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Hot Exoplanet!
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Hot Exoplanet!
European Southern Observatory Press Release

April 22, 2003 - A group of German astronomers have discovered a very hot exoplanet circling a star near the center of our galaxy. It's no Earth at 1.4 times the size of Jupiter, but it's big news to the space community!

The search for exoplanets

More than 100 planets in orbit around stars other than the Sun have been found so far. These "exoplanets" come in many different sizes and they move in a great variety of orbits at different distances from their central star, some nearly round and others quite elongated. Some planets are five to ten times more massive than the largest one in the solar system, Jupiter - the lightest exoplanets known at this moment are about half as massive as Saturn, i.e. about 50 times more massive than the Earth.

Astronomers are hunting exoplanets not just to discover more such objects, but also to learn more about the apparent diversity of planetary systems. The current main research goal is to eventually discover an Earth-like exoplanet, but the available telescopes and instrumentation are still not "sensitive" enough for this daunting task.

However, also in this context, it is highly desirable to know not only the orbits of the observable exoplanets, but also their true masses. But this is not an easy task.

Masses of exoplanets

Virtually all exoplanets detected so far have been found by an indirect method - the measurement of stellar velocity variations. It is based on the gravitational pull of the orbiting planet that causes the central star to move a little back and forth; the heavier the planet, the greater is the associated change in the star's velocity.

This technique is rapidly improving: the new HARPS spectrograph (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet Searcher), now being tested on the 3.6-m telescope at the ESO La Silla Observatory, can measure such stellar motions with an unrivalled accuracy of about 1 meter per second (m/s). It will shortly be able to search for exoplanets only a few times more massive than the Earth.

However, velocity measurements alone do not allow to determine the true mass of the orbiting planet. Because of the unknown inclination of the planetary orbit (to the line-of-sight), they only provide a lower limit to this mass. Additional information about this orbital inclination is therefore needed to derive the true mass of an exoplanet.

The transit method

Fortunately, this information becomes available if the exoplanet is known to move across ("transit") the star's disk, as seen from the Earth; the orbital plane must then necessarily be very near the line-of-sight. This phenomenon is exactly the same that happens in our own solar system, when the inner planets Mercury and Venus pass in front of the solar disk, as seen from the Earth.

A solar eclipse (caused by the Moon moving in front of the Sun) is a more extreme case of the same type of event.

During such an exoplanet transit, the observed brightness of the star will decrease slightly because the planet blocks a part of the stellar light. The larger the planet, the more of the light is blocked and the more the brightness of the star will decrease. A study of the way this brightness changes with time (astronomers refer to the "light curve"), when combined with radial velocity measurements, allows a complete determination of the planetary orbit, including the exact inclination. It also provides accurate information about the planet's size, true mass and hence, density.

The chances that a particular exoplanet passes in front of the disk of its central star as seen from the Earth are small. However, because of the crucial importance of such events in order to characterize exoplanets fully, astronomers have for some time been actively searching for stars that experience small regularly occurring "brightness dips" that might possibly be caused by exoplanetary transits.

The OGLE list

Last year, a first list of 59 such possible cases of stars with transiting planets was announced by the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (OGLE). These stars were found - within a sample of about 5 million stars observed during a 32-day period - to exhibit small and regular brightness dips that might possibly be caused by transits of an exoplanet.

For one of these stars, OGLE-TR-56, a team of American astronomers soon thereafter observed slight variations of the velocity, strongly indicating the presence of an exoplanet around that star.

Now, a team of German and ESO astronomers have used the UVES High-Dispersion Spectrograph on the 8.2-m VLT KUEYEN telescope at the Paranal Observatory (Chile) to obtain very detailed spectra of another star on that list, OGLE-TR-3.

Over a period of one month, a total of ten high-resolution spectra - each with an exposure time of about one hour - were obtained of the 16.5-mag object, i.e. its brightness is about 16,000 fainter that what can be perceived with the unaided eye. A careful evaluation shows that OGLE-TR-3 is very similar to the Sun, with a temperature of about 5800 °C (6100 K). And most interestingly, it undergoes velocity variations of the order of 120 m/s.

The 2 per cent dip in the brightness of OGLE-TR-3, as observed during the OGLE program, occurs every 28 hours 33 minutes (1.1899 days). The UVES velocity measurements fit this period well and reveal, with high probability, the presence of an exoplanet orbiting OGLE-TR-3 with this period. In any case, the observations firmly exclude that the well observed brightness variations could be due to a small stellar companion. A red dwarf star would have caused velocity variations of 15 km/s and a brown dwarf star 2.5 km/s; both would have been easy to observe with UVES, and it is clear that such variations can be excluded.

Although the available observations are still insufficient to allow an accurate determination of the planetary properties, the astronomers provisionally deduce a true mass of the planet of the order of one half of that of Jupiter. The density is found to be about 250 kg/m3, only one-quarter of that of water or one-fifth of that of Jupiter, so the planet is quite big for this mass - a bit "blown up". It is obviously a planet of the gaseous type.

A very hot planet

The orbital period, 28 hours 33 minutes (1.1899 days), is the shortest known for any exoplanet and the distance between the star and the planet is correspondingly small, only 3.5 million kilometers. The temperature of the side of the planet facing the star must therefore be very high, of the order of 2000 °C. Clearly, the planet must be losing its atmosphere by evaporation. The astronomers also conclude that it might in fact be possible to observe this exoplanet directly because of its comparatively strong infrared radiation. An attempt to do so will soon be made.

As only the third exoplanet found this way (after those at the stars HD209458 and OGLE-TR-56), the new object confirms the current impression that a considerable number of stars may possess giant planets in close orbits. Since such planets cannot form so close to their parent star, they must have migrated inwards to the current orbit from a much larger, initial distance. It is not known at this time with certainty how this might happen.

Future prospects

It is expected that more observational campaigns will be made to search for transiting planets around other stars. There is good hope that OGLE-TR-3 and OGLE-TR-56 are just the first two of a substantial number of exoplanets to be discovered this way.

