The Age of The Universe,
Lone Gunmen Killed - Again! 
Cosmic Rays,
Neutrino Mystery,
Dinotopia, Gladiator Insects & More!
Hubble Discovers The Age of the Universe!

NASA NEWS RELEASE April 24, 2002 (NASA) - Pushing the limits of its powerful vision, NASA's Hubble Space Telescope has uncovered the oldest burned-out stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. These extremely old, dim "clockwork stars" provide a completely independent reading on the age of the universe without relying on measurements of the expansion of the universe. 

The ancient white dwarf stars, as seen by Hubble, turn out to be 12 to 13 billion years old. Because earlier Hubble observations show that the first stars formed less than 1 billion years after the universe's birth in the big bang, finding the oldest stars puