|Iraq Nuclear Looting! |
Wolverine, Mercury's Eclipse,
Bush Secret Wilderness Plan!
Otzi, Galaxies Collide & More!
|UN Agency Worried Over Iraq Nuclear Looting!|
|By Louis Charbonneau |
VIENNA, Austria May 6, 2003 (Reuters) — The U.N. nuclear watchdog agency said Monday it had asked the United States to let it send a mission to Iraq to investigate reports of widespread looting at the country's nuclear facilities.
The spokeswoman for the International Atomic Energy Agency said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei had written to the United States with a request to send a mission to Iraq "... to investigate the state of the facilities there."
"We have not yet received a response," spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said. She added the letter was dated April 29, nearly a week ago. "We have been assured by the U.S. that they would secure these facilities, but the agency finds these reports (of looting) disturbing."
U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said, "We're in touch with them (IAEA) on various issues all the time. But there's no decisions at this point about what role they may or may not play in terms of evaluating and monitoring at this point."
Last month the IAEA asked the United States to secure Iraq's nuclear facilities to protect them from looters in the post-war chaos. Washington assured the U.N. it would prevent the removal of material from these sites.
But the Washington Post reported Sunday that sites housing large amounts of highly radioactive material appeared to have been looted and that it was impossible to say whether nuclear materials were missing.
Boucher said Monday, "Coalition forces have secured the facilities that house the natural and low enriched uranium that was at those sites. (I would) Remind you none of this material was usable in nuclear weapons; all of this uranium would require significant processing in order to be suitable for enrichment for weapons use."
The IAEA, whose nuclear weapons inspectors returned to Baghdad last November after a four-year hiatus, has a detailed inventory of radioactive materials stored at the Tuwaitha nuclear research facility and other sites in the country which may have been looted.
Tuwaitha had been sealed by the IAEA, but U.S. forces were reported to have broken some of the seals last month and to have entered the site.
The mission ElBaradei wants to send to Iraq would be separate from the teams who hunted for signs Baghdad renewed its ambitious atomic weapons program, as Washington had alleged, before the United States decided to use military force to disarm Iraq.
"This would be an investigative mission to find out what has happened at the facilities," Fleming said.
WORRIED ABOUT DIRTY BOMBS
While most of the radioactive material found at these sites would be unusable for atomic weapons, the IAEA is concerned some of it could end up in the hands of terrorists who could use it for so-called dirty bombs.
A dirty bomb is made by attaching radioactive material to a conventional explosive like dynamite to disperse it over a wide area. These bombs are aimed more at creating panic than physical damage.
Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday he had no information from military or intelligence sources about the looting referred to in the Washington Post's eyewitness report.
"I don't know that there was a special concern that there was nuclear-related material at that particular site," he said.
(Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson in Berlin and Richard Balmforth in Moscow)
|Wolverine Ain't So Tough!|
|NEW YORK May 5, 2002 - Lesson one: don't steal a bear's dinner. Last week, a wolverine - a ferocious member of the weasel family able to kill a caribou - learned this the hard way, according to a team of researchers from the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). |
Scientists Kristine and Bob Inman, while tracking the wolverine as part of a WCS study of these rare carnivores, discovered that the animal's radio collar began emitting a "mortality signal," indicating it hadn't moved in several hours. They later found the wolverine's carcass, showing clear evidence that it had been killed by a bear. Nearby, they discovered the carcass of an elk, along with additional evidence that the wolverine had attempted to drag it away from the bear, thus instigating the fatal encounter.
"This incident, where a wolverine decided to battle it out head-on with another carnivore ten times his size, substantiates the species' ferocious and intrepid reputation. The center of the conflict, an elk, may have been a "winter-kill," frozen in the snow until discovered by the bear emerging from its winter hibernation," said Kristine Inman.
The wolverine was one of a number of individuals WCS researchers have been tracking in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem for the past two winters. Researchers are investigating threats to wolverine populations to provide state and federal agencies with data about survival and reproductive rates, travel corridors and habitat use.
The degree to which increasing development and back-country recreational use in mountainous areas threatens wolverine populations is unknown. Understanding threats to this rare and elusive animal is essential to its conservation.
|Looking for Universal WIMPs|
|By Jeremy Lovell |
LONDON April 29, 2003 (Reuters) - British scientists equipped with state of the art detectors deep underground in northern England have begun a search for one of the most tantalizing secrets of the universe -- known as Dark Matter.