Some years from now, searches will also begin from dedicated space observatories, e.g. ESA's Eddington and Darwin, and NASA's Kepler.

More information

The information contained in this press release is based on a research article which has just been published in the European research journal "Astronomy & Astrophysics" ("OGLE-TR-3: A Possible New Transiting Planet" by Stefan Dreizler and collaborators; Vol. 402, page 791;

For more detailed scientific information and charts, the original ESO press release can be found at

Galaxy Evolution Explorer Will Look Back in Time
NASA Press Release

April 22, 2003 - NASA's Galaxy Evolution Explorer, set to launch no earlier than April 28, 2003, will carry into space an orbiting telescope that will observe a million galaxies across 10 billion years of cosmic history to help astronomers determine when the stars and elements we see today had their origins.

From its orbit high above Earth, the spacecraft will sweep the skies for up to 28 months using state-of-the-art ultraviolet detectors. Looking in the ultraviolet will single out galaxies dominated by young, hot, short-lived stars that give off a great deal of energy at that wavelength. These galaxies are actively creating stars, and therefore provide a window into the history and causes of star formation in galaxies.

"The Galaxy Evolution Explorer is crucial to understanding how galaxies, the basic structures of our universe, form and function," said Anne Kinney, director of astronomy and physics in the Office of Space Science at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "Its ultraviolet observations will round out the knowledge we gain from observations in infrared and other wavelengths."

Astronomers believe the universe originated 13.7 billion years ago in a cataclysmic event called the Big Bang. Galaxies, the basic building blocks of the universe, began to appear as the fireball of hydrogen and helium gas that was the early universe expanded and cooled. Recent observations suggest that star formation in the universe peaked some 8 billion to 10 billion years ago. The mission is specifically designed to investigate whether this occurred and why.

The centerpiece of the satellite is a 50-centimeter-diameter (19.7-inch) telescope equipped with sensors that will gather continuous images of galaxies in the ultraviolet to study their shape, brightness and size.

Ultraviolet light -- the type of invisible energy responsible for sunburn -- is at the higher end of the electromagnetic spectrum, just above visible light in frequency, but below X-rays and gamma rays.

A device called a spectrometer will break down the light into its component colors, just as a prism separates white light into a rainbow. These measurements will enable scientists to determine the distances of galaxies -- and thus, their places in cosmic history.

Combined with precise measurements of the ultraviolet brightness of galaxies, astronomers will be able to determine the rate at which stars are forming within those galaxies.

"This mission will provide the first comprehensive map of a universe of galaxies under construction and bring us closer to understanding how they, and our own Milky Way, were built," said the mission's principal investigator, Christopher Martin, an astrophysics professor at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

Scientists will use data from the mission to learn when carbon, oxygen and the other chemical elements were created inside blazing stars. Most of the elements found in the human body originated in stars; we are literally made of stardust. In addition, the mission will conduct the first ultraviolet surveys of the entire sky beyond our own galaxy, including the first wide-area spectroscopic surveys. Rich in objects from galaxies to quasars to white dwarf stars, this vast data archive will serve as a resource for the entire astronomical community.

The satellite will be launched by a Pegasus XL rocket released by an L-1011 aircraft. After takeoff from a runway at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the plane will climb to 11,900 meters (about 39,000 feet) before releasing the launch vehicle and its payload. The science mission will get under way after an initial month of in-orbit checkout.

More information about the mission is available on the project web site at:

Information on NASA's Explorers Program is available at:

The launch will be broadcast live on NASA Television and carried on a live webcast at:

Anti-War Stars Face Vicious Retaliation Campaign in US
By Andrew Gumbel
The Star

Los Angeles April 21, 2003 (Star) - Hollywood stars and other entertainment personalities are discovering that they speak out against the war on Iraq at their peril.

Among them is comedian Janeane Garofalo, whose outspoken views on the subject have made her the object of a vicious email and telephone campaign that has already successfully intimidated ABC into postponing her new sitcom, Slice O'Life, to next year.

The group intent on stringing up Garofalo, Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits, has campaigned energetically against everyone - from Martin Sheen, whose anti-war views led to a credit card commercial of his being scrapped; to Susan Sarandon, dropped as a speaker at a Florida branch of the umbrella charity group United Way; to Sarandon's husband Tim Robbins, who was disinvited from a 15th anniversary screening of the baseball movie Bull Durham at the National Baseball Hall of Fame because the Hall's president, a former Reagan administration press secretary, felt his very presence might undermine the efforts of United States troops in Iraq.

Television producer Ed Gernon, responsible for a four-part mini-series on Hitler's rise to power, was recently sacked by CBS after he told TV Guide magazine that the timing of the series was absolutely apt.

"It basically boils down to an entire nation gripped by fear, who ultimately chose to give up their civil rights and plunged the whole nation into war. I can't think of a better time to examine this history than now."

That was way too strong for CBS's chief executive Lesley Moonves, who fired him.

Powerful radio station chains with strong political ties to the White House have also been orchestrating boycotts and hate campaigns against anti-war performers, most notably the Dixie Chicks, a Texas country and western trio.

Singer Natalie Maines said at a concert in London in March that she was ashamed to come from the same home state as the president. One radio chain, Cumulus Media, even arranged for a tractor to crush Dixie Chicks CDs, tapes and videos, in uncomfortable echoes of historical book-burnings and other cultural purges.

The venom behind these campaigns is disturbing, and shows that Hollywood is not the liberal place it has always been portrayed as by the media.

There is a concerted attempt by conservatives to dismiss the anti-war celebrities as morally irresponsible, overpaid know-nothings who would do better to keep their mouths shut.

Nowhere was this more clearly illustrated than at the recent Oscars, when war critics were roundly booed and ridiculed.

[Just for the record, audience responses to Michael Moore and other anti-war comments at the Oscars were mixed. The first jeers of the ceremonies did register with TV audiences as a unanimous reaction but let's face it: conservatives tend to boo louder than they applaud. See the following article. Ed.]

