himself Salam Pax, writing a Web log from the heart of Baghdad, has developed a large Internet following with his wry accounts of daily life in a city under U.S. bombardment.
Salam Pax, a pseudonym crafted from the Arabic and Latin words for peace, came back on line on Monday after a two-day break because of interruptions in Internet access.
The traffic on his Web site caused the server to go down and Salam's e-mail folder has filled with inquiries about his true identity.
Salam, who writes in English, is the only resident of Iraq (news - web sites) known to be filing accounts of the war directly to the Web.
He has spoken against the invasion but clearly has no great love for Iraq's Baathist leaders.
"Freaks. Hurling abuse at the world is the only thing left for them to do," he said last week after media appearances by Iraqi Information Minister Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf and Interior Minister Mahmoud Diyab al-Ahmed.
But he does not like seeing his city bombed either. "The only thing I could think of was 'why does this have to happen to Baghdad'. As one of the buildings I really love went up in a huge explosion I was close to tears," he wrote on Saturday.
Salam and his family have been out on reconnaissance missions around the city to inspect the damage and they report the bombing has been accurate but dangerous to civilians.
"Today before noon I went out with my cousin to take a look at the city. Two things. 1) the attacks are precise. 2) they are attacking targets which are just too close to civilian areas in Baghdad," he wrote on Sunday.
On Saturday he reported a rare eyewitness account of Iraqi policemen setting fire to the oil in trenches dug around Baghdad, apparently to confuse the guidance system of bombs.
"My cousine (sic) came and told me he saw police cars standing by one and setting it on fire. Now you can see the columns of smoke all over the city," he wrote.
Salam reports that the streets of Baghdad are busy but few shops are open. Vegetable prices shot up in the first days of the war but by Sunday they had fallen back to normal.
In the first days of the U.S. and British invasion, Salam gave the impression of calm resignation but his tone changed on Sunday when Iraqi resistance surfaced and casualties rose.
"If Um Qasar (the port of Umm Qasr in the south) is so difficult to control what will happen when they get to Baghdad? It will turn uglier and this is very worrying," he wrote.
"People (and I bet "allied forces") were expecting things to be mush (sic) easier. There are no waving masses of people welcoming the Americans nor are they surrendering by the thousands. People are doing what all of us are, sitting in their homes hoping that a bomb doesn't fall on them and keeping their doors shut."
The electricity has gone out in parts of Baghdad and the Bush administration has launched another e-mail blitz on Iraqis, sending him five messages, he reported.
"Three of them are to army personnel and two to the general public. In those they gave us the radio frequencies we are supposed to listen to. They are calling it 'Information Radio'," he said.
Salam Pax blog - http://dear_raed.blogspot.com
|Brains on Booze|
|Oregon Health & Science University Press Release |
PORTLAND OR March 25, 2003 – Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have discovered a new region of the brain involved in chronic alcohol consumption. This research may be used to develop new or improved drugs and therapies aimed at combating alcoholism. The finding also presents a more complete picture of the brain's important role in alcohol abuse.
The research, which is printed in the March 25 edition of the Journal of Neuroscience, centers on a peptide called urocortin. The peptide is connected to alcohol craving. Scientists at OHSU and collaborators at Indiana University tracked urocortin to a group of brain cells located in the midbrain. The group of cells is called the Edinger-Westphal (EW) nucleus.
"This research is the first to tie this region of the brain to alcohol abuse," said Andrey Ryabinin, Ph.D., an assistant professor of behavioral neuroscience in the OHSU School of Medicine and senior author of the paper. "It is also the first time urocortin levels have been tied to alcohol consumption."
To conduct this research, Ryabinin and his colleagues studied mice bred to crave alcohol compared with normal mice that will drink alcohol served with a sugar solution. Researchers found that levels of urocortin in the brain corresponded with each animal's desire to drink alcohol. Animals with high urocortin levels consumed large quantities of alcohol. Conversely, animals with low urocortin levels craved less alcohol. The scientists also tracked communications between cells containing urocortin and a region of the forebrain involved in regulating alcohol consumption and brain reward mechanisms.