"If we are successful in our quest then we are looking at a place in the history books," Neil Spooner of Sheffield University said on Tuesday. "This will be one of the great discoveries of our time."
Teams of scientists around the world are racing to be the first to discover the truth about Dark Matter, which cannot be seen because it does not emit light. They believe it makes up the vast majority of the universe.
Scientists say stars account for less than one percent of the mass of the universe, with gas clouds and other objects accounting for close to another five percent.
No one is quite sure what makes up the missing remainder, which has been dubbed Dark Matter.
|European Southern Observatory (ESO) Press Release |
May 5, 2003 - A solar mini-eclipse! On May 7, 2003, Mercury, the innermost planet in the solar system, will pass in front of the Sun and produce a solar eclipse. But this event will hardly be noticed. Mercury's small disk will indeed barely be bigger than the point of a pencil.
Even the smallest sunspots on the solar surface are as big as the Earth and measure 10,000 km or more in diameter, while Mercury's equatorial diameter is only 4878 km.
Bathed in intense sunlight, this small, hot planet moves around the Sun in an elliptical orbit at a mean distance of only 58 million km, much closer to the Sun than other inner planet, Venus (108 million km) and the Earth (150 million km).
The disk of Mercury is very small and will be very difficult to see.
A powerful telescope is needed to observe this event and to show clearly how Mercury moves across the solar disk. The disk of Mercury is indeed only 13 arcseconds across (while the solar disk measures about 1800 arcseconds).
This corresponds to the size of a 1 EURO coin located at the top of the Eiffel Tower as seen from the ground. Therefore, Mercury will only block 1/20,000th of the Sun's light.
Observations of the transit
|Man Saws Off Head in South Africa|
|KwaZulu-Natal May 6, 2003 (SAPA) - A 31-year-old man sawed his head off in full view of staff and customers at a supermarket in Richards Bay, northern KwaZulu-Natal, on Monday afternoon, police said. |
Superintendent Jay Naiker said Emmanuel Gumbi walked into the butchery section of Shoprite branch, switched on an electric meat saw, positioned his neck near the blade and sawed off his head.
He said Gumbi did not leave a suicide note.
Naiker said Gumbi's family said they had been shocked by the incident because he never showed signs of depression.
|Experts List Stolen Iraqi Art|
|By JOSEPH COLEMAN |
The Associated Press
PARIS May 5, 2003 (AP) - Art experts, curators and law enforcement officials gathered at Interpol headquarters Monday to create a computerized list to help customs agents catch any looted Iraqi treasures that pass through their borders.
Compiling an easily accessible description of looted antiquities was at the top of the agenda for the two-day meeting in the southeastern city of Lyon.
But tracking down stolen Iraqi art won't be easy. Museum inventories, which may have been incomplete to start with, were destroyed or scattered in pillaging during the chaotic aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion. Thousands of pieces of art - some of them priceless antiquities - are believed missing, but so far there is no agreement on even how much art was taken.
The conference brings together experts from the International Council of Museums, UNESCO - the U.N. heritage agency - and other officials, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, who will speak to the meeting on Tuesday.
Interpol said that one key proposal was "to significantly expand Interpol's existing database of stolen art to include the thousands of other items now missing in Iraq."
Iraq's museums held millennia-old artworks from the Assyrian, Sumerian and Babylonian cultures. Ancient Mesopotamia - modern-day Iraq - was the cradle of urban civilization.
Figuring out what is missing has been a central task of investigators.
"We don't yet have a complete record of all the stolen objects, and we don't have any means to verify that a certain object is indeed coming from that collection," said Giovanni Boccardi with UNESCO's World Heritage Center in Paris.
UNESCO also hopes to send a fact-finding mission to Iraq to help piece together inventories and more fully assess the damage.
Interpol, the international police organization, already has a database of 21,000 other stolen artworks that includes photographs and descriptions. Interpol's 181 member countries have quick access to that information through a computer program.
Interpol also publishes a CD-ROM for the private sector, prints posters of the "most wanted" stolen treasures and lists recent thefts on its Internet site.