False Memories and TV News
Kansas State University Press Release

MANHATTAN KA April 22, 2003 - One of the most unusual, yet persistent, problems television broadcasters face is what Tom Grimes calls "unitentional defamation." 

"This takes place when TV news viewers' memory plays tricks on them and they end up 'remembering' the facts of a TV news story in a way that defames an innocent person portrayed in the news story," said Grimes, the Ross Beach research chair in the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University. 

"People tend to use stereotypes to remember a person's role in a news story," Grimes said. "So if a black policeman is shown arresting a white criminal, some viewers may remember the black policeman as the criminal, and the white criminal as the policeman, thus defaming the black policeman." 

Grimes said instances in which this type of mistake has happened have led to several defamation suits against both TV stations and networks over the past three decades. 

Grimes detailed this odd quirk of human memory in a 1996 publication in Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly with research colleague Robert E. Drechsel, a professor of journalism and mass communication at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The Grimes and Drechsel study was selected last week by Lawrence Erlbaum Publishing Company editors as one of the best examples of social science research in media law over the past decade. It will be featured in a new book, published by Erlbaum, "Communication and Law: Multidisciplinary Research Approaches," which will appear later this year. 

Grimes and Drechsel documented for the first time the components of human memory and information processing that result in this interesting, yet annoying, phenomenon. 

An update of this study appears this month in the latest issue of the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, a refereed scholarly journal published by the Broadcast Education Association. 

In this latest publication, Grimes teamed with Jeff Gibbons and Rod Vogl, psychology Ph.D. graduates, to further explore the cognitive processes that lead to this type of false memory. Gibbons, Vogl and Grimes showed that the phenomenon is a function of stereotyping, and that it can be defeated by activating what psychologists call "semantic elaboration." 

"That means making viewers think about what they are seeing and hearing so that they remember the message better," Grimes said. 

"We also discovered that by showing viewers a photo of a wrong-doer's face before a video new story about that wrong-doer, a viewer's tendency to mis-remember who did what to whom is aborted. This can be done by showing a still shot of the wrong-doer's face next to the news anchor as the news anchor reads the introduction to the video taped news story that contains the wrong-doer. This is an otherwise common production practice in TV news, and is known as a box-wipe." 

Gibbons, Vogl and Grimes discovered that placing a box-wipe of a wrong-doer's face next to the news anchor is especially important when women or minorities are the principal actors in TV news stories in which stereotyping might put them in the role of a wrong-doer.
Back To Atlantis!
By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Atlantic Ocean April 17, 2003 (BBC) - Scientists are returning to one of the most remarkable places on our planet, the so-called Lost City of Atlantis. An expedition from the University of Washington is to use the submersible Alvin to take the first samples from the formation of 18-storey-high hydrothermal vents in the mid-Atlantic. 

Formed by superheated water seeping out of the seafloor, the strange structures are made in a different way from other known hydrothermal vents. 

It could be home to new forms of life and it could shed new light on the origin of life on the Earth and on other worlds as well. 

The so-called Lost City of Atlantis was discovered by accident in December 2000. 

An automated sea-bed explorer stumbled across it near the end of a University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and US National Science Foundation expedition to survey the mid-Atlantic.

Sketchy details were sent back allowing the submersible Alvin to briefly visit the site before bad weather ended the expedition. 

Soon it was dubbed the Lost City of Atlantis, and it became clear that it was like no other hydrothermal vent system yet discovered. 

Until then, known hydrothermal vent systems were formed when inky superheated water, saturated with chemicals, seeped from undersea volcanic vents. Towers of deposits formed around the vents that were called "black smokers." 

These systems were home to unique ecosystems that lived off sulfur-eating bacteria. 

The Lost City appears to be very different from this. It is a far older than other vents, with taller towers - up to 55 m (180 ft) - made of a different material from the dark mottled mix of sulfides in the black smokers. 

The system is being heated by old hot mantle rocks, a million years-old, not young volcanism. 

The towers are composed of carbonate, the same material as limestone in caves. It appears that they are formed by water that is somewhat cooler than the 400C that forms the black smokers, possibly 40 - 70C. 

Since it was discovered, it has been visited by a film crew and Russian scientists, but the forthcoming expedition will be the first time the formation will have been studied in detail.

The researchers will once again use the Alvin submersible for a series of six-hour dives to survey the region and collect samples. 

Some believe that the Lost City spires could actually be the most common form of hydrothermal vent on the seafloor, with many others awaiting discovery along the 10,000 km (6,200 mile) Mid-Atlantic Ridge. 

The site may have importance for astrobiology as well. 

Researchers think that life may have started on our planet in a place just like it, and the same could be happening on other worlds such as under the ice-crusted ocean of Jupiter's moon Europa. 

During the expedition the scientists will be posting a daily report on the internet.

University of Washington -

Iraqi Looters Return Antiquities
BAGHDAD April 20, 2003 (AP) - Prodded by imams and guilty conscience, residents here returned 20 looted pieces from Iraq's ransacked national collection holding some of the earliest artifacts of civilization. 

Iraq's antiquities chief, Jabar Hilil, on Friday called looting of Iraq's national museum following entry of US forces the "crime of the century" – and questioned why US forces hadn't moved to safeguard it in the days of chaos that followed the toppling of President Saddam Hussein's government. 

But Hilil left open the possibility the loss wasn't as absolute as first thought. 

With no electricity in Baghdad, he said, museum operators had yet to make a full assessment of the now-unlit underground vaults in which they had stashed many pieces for safekeeping as war came. Even in the dark, he said, it was clear the storage rooms had been breached. 

"We cannot say how many pieces were taken, but it is disastrous," Donny George, director-general of research for the state board of antiquities, told reporters in an impromptu press conference. 

Interpol and the FBI pledged to try to help recover the goods. They urged governments around the world to block any sale of the looted goods – citing Switzerland, the United States, Israel and Japan as the markets where smuggled art was most likely to surface. 

The museum is recognized as the Middle East's leading archaeological collection. It held thousands of years of fragile artworks and clay tablet inscriptions from the Tigris-Euphrates valley where many of mankind's innovations began. 