"While there is much more research to be done, we think that either this small group of neurons or the peptide urocortin may be good targets for drugs or therapies for treating those with alcohol addiction in the future," explained Ryabinin. "For instance, it is worth testing whether reducing urocortin levels may reduce alcohol craving."
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a component of the National Institutes of Health, funded this research.
|The Logic of Suicide Terrorism|
|University of Warwick Press Release |
March 26, 2003 - Suicide terrorism seems to many to defy logic. Economists find the idea particularly hard to understand in the context of economic theories that are usually based on ideas of self interest: surely self interest must preclude self killing? But now a new research paper by Professor Mark Harrison an economist at the University of Warwick says that the value placed on personal identity by suicide terrorists provides some of the answers.
The paper examines three elements involved in the emergence of suicide terrorism: how young people build their identities, the role of conflict and oppression in their environment, and the "contract" they make with the terrorist factions.
As we grow up we try different roles in our search for an identity. Identity is very precious. We need it to function in society; without it, we cannot enjoy income, physical health, marriage, or friendship. Through trial and error each of us eventually establishes an identity that we hope will pay better than others. That identity is concerned with how we are expected to live, but may also define how we should die. In particular circumstances some may conclude that their identity’s value can only be preserved by death and will be devalued or completely destroyed by continuing to live. Examples include a mother dying entering a burning house in a futile attempt to save her children, because if she didn’t she would have to live on without her identity as a loving parent, or someone who accepts a death sentence rather than recant their religious faith.
Professor Harrison suggests that sometimes young people choose identities that can only limit or end their lives. They invest in identities that turn out not to be viable because they lack the ability or resources to carry them off or they choose identities based on wrong information or defined too narrowly to cope with change. This is made more likely if they are trying to construct such identities in a conflict riven and or oppressive environment that further limits that identity and may overcome the innate will of children to love life. This idea may give insights into some key puzzles about suicide attackers such as:
Why are they not old? Because their choice emerges from a crisis of the young person.
Why are they mainly men? The range of possible identities available to them may be restricted by their gender. Young women are often expected to invest in identities that emphasize their attachment to the rest of humanity through caring and nurture. Young men are limited to more rigid, introverted roles that are more fragile and less resilient under the pressures of growing up.
Why has the proportion of women suicide terrorists risen recently? Draconian attempts to combat terrorism may hinder normal family life and the formation of new families, lowering the opportunity costs facing adolescent women who choose to step outside their normally expected caring nurturing roles. Also, with the rising number of male attackers the relative distinction of the identity to be won by young men may decline, prompting recruitment of more women for whom the distinction of volunteering may be higher.
Why are they not uneducated? Young people often make substantial efforts to get an education but if the efforts invested fail to pay off the identity of a warrior martyr may become more attractive.
Finally, why may they behave irreligiously before they die, for example by drinking and smoking? Because their identity will be affirmed by how they died, not by how they lived.
Professor Harrison notes that terrorist organizations play a crucial role. Suicide terrorism is the outcome of a contract. The suicide attacker and the terrorist faction enter voluntarily into this contract in expectation of mutual benefit. The volunteer trades life for identity. He will die to promote the faction’s terrorist objectives. In return the faction agrees to affirm the volunteer’s identity in the community as a warrior martyr, and also provides the means of destruction to distinguish this identity through violence. However, such a contract risks being broken because it involves one party dying who cannot then observe its fulfillment by the other party. This risk is covered by the widespread promotion of the “living martyr”: a few days before the event the bomber records a final statement of joy at becoming a martyr in photographs, videos, and letters. When the recording has been distributed and the letters and photographs have been sent each side is fully committed and neither can draw back since each will now lose more by breaking the contract than by implementing it.
Professor Harrison’s paper “The Logic of Suicide Terrorism” presented to a conference on “Weapons of Catastrophic Effect: Confronting the Threat” at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies, 12-14 Feb 2003, is published in the current issue of the RUSI Security Monitor (Feb 2003).