The United States, whose military has been widely criticized for doing nothing to stop the pillaging, is also moving to recover the missing art. The FBI is coordinating efforts with international law enforcement, and the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq has begun broadcasting messages on the radio offering rewards to Iraqis to return antiquities.
At a conference in London last week, the world's top curators pressed U.S. authorities to go further by tightening up Iraq's borders, saying artifacts were still being smuggled out of the country.
Many artworks are believed to have disappeared into a shadowy and profitable network of traffickers and their customers. Koichiro Matsuura, UNESCO director-general, says the world market in stolen antiquities amounts to $5 billion a year, second only to drugs.
Interpol - http://www.interpol.int
|Bush Secret Wilderness Plan Wipes Out Protections!|
|Salt Lake City May 5th, 2003 (Earthjustice) - Conservation groups filed papers in the United States District Court late Friday firing back at Gale Norton’s plan to freeze wilderness consideration on more than 200 million acres of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management. |
In a filing before a federal district court judge in Utah, national and state conservation groups from eight western states charged that Norton’s Department of the Interior had violated the law, the US Constitution, and federal court decisions when it secretly agreed to forever surrender the BLM’s authority to review and protect its wilderness quality lands. The agreement came in the settlement of a lawsuit brought by the state of Utah against the federal government.
Federally designated wilderness areas are off limits to road building, logging, mining, and off-road vehicle use.
BLM lands at risk include stunning red-rock canyons and the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, 14,000-foot peaks as well as the badlands of Vermillion Basin and waterfalls of the Roan Plateau in Colorado, desert grasslands in New Mexico, redwood forests in the Headwaters area of California, the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument as well as pristine Sonoran desert in Arizona.
From isolated basin and range country in Nevada to forestlands of Oregon to Sequoia forests in California, many of America’s last wild jewels are suddenly opened to business as a result of the government’s settlement with Utah.
For photos of the areas at risk, see www.suwa.org or www.tws.org .
Sue and Settle Scam
This approach cuts the public out and guts federal environmental laws behind closed doors with few fingerprints on the deal.
|Travel Naked Air!|
|Cancun May 6, 2003 (SAPA) - Eighty-nine passengers donned smiles but not their clothes on a flight from the United States to a Mexican beach resort that was touted as the first for nudists. |
A spokesperson for the organizer, Castaways Travel in Houston, Texas, confirmed on Monday that the Boeing 727 flew from Miami to Cancun on Saturday, with a return planned a week later.
The nudists paid $499 (about R3 572) for a flight on Naked-Air and were required to be clothed when they went through security and boarded the plane. However, as soon as the plane reached cruising altitude, they were allowed to strip.
The only requirement: "Nude etiquette always requests you have a towel between you and the seat," Castaways Travel head James Bailey said.
|Pregnant Male Seahorses!|
|Georgia Institute of Technology Research News Release |
May 5, 2003 - Male pregnancy in seahorses may do more than reverse traditional gender roles. It could also influence the way new species form from single populations of these ancient creatures.
Studies have shown that most new species arise from geographically, and therefore genetically, isolated populations. But some seahorses likely diversify in a process called sympatric speciation, in which new species arise from a single population that has no geographic barriers to inhibit gene flow, according to a paper published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
"We think there’s a fairly strong case that sympatric speciation may have occurred in seahorses," said Georgia Institute of Technology Assistant Professor of Biology Adam Jones, the lead author on the PNAS paper. "We’re not arguing that all speciation in seahorses is sympatric. The majority of speciation is probably due to some geographic barrier to genetic migration. But in some instances it looks like sympatric speciation occurred."
Driving the sympatric speciation process in seahorses is the fish’s size-similar mating practice imposed by male pregnancy, extended male parental care and monogamy, Jones said. Seahorses choose similar-size mates to have the best chances for successful reproduction.
The female inserts ripe eggs into the male’s brood pouch, where the eggs are fertilized, embed and incubate for 10 days to six weeks, depending on the species.
|Otzi News - Ancient Iceman Was Hi-Tech Warrior|
|By Robin McKie |
Bolzano Italy May 4, 2003 (Observer UK) - When hikers spotted a corpse poking from the Schnalstal glacier in the Austrian-Italian Alps in 1991, they thought they had found the body of a lost climber.
Then researchers took a closer look and announced the iceman was an ancient shepherd, a primitive farm worker who had got lost in the mountains and had died of hypothermia.