Items confirmed lost from the display galleries include an alabaster vase from 3200 B.C., bronze reliefs from 3500 B.C., and other ancient treasures of Assyrian, Sumerian and other early civilizations, Hilil said.
US Troops Kill Baghdad Lions
Baghdad March 22, 2003 (BBC) - Four starving lions which dug their way out of a Baghdad zoo have been shot dead by American soldiers, the military says. Two of the big cats lunged for the US troops who then fired at them, one soldier said. 

The lions were among hundreds of animals abandoned at the zoo. Most of the others were stolen by looters or released in the aftermath of the US takeover of the Iraqi capital. But the thieves left seven lions and two tigers in their cages, unfed for 10 or more days. 

Sergeant Matthew Oliver said three lionesses and one male lion clawed their way out of their outdoor pen through a crumbling wall. 

"Two of them charged our guys. We had to take them down," he said. "The zoo keeper came the next day and he was pretty cut up, but I think he understood." 

The US 3rd Infantry which controls Baghdad has now posted guards at the zoo to protect the big cats as well as two released bears which wandered back. The remaining animals are now fed regularly with supplies donated by Kuwait. 

A Siberian tiger owned by Saddam Hussein's son Uday appears healthier according to one report from the capital. 

Uday Hussein also kept lions in his own private zoo at a presidential palace.
Will Depleted Uranium Weapons Contaminate Iraq?
By Joseph B. Verrengia
Associated Press 

DENVER April 22, 2003 (AP) — As soon as it's safe, the United Nations and international scientists plan to fan out over Iraq's smoking battlegrounds to investigate whether the leftovers of American firepower pose serious health or environmental threats. 

Thousands of rounds containing tons of depleted uranium were fired in Iraq over the past four weeks. Fragments of the armor-piercing munitions now litter the valleys and neighborhoods between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. That's where most of the combat occurred and where most of Iraq's 24 million people live. Wounded fighters and civilians also may carry depleted uranium shrapnel in their bodies. 

Many medical studies have failed to show a direct link between DU exposure and human disease, though a study of rats linked intramuscular fragments with increased cancer risk. Test-tube experiments also suggest DU may trigger potentially dangerous changes in cells. 

The munitions are conventional and do not generate a nuclear blast. Depleted uranium, a very dense metal fashioned from low-level radioactive waste, allows them to easily pierce armor and buildings that would deflect other projectiles. 

U.S. defense officials vigorously defend the decisive battlefield advantage that the super-hard metal provides and says the munitions do not create pollution or health hazards. Tanks, Bradley fighting vehicles, and A-10 attack jets all fire depleted uranium rounds. Some missiles also contain the material.

"There's going to be no impact on the health of people in the environment or people who were there at the time," said Dr. Michael Kilpatrick, a top Pentagon health official. "You would really have to have a large internalized dose. You are not going to get that with casual exposure." 

However, experts differ as to what qualifies as casual exposure. Some worry that it could affect civilian populations — especially children — if it enters groundwater used for drinking water and irrigation. 

"The soil around the impact sites of depleted uranium penetrators might be heavily contaminated," said Brian Spratt, chair of the depleted uranium committee of the Royal Society, England's scientific academy. "We recommend the fragments should be removed." 

Some experiments suggest DU may cause serious illness even if tiny particles are inhaled or ingested. Critics complain that studies so far have not been nearly large or long enough to conclude the munitions pose no long-term risks. 

"Depleted uranium is toxic and carcinogenic and it may well be associated with elevated rates of birth defects in babies born to those exposed to it," said McDermott, a Washington state congressman who is also a physician. 

Before the current war, Iraqi doctors were blaming high rates of cancer and birth defects in Basra and other southern cities on U.S. munitions fired 12 years ago, when fighting was concentrated along the southern border with Kuwait. Iraqi officials claim their number of cancer patients has risen 50 percent in 10 years, although complete medical surveys have not been conducted. 

Some U.S. veterans also blame certain mysterious symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome — illnesses tens of thousands of American veterans reported suffering after returning from the 1991 Gulf War — on DU exposure. 

To many, the issue could mushroom into a controversy similar to that involving Agent Orange spraying during the Vietnam War. Exposure to the herbicide has caused catastrophic health problems even to generations born after the war. 

"The fact that most of the fighting in Iraq has been in population centers is of great worry to me," said geochemist Vala Ragnarsdottir of the University of Bristol in England. 

Ragnarsdottir was one of 17 scientists from 5 European nations who conducted DU field assessments for the U.N. in the Balkans in 2000. That investigation, the first of its kind, found no direct link between DU munitions and current disease rates in Serbia, Kosovo, and Montenegro. However, the study was limited to 11 combat sites. 

About 12 metric tons of depleted uranium ordnance was used in the Balkans; that compares with 300 metric tons during the 1991 Persian Gulf War, and far more in the current campaign. 

In Iraq, Ragnarsdottir said, "many hard targets were hit, and therefore DU dust was produced, which still could be blowing around." She continued, "I think that DU water pollution is likely to occur with time." 

The U.N. inquiry would sample DU residues in soil, air, water, and vegetation throughout the battle theater as well as measure for radiation hotspots. Investigators will need information from the Pentagon to calculate how much DU ordinance was used and the coordinates of specific Iraqi targets. 

"An early study in Iraq could either lay these fears to rest or confirm there are potential risks which then could be addressed," said Klaus Toepfer, executive director of the U.N. Environmental Program, which will manage the investigation. 

Depleted uranium is a byproduct of the industrial process in national weapons labs that enriches the energy content of nuclear fuel rods and warheads by adding more of the fissionable U-235 isotope. What's left is a concentrated metal waste that is about twice as dense as lead but 40 percent less radioactive than uranium in its natural form. 

A DU-hardened projectile can bore straight through an enemy tank. DU shrapnel also ignites, engulfing the target in fire. What happens then has been studied by several government labs and international agencies with varying conclusions. 

The Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute in Maryland and other labs suggest that DU fragments embedded in the muscle of laboratory rats cause cancerous tumors. But do the animal trials really mimic battlefield exposures? Studies of human patients and health records by the World Health Organization and others found no direct link to cancer rates and other illnesses. 

Studies by the RAND Corp. and others suggest the radiation danger from handling the munitions is low. A 2002 study by the Royal Society concluded that most battlefield soldiers won't be at risk. 

But dangerous vapors are generated when the weapons are fired or explode. If the particles are inhaled or ingested, they might settle in the kidneys and skeleton of some soldiers or raise the risk of lung cancer. 

At the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Baltimore, more than 500 urine samples from veterans concerned about DU exposure were evaluated by toxicologists. The medical center reported 20 samples showed elevated uranium levels, but those could be attributed to natural uranium in food and water. 

Urine provided by patients carrying DU shrapnel in their bodies from friendly fire during the Gulf War also showed elevated uranium levels, but the higher levels were not tied to disease. 

DU critics complain those studies examined fewer than 100 veterans of the 1991 conflict. 

"The military's policy is don't look, don't find," said Dan Fahey, a U.S. Navy veteran in the Persian Gulf, who now works for a San Francisco environmental group. Fahey said, "If they don't do proper studies of veterans, they can say there is no evidence of adverse health effects."

Snoring Linked to Headaches
American Academy of Neurology Press Release

ST. PAUL MN April 21, 2003 – A new study finds a link between snoring and chronic daily headache. The study, published in the April 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, examined the snoring habits of people with chronic daily headache and people with occasional headaches.

Chronic daily headache was defined as people with at least 15 headaches per month. Occasional headache was defined as two to 104 headaches per year. 

People with chronic daily headache were more than twice as likely to also be chronic snorers than the people with occasional headaches. The result was the same even when adjusting for factors that can affect breathing in sleep, such as body mass index and alcohol intake. 

"If we can show that the snoring is causing the headaches, then we may be able to stop or lessen people's headaches by treating their snoring," said study author Ann Scher, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md. "This would be a great relief to people who suffer from chronic daily headache." 

The study involved 206 people ages 18 to 65 with chronic daily headache for five years or less and 507 people with occasional headache. Those with chronic headache had an average of 260 days with headaches per year. Those with occasional headache had an average of 24 headache days per year. 

The participants were asked how often they snored, and researchers classified their headache types. Scher noted that few studies have validated the accuracy of having patients report their own snoring status. To test the validity, the researchers analyzed the link between snoring and chronic daily headache data separately by gender, age, marital status and headache type and found no significant differences. 

Those with chronic daily headache were more likely to be female, have a lower educational level and have been previously married (divorced, widowed or separated) than those with occasional headache. 

Scher said more research is needed to determine the link between snoring and chronic daily headache. 

"The headaches could be causing the snoring, or the snoring could be causing the headaches, or both," she said. "Chronic headache can result in disturbed sleep, and sedating medications used to treat pain can aggravate sleep-disordered breathing. On the other side, sleep deprivation or excessive sleep can trigger migraine attacks in some people."

American Academy of Neurology - 

Russian Minister Fears Collapse of Chernobyl Shield
By Oliver Bullough 

MOSCOW April 22. 2003 (Reuters) - The concrete shield thrown up to block radiation escaping the Chernobyl nuclear power station after it exploded in 1986 is collapsing and needs urgent reinforcement, Russia's atomic energy minister said Tuesday. 

Alexander Rumyantsev was speaking at a news conference almost exactly 17 years after one of Chernobyl's four reactors exploded and spewed clouds of radioactivity over much of Europe in the world's worst civilian nuclear disaster. 

"We can see a situation where the roof could fall in, or rather the supports that hold up the roof could fall down," he said, adding that the concrete itself was leaking radiation. 

"There are a lot of holes in the sarcophagus," he said. 

He said workers from his ministry involved in monitoring the reactor in ex-Soviet Ukraine kept him informed. 

"I know how the sarcophagus was built. It was built in difficult radioactive conditions for the builders. They had to work fast to get away from the danger," he said.

"We need to surround it with another sarcophagus." 

The Chernobyl disaster killed about 30 firefighters in the immediate aftermath, and many of the people involved in the clean-up died in the next weeks. 

Rumyantsev said a collapse of the Soviet-era sarcophagus, dramatic as it may be, would have much more limited consequences than the original disaster. 

"There is a strong chance it could happen, but it would not be such a catastrophe, it would be more of a local affair," he said. "It would be bad for Ukraine." 

Rumyantsev, a staunch believer in the future of nuclear energy, said that despite the shock experienced by the public in 1986, estimates of the number of victims were often exaggerated. Environmentalists and doctors in Ukraine say there have been thousands of deaths from radiation-related illnesses and a huge increase in thyroid cancer following the accident. 

"Say there were 200 deaths ... an accident in a chemical factory would be more horrible judging by the number of victims. It was about as deadly as a plane crash -- Concorde, say," Rumyantsev said, referring to a supersonic jet which crashed in Paris nearly three years ago.

"When Greenpeace or other ecologists talk about a million victims, I am prepared to agree that a million people were scared. That was the main medical result of the disaster."

Oldest Human Art Debated
By Jenny Hogan

France April 18, 2003 (New Scientist) - If the rock art in the Chauvet cave is 30,000 years old, it is the most ancient example of human art in existence and the implications for the evolution of culture are immense. This date is accepted and celebrated by archaeologists. But could it be wrong?

"I would be astounded if this date proves to be correct," leading archaeologist Paul Bahn says now. "It flies in the face of all we know about ice-age art." He has reignited the debate about the age of the paintings at Chauvet by questioning the science that says they are so old. The controversy is currently dividing the archaeology community.

The Chauvet cave was discovered in a valley in southern France in 1994. Its walls are a spectacular gallery of prehistoric art and the depictions of wild animals - rhino, lions and bison among others - are so sophisticated that specialists in ice-age art first assumed they must be relatively recent. Certain features, such as animals shown face on, also suggested that the cave paintings were about 15,000 years old.