A longer draft paper, “Suicide Terrorism”, is available from - http://www2.warwick.ac.uk/fac/soc/economics/staff/faculty/harrison/papers
Jane's Intelligence Review article on the global threat of suicide terrorists - http://www.janes.com/security/international_security/news/usscole/jir001020_1_n.shtml
|Genre News: Angel Returns, Michael Moore, Farscape Ends, Buffy, Three Stooges and Shazam!|
|Angel Returns! And Maybe Batman too? |
Hollywood March 24th (eXoNews) - According to a report by Dark Horizons' informant Jill Millionaire, the infamous Superman movie is still very much on track and there will be an announcement of a new director this week.
But more important, Jill says Angel's David Boreanaz was a serious contender for the role of Krypton's most famous son and spills some news about Angel's future.
Charisma's Little Angel
Official Angel site - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||139,00.html
Moore Guns for Bush
"We like non-fiction and we live in fictitious times. We live in the time where we have fictitious election results that elects a fictitious president. We live in a time where we have a man sending us to war for fictitious reasons.
Hollywood March 22, 2003 (eXoNews) - Pretty shabby way to go for a show that Sci Fi Channel banners as "...the best science fiction series on TV. - TV Guide". I won't spoil it for you if you are still waiting for it, but let's just say that the season four finale of Farscape depressed me.
It wasn't much of an escape from bombs falling on Baghdad.
Sci Fi dumped Farscape before the show even had time to film a proper series finale.
Ask the average person on the street if they've ever heard of Farscape and they'll give you a blank look before they hit you for spare change. Farscape was worthy of exaltation, but all it got from Sci Fi this season was a one line "thank you" message to Scapers as the final frame went to black. Frell that!
Unfortunately I must add that Sci Fi Channel is a pretty damn good place to be when you need to escape the near-apocalyptic real world. Despite fumbling Farscape and the presence of puzzling reruns like Knight Rider (NOT science fiction guys! What's next? Charlie's Angels? Baywatch?), Sci Fi Channel does score regularly.
They surprised me when Taken got good in the last few episodes (overall the most colossal cliché I've ever seen.) They did pull a big rabbit out of the hat with Children of Dune, a most satisfying, albeit soapy sequel to their miserable remake of Frank Herbert's Dune. (David Lynch movies are sacred ground, children, no matter what. Like Hitchcock.)
The World of Tomorrow
Also agreed upon was for Fox to negotiate up to three film and television deals for other Marvel properties during the next two years. It would seem that both compaies have repaired the damage done when the movie studio sued Marvel and the two companies behind the syndicated MUTANT X television show for violating Fox's rights held for Marvel's X-MEN franchise. Fox alleged that the MUTANT X series trespassed on the material that they had rightfully optioned from the comic book publisher. The lawsuit was dropped earlier this month.
Buffy airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. ET/PT on UPN.
Official Buffy - http://www.buffy.com
Hollywood March 24, 2003 (Zap2It) - Emmy winner and Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson ("Cheers," "The People Vs. Larry Flynt") hosts the Three Stooges 75th Anniversary Speial on NBC April 1, 2003.
[Really? Or are you just foolin', Woody?]
In addition to favorite routines, there will be ultra-rare shorts, feature-film clips, solo appearances and TV performances, with many of these scenes new to network television audiences.
Canadian Insurer Sues Hall for $612,000
The Dead Zone Official Site - http://www.usanetwork.com/series/thedeadzone
William Goldman Sez Shazam!
Goldman will adapt the title, a 1970s revival of the 1940s Fawcett Comics character Captain Marvel, in which mild-mannered boy Billy Batson discovers that he can call on the powers of an ancient Egyptian wizard.
Goldman, who has penned such classic films as "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "All the President's Men," most recently adapted the Stephen King novel "Dreamcatcher," which opened Friday. He is repped by WMA.