Yet now, after 12 years of careful research, scientists have discovered the truth about Otzi the Iceman: that he was the Stone Age equivalent of a hi-tech trooper kitted with complex weapons and survival gear.
This is the startling picture revealed by scientists who have completed the full reconstruction of the oldest, best-preserved human body known to science.
It shows that Otzi - named after the Otzal Alps, where his body was discovered - carried sophisticated armory and wore warm, protective clothing that would have rivaled the fleeces and waterproof anoraks worn by mountaineers and soldiers today.
In addition, Otzi was found to have been carrying two pieces of birch bracket fungus, which is known to contain pharmacologically active compounds. In short, he had his own first-aid kit.
|Army Ants Defy Evolution|
|Cornell University Press Release |
ITHACA NY May 5, 2003 - Army ants, nature's ultimate coalition task force, strike their prey en masse in a blind, voracious column and pay no attention to the conventional wisdom of evolutionary biologists.
The common scientific belief has been that army ants originated separately on several continents over millions of years. Now it is found there was no evolution. Using fossil data and the tools of a genetics detective, a Cornell University entomologist has discovered that these ants come from the same point of origin, because since the reign of the dinosaurs, about 100 million years ago, army ants in essence have not changed a bit.
"Biologists have wondered why army ants, whose queens can't fly or get caught up by the wind, are yet so similar around the world. Army ants have evolved only once and that was in the mid-Cretaceous period," says Sean Brady, a Cornell postdoctoral researcher in entomology, whose study was conducted while he was doctoral candidate at the University of California-Davis.
Brady's paper, "Evolution of army ant syndrome: the unique origin and long-term evolutionary stasis of a novel complex of behavioral and reproductive adaptation," will be published on the Web by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS) Online Early Edition between May 5 and May 9 before being printed in PNAS.
Army ants are quite unlike the ants commonly found at family picnics. They have what scientists call the "army ant syndrome," comprising three characteristics: the ants are nomadic, they forage for prey without advance scouting, and their wingless queens can produce up to 4 million eggs in a month.
While this syndrome is found in every army ant species around the world, scientific papers have postulated that army ants evolved these characteristics multiple times after the breakup of the supercontinent Gondwana about 100 million years ago.
|Vikings Raped, Pillaged, Did The Ironing|
|May 5, 2003 (Daily Record UK) - Vikings were responsible for introducing ironing to Scotland. The pillaging Scandinavians were surprisingly conscious of their appearance and regularly smoothed their clothes. |
Excavations across Scotland have revealed evidence that the Nordic warriors used ironing boards and smoothing stones to make the job easier.
Dr Euan MacKie, of Glasgow University, said he found out about the ironing culture by chance 10 years ago, when his colleague's child found a piece of a whalebone on the Hebridean island of North Uist.
He said: "It is probably right to say Vikings introduced ironing to Scotland. The archaeological findings from before the Viking era have produced no evidence of similar activity. But only a few of their ironing boards and smoothing balls have been found here. The ones that have been discovered have been in female burial sites, which suggests women did most of the ironing. Vikings tend to be known as murderous invaders and vandals but that was just the wild part of them."
It is believed ironing was initially introduced in areas where Vikings settled, such as Orkney, Shetland, the Western Isles and Caithness. An excavation in Orkney uncovered a 950AD Viking whalebone ironing board from a burial ship.
And it was identified as an early version because similar equipment was still being used in Norway during the early 19th century.
|May 1, 2003 - A dusty spiral galaxy appears to be rotating on edge, like a pinwheel, as it slides through the larger, bright galaxy NGC 1275 in this NASA Hubble Space Telescope image. |
These images, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2), show traces of spiral structure accompanied by dramatic dust lanes and bright blue regions that mark areas of active star formation. Detailed observations of NGC 1275 indicate that the dusty material belongs to a spiral system seen nearly edge-on in the foreground. The second galaxy, lying beyond the first, is actually a giant elliptical with peculiar faint spiral structure in its nucleus. These galaxies are believed to be colliding at over 6 million miles per hour.
NGC 1275 is about 235 million light-years away in the constellation Perseus. Embedded in the center of a large cluster of galaxies known as the Perseus Cluster, it is also known to emit a powerful signal at both X-ray and radio frequencies. The galaxy collision causes the gas and dust already existing in the central bright galaxy to swirl into the center of the object. The X-ray and radio emission indicates the probable existence of a black hole at the bright galaxy's center.