But a few months later, tiny samples of black charcoal were scraped from some of the pictures and sent away for radiocarbon dating. The date that came back from the Laboratory of Climate and Environmental Science (LSCE) in Gif-sur-Yvette, France, shocked everyone. It suggested that the paintings dated to the very beginning of the Upper Paleolithic era, around 30,000 years ago (New Scientist print edition, 13 July 1996).

Picasso or Michelangelo?

People are generally wary of stylistic dating, explains Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at the University of Oxford. So once the more "scientific" radiocarbon results were available, most researchers dismissed the more recent date suggested by the paintings themselves.

Instead the carbon data was used to support the revolutionary theory that sophisticated art developed extremely rapidly once modern humans arrived in Europe, and archaeologists who thought culture evolved over millennia were sidelined.

There is good reason to doubt chronologies based purely on style, admits Chris Witcombe, an art historian at Sweet Briar College in Virginia. He explains the difficulty with an analogy: "Imagine you are living in the distant future and only two objects survive from a lost and forgotten past: a painting by Picasso and a painting by Michelangelo. Which is the earlier work and which the later?"

But archaeologists must also be wary of radiocarbon dates, argue Pettitt and Bahn in a paper that appeared in Antiquity last month. Bahn's suspicions were aroused when he translated the latest coffee-table book on the Chauvet cave into English. Around 30 radiocarbon ages are presented in this book, but the measurements were all made at the same French laboratory. Using results from only one team, however skilled, just is not scientific, says Bahn.

Black dot 

Worse, the same laboratory is currently embroiled in an argument over the age of the artwork in another cave, Candamo in Spain. They dated black dots on its walls to 30,000 years ago, but Geochron Laboratories in Cambridge, Massachusetts, estimated the age of a second sample to be just half that.

The point is that carbon dating rock art is difficult. Because the samples tend to be incredibly tiny, it is difficult to measure the number of carbon-14 atoms relative to other carbon isotopes - the key ratio for pinning down the age. 

"Everybody agrees there are problems," says Marvin Rowe, who heads a radiocarbon-dating lab at Texas A&M University in College Station. Contamination from groundwater or rock scrapings may further confuse the results.

Jean Clottes, the archaeologist at the French Ministry of Culture who led the team exploring the cave, stands by his Chauvet results. But he has agreed to send Rowe a sample of charcoal from the cave floor, so that they can compare their results. This is crucial, says Pettitt. "We are not saying the dates are necessarily incorrect, but they need to be checked."

Genre News: Joss on Angel, McCartney on Iraq, Katherine Heigl, Evel Knievel, Madonna & More!
Joss Says Angel Will Live On! 

Hollywood April 21, 2003 (Sci Fi Wire) - If and when the vampire TV series Angel returns to the air next year, there may be some familiar faces from nearby Sunnydale, cast and crew told SCI FI Wire at the wrap party for UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

Though The WB has yet to announce a fifth-season renewal of Angel, co-creator Joss Whedon said:

"I'm pretty confident we will be picked up. Let me put it this way. Angel will be around. I just don't know where." It's possible that UPN could pick up the show if The WB doesn't.

As for Buffy cast members moving over, Whedon said, "We're still finding out who's where and what's what and making sure the show comes back," he said. "But as far as I'm concerned, everybody should stop by. ... Next year, we have an entirely new thing planned, which I'm really excited about. And we'll also be seeing some Buffy characters on it."

James Marsters (Spike) was the only cast member to say he's definitely working on becoming an Angel cast member.

"We're trying to work it out," he said in an interview. "There's goodwill and a real want for that to work out. There are constraints involved. And so it's not a lock. But I think that we're all going to make a good effort to try to make that happen in some way. Time and money, man. Time and money."

Both Alyson Hannigan (Willow) and Anthony Head (Giles) said in interviews that their characters might make guest appearances.

But Nicholas Brendon (Xander) won't be moving over, as he's already cast in a new sitcom pilot for the Fox network.

[Buffy reruns this week. Buffy's final episodes continue on Tuesday April 29th. The two-hour finale will happen at the end of May. Ed.]

In other Joss Whedon-related news, FireflyFans reports that Fox will release the ill-fated Whedon sci-fi series on DVD by December. The show starred Nathan Fillion (who is currently a baddie on Buffy) and Gina Torres (currently a baddie on Angel) and was canceled by Fox in the fall. The site also quotes Whedon on a future for Firefly:

"I still haven't given up on Firefly," [Whedon] says, "which may seem strange since its been off the air for months. If I can find a new home for Firefly, TV or movies or any damn thing, it will soften the blow."

Official Buffy -

FireflyFans -

Official Angel -,7353,||139,00.html

And a campaign to renew Angel lives at

McCartney Against Cluster Bombs and For Iraqi Children

LONDON April 21, 2003 (AP) - Former Beatle Paul McCartney on Monday called for a ban on cluster bombs because of the harm they cause to civilians. 

"It would be great to outlaw these cowardly weapons," the singer told British Broadcasting Corp. radio "What happens after the war finishes is that it's the civilians — mainly women and children — who get blown up." 

Cluster munitions dropped by U.S. and British aircraft in Iraq contain hundreds of small "bomblets" which sometimes fail to explode until years later. Anti-landmine campaigners — such as McCartney's wife, Heather Mills — say children are particularly at risk, as they can mistake the bomblets for toys.

McCartney's call for the ban came as he and other stars released an album to raise money for Iraqi children affected by the war. 

David Bowie, George Michael, Moby and former pop star Cat Stevens were among the other artists performing on the album "Hope," which was released Monday. 

Stevens, a convert to Islam who now uses the name Yusuf Islam, recorded his first song in 25 years to help the charity War Child, which aids children in war torn countries. He re-recorded his 1971 hit song "Peace Train." 

All the artists recorded their tracks free of charge and London Records is distributing the CD without taking a profit. 

"Whatever the politics, whatever the rights and wrongs of war, children are always the innocent victims, so I am delighted to be able to make this small contribution," McCartney said of his track, a live recording of his song "Calico Skies." 

Speaking to the BBC, McCartney also discussed the life of Michael Jackson, with whom he recorded several songs in the 1980s. 

"I hope that his heart's in the right place, but he's a very unusual guy," he said. "I feel sorry for the kids being brought up under those veils, whereas I was keen to send my kids to ordinary school and just throw them into the lion's den." 

A recent TV documentary showed Jackson covering his three children's faces with veils or masks so that they could not be identified. 

War Child:

Official Paul -

MTV Casts Katherine Heigl in Wuthering Heights 
By Zorianna Kit and Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood April 21, 2003 (Hollywood Reporter) - Erika Christensen, Mike Vogel and Katherine Heigl are in final negotiations to star in "Wuthering Heights," MTV's musical adaptation of Emily Bronte's classic novel.

The movie takes a contemporary look at the tragic story of revenge and romantic love between the offspring of the Earnshaws, who live at Wuthering Heights, and their genteel, refined neighbors the Lintons.

"Wuthering Heights" centers on the saucy and selfish Catherine Earnshaw (Christensen), who falls in love with Heathcliff (Vogel), an orphan adopted by the Earnshaws, but marries her neighbor Edgar Linton instead. Meanwhile, Linton's sister Isabella (Heigl) marries Heathcliff but escapes after his ill temper makes her life miserable.

The project marks Christensen's onscreen singing debut. Her credits include "The Banger Sisters," "Swimfan" and "Traffic." She next stars in Paramount Pictures' "The Perfect Score."

Heigl, best known for her role on the series "Roswell" and the feature film "Valentine," was recently tapped to star in UPN's drama pilot presentation "Vegas Dick."

Vogel next stars in New Line Cinema's "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and Warner Bros.' skateboarding feature "Grind." On TV, he co-stars on the WB Network series "Grounded for Life."

[The classic Wuthering Heights has been made as movies and for TV no less than 10 times. The most revered being the 1939 screen version directed by William Wyler and starring Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon.

I have to wonder if some Roswell fan thought of casting Katherine Heigl as "Isabella"? (Not that Katherine isn't up to it, mind you.)

Isabella was played by film great Geraldine Fitzgerald in Wyler's version, BTW. Ed.]

Evel Knievel - the Rock Opera?

LOS ANGELES April 21, 2003 (AP) - Former professional daredevil Evel Knievel has signed over exclusive rights to allow the production of "Evel Knievel: the Rock Opera."

Jef Bek, a musical director and composer with the small Los Angeles theater company Zoo District, recently flew to Clearwater, Fla., to gain Knievel's blessings after working for two years on the project.

Knievel, 64, said he instantly liked Bek and his seven-song demo and signed over rights to stage his story.

"I think it's a wonderful compliment," said Knievel, who gained fame in the 1970s by jumping his motorcycle over cars and canyons. His daredevil career left him with 37 fractures, including broken bones in both legs, before he retired in 1980.

Bek, 40, said he envisions the rock opera as an homage to Knievel and to the musical spirit of 1970s bands such as The Who, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd. Knievel inspired a 12-year-old Bek to become a stunt rider while he was growing up in Des Plaines, Ill., but Bek said he abandoned that dream after riding his bicycle into a tree stump.

"He was a living superhero," Bek said. "He knows I get him, and he knows I understand what's really significant about his legacy."

Daily Show Host Throws Down on Politics

NEW YORK April 21, 2003 (AP) - "Daily Show" host Jon Stewart says his show doesn't pay much attention to party lines in picking its comedic targets.

"People ask, 'Why aren't you really making fun of Democrats right now?'" Stewart said. "And we say we'd love to if we knew where they were."

Stewart says few Americans care much about ideological categories.

"Liberals and conservatives are two gangs who have intimidated rational, normal thinking beings into not having a voice on television or in the culture," said Stewart, whose show airs on Comedy Central. "Liberals and conservatives are paradigms that mean nothing to anyone other than the media."

The Daily Show rocks the establishment Monday-Thursdays 11PM / 10c. Check your local listings.

Official Daily Show site -

Paul Allen's Science Fiction Experience
By Reed Stevenson 

SEATTLE April 21, 2003 (Reuters) - Is Seattle about to inundated by strange visitors wearing out-of-this-world clothing and pointy ears? 

Instead of congregating at conventions, book fairs and on the Internet, science fiction fans will get their own shrine dedicated to the art, literature and film of science entertainment, courtesy of billionaire Paul Allen. 

Tentatively named the Science Fiction Experience, the exhibit is slated to open in the summer of 2004 within the confines of Allen's Experience Music Project (EMP) in the shadow of Seattle's Space Needle. 

"Science fiction shows us that change is constant and exhilarating," said Microsoft Corp. co-founder Allen, who is funding the project. 

Flanked by science fiction props such as Captain Kirk's original command chair from the "Star Trek" television series, classic science fiction books and movie banners, Allen said the $20 million non-profit endeavor would provide "entertaining and thought-provoking exhibits" for visitors. 

Allen, a philanthropist who has invested in everything from cable television to professional sports teams since leaving Microsoft in 1983, has funded several cultural projects in his hometown of Seattle, including the EMP, a Jimi Hendrix-inspired music museum and the Cinerama, a restored 1960s-era movie theater with a giant, curved viewing screen. 

The eclectic EMP, with its red, blue, gold, purple and silver undulating exterior, was designed by architect Frank Gehry and opened in 2000. 

Allen said he expects the Science Fiction Experience, which will be built in a newly vacated space within the EMP, to pull in 150,000 to 200,000 more visitors to the building every year. 

Science fiction author Greg Bear of Seattle will chair an advisory board to the museum and said that respect for the genre has been long overdue. 

"Science fiction is one of the greatest untold stories of science and art today," said Bear, winner of two Hugo awards for novels such as "Eon" and "Queen of Angels." 

Among the items on display will be a complete set of autographed first editions of the Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov, a collection of "Astounding Science Fiction" magazines and artwork depicting the future.