While the dark dusty material in the Hubble image falls inward, NGC 1275 displays intricate filamentary structures at a much larger scale outside the image. This is a typical feature of bright cluster galaxies. Additional observational evidence of strong interactions between at least two galaxies, and possibly a few smaller galaxies, includes the formation of new stars and large star clusters. Although similar in shape to the old globular clusters in the Milky Way galaxy, NGC 1275's clusters are much younger and contain 100,000 to a million stars each.
This image was created from archived blue and red Hubble WFPC2 data taken in 1995 by John Trauger (JPL) and Jon Holtzman (NMSU). The Hubble Heritage team, along with collaborators Megan Donahue, Jennifer Mack, and Mark Voit (STScI), took follow-up WFPC2 observations at infrared wavelengths in 2001 to help produce this full-color image.
The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) is operated by the Association of Universities for Research in Astronomy, Inc. (AURA), for NASA, under contract with the Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. The Hubble Space Telescope is a project of international cooperation between NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA).
|Genre News: Eliza Dushku, Joss on Buffy, Anna Paquin, Stephen King, Daffy Duck, James Brown & More!|
|Eliza Dushku in Wrong Turn |
Hollywood May 6, 2003 (eXoNews) - Don't have a coronary when you see the ads for Eliza Dushku in Wrong Turn - it's not a Faith the Slayer movie! According to the plot on the official Wrong Turn website, Eliza stars here in a lost-in-the-woods slasher flick.
There isn't much more to say about the plot until the movie comes out on May 30th and then it will probably rise or fall on Eliza's performance. That's not a bad bet for a quickie thriller considering the admirable work Eliza Dushku has done so far in her film outings and as Faith on Buffy and Angel.
She'll have some expert help, too.
The director is Rob Schmidt, who made an ill-timed movie called American Heroes in 2001, a government conspiracy thriller about how Neil Armstrong's moon walk was a fake.
The writer is Alan McElroy, who wrote Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers. The plot sounds like a Halloween bit, come to think of it.
Desmond Harrington (Jesse Keys in Taken) co-stars, but Eliza is definitely top-billed in this one and it's not surprising that the premiere comes only days after the final episode of Buffy.
Dushku also has a promising supernatural TV pilot in the works for Fox called True Calling.
Joss Says Buffy Grew Up Fast
"It's been very close to what I envisioned, except that it grew up a lot more," Whedon said in a conference call interview with reporters.
"When I started the show, I didn't know its full potential, because I just sort of had the basic notion of 'It's tough to make it in high school, and it'll be funny and evolving and scary and really hit on things that people can relate to.'"
"Or networks, I should say. So did I know I was going to make a musical? Or did I know even that Buffy was going to sleep with Angel, and he would go bad? No. It just kept growing."
"The basic idea that I think we're very true to, especially in the last episode, of the empowerment of girls and the toughness of this life, was always there, but it grew beyond my best imagining."
Anna Paquin Keeps Rogue Life in Perspective
Official X2 site - http://www.x-men-the-movie.com
Shatner Scores Worst Beatles Cover of All Time
William Shatner's Official site - http://www.williamshatner.com
King Stories Found in School Newspaper
Official Stephen King site - http://www.stephenking.com
He died Friday of leukemia at the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Tarzana, his son Jerry Weissman said.
Space-Age Daffy Duck Joins Cartoon Network
The new shows—Teen Titans and Duck Dodgers—will join returning shows The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy and The Justice League.
Each episode consists of two 11-minute cartoons; the show premieres August 23rd.
The Cartoon Network - http://www.cartoonnetwork.com
James Brown Turns 70
Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles has reviewed the copyright case and will hear oral arguments on Monday. But in her initial ruling designed to clarify the legal issues in the case, Cooper held that Clare Milne could not use a change in U.S. copyright law to reclaim the U.S. rights to Winnie the Pooh next year, her lawyer David Nimmer told Reuters.
Her grandfather, British author A.A. Milne, sold the U.S. rights in 1930 to American literary agent Stephen Slesinger.
Disney denies that and recently accused Slesinger of hiring unlicensed private detectives to steal documents from its offices and rummage through its trash, an argument it expects to give it the upper hand in the case.