US Backs Industry in Web Music Case 
Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON April 19, 2003 (AP) - The Bush administration is siding with the recording industry in its court fight to force Internet providers to disclose the identities of people who are illegally trading songs over the Web. 

A Justice Department brief, filed Friday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, supports the effort by the Recording Industry Association of America to force Verizon Internet Services Inc. to identify a subscriber suspected of offering more than 600 songs from well-known artists. 

Verizon has asked a federal judge to halt a subpoena for the subscriber's identity, arguing that it violates the First Amendment because it does not provide "protection of the expressive and associational interests of Internet users." 

The subpoena was sought by the music industry under the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which allows companies to force disclosure of Internet users' names without a judge's order. 

The Justice Department filing said the subpoena was legal and no First Amendment protection would be violated through disclosure of the name. The Justice Department brief contends that upholding copyright law itself would "promote First Amendment ideals." 

The subpoena, the brief adds, "targets the identity of alleged copyright infringers, not spoken words or conduct commonly associated with expression." 

A federal judge will now have to decide the constitutional issue, which is viewed as an important test of the 1998 law's applicability in Internet copyright cases. 

Matt Oppenheim, senior vice president of business and legal affairs at the RIAA, said Friday: "The government's filing today supports the proposition that we have long advocated — copyright owners have a clear and unambiguous entitlement to determine who is infringing their copyrights online, and that entitlement is constitutional. Verizon's persistent efforts to protect copyright thieves on pirate peer-to-peer networks will not succeed." 

The Justice Department filing comes as the recording industry is expanding its fight against illegal Internet content swapping. The RIAA earlier this month filed lawsuits against four college students who allegedly offered more than 1 million copies of popular recordings. 

Those lawsuits, filed in New York, New Jersey and Michigan, demand that the sites be shut down and that the RIAA be paid damages of up to $150,000 per song. 

Recording and movie industry groups teamed up in February to send a brochure to Fortune 1000 corporations suggesting that they warn employees against using company computers to download copyrighted content from the Internet.

Miners Protest 'Hillbillies'

PIKEVILLE, KY April 17, 2003 (AP) - Appalachian coal miners will go to New York to protest a CBS reality television series called "The Real Beverly Hillbillies" unless plans for the show are canceled. Cecil E. Roberts, president of the United Mine Workers of America, said his members intend to show up at the May 21 shareholders meeting of Viacom, CBS' parent company.

"This plan -- to take a poor rural family, place them in a Hollywood mansion and ridicule them on national television -- is repugnant to me and to the union members I represent," Roberts wrote in a letter to Viacom's top executives.

Viacom spokesman Carl Folta said the mine workers are welcome at the meeting but declined to comment further. CBS spokesman Chris Ender said Wednesday no decision has yet been made on whether production will go forward.

Last month, 43 members of the U.S. House of Representatives representing states from Florida to Texas asked that plans for the show be scuttled. The Center for Rural Strategies, an advocacy group, has placed ads in some of the country's largest newspapers, criticizing the proposed series as demeaning to rural people.

Welcome to 'TV-Turnoff Week'

LOS ANGELES April 21, 2003 ( - Realistically, last week would have been a much better time for the non-profit TV Turnoff Network to hold their fittingly titled ninth annual TV Turnoff Week. Expecting kids to miss the premiere of "Mr. Personality" and the beginning of May sweeps (April 24) is just cruel. 

TV Turnoff Week got a boost, though, from a joint statement by former Surgeons General C. Everett Koop and David Satcher and Dr. T. Berry Brazelton, who issued a joint statement endorsing the TV Turnoff Network's call for children to take a one-week hiatus from television and to use the normal TV time to go out and play.

"In order for children to thrive, they need to engage in healthy activities, such as exercising, interacting with family and friends, reading, and exploring the world around them," say the three high-profile doctors. "These are precisely the kinds of activities often displaced by excessive television time." 

TV-Turnoff Week, which runs April 21 to 27, will include a variety of non-television-related activities regulated by over 17,000 civilian volunteers and organizers, professionals including doctors, educators, parents and religious leaders. Festival organizers estimate that over seven million people will participate in the event's activities. 

As the event is targeted at children, will be maintaining our normal coverage, but will decrease references to "SpongeBob SquarePants" and "Lizzy McGuire" so as to provide no temptation to our nation's youth, so sorely in need of exercise. Unfortunately, our hands are tied when it comes to "American Idol," which will be as obsessively followed as ever.

Madonna's Curse! "What The F*ck...?"

London April 22, 2003 (BBC) - Popstar Madonna is known as a woman who does not mince her words. She has used her forthright manner to try to stop online piracy of her latest album, American Life. 

File-sharing networks have been flooded with fake tracks, which contain no music but instead have Madonna saying; "What the f*** do you think you are doing?" 

But despite efforts to stop unauthorized copies appearing on the net before its release, the album was readily available for download on several MP3 websites last week. The record industry blames the phenomenon on online music-sharing for a global fall in CD sales. 

Albums by high profile artists often pop up on the net to download, weeks or even months before their official release date. Tracks from the forthcoming Radiohead album have already appeared on the web, even though the album is not due to be in the shops until June. 

One of the tactics used by record labels to thwart music pirates is to swamp file-sharing networks such as Kazaa with decoys. In Madonna's case, the fake tracks are being used to send a blunt message to people trying to get hold of her music for free. 

The fakes appear to be full-length songs, so anyone downloading them does not know they have been tricked until they play the files. 

The gibe is part of a campaign by Madonna and Warner Brothers Records to prevent tracks off from her American Life from being copied on online file-sharing services before goes on sale this week. It comes in part due to the problems that plagued her last album, Music, when unfinished snippets of the title track showed up on services like Napster before the album's official launch. 

The American rapper Eminem used a similar tactic last year, with tracks appearing in file-sharing networks that only contained snippets of songs looped over and over. However, Madonna and her record label have only been partially successful in keeping American Life under wraps. 

Last week, the album turned up on several MP3-sharing websites. American Life has just been released in the UK and the US.

Official Madonna site - 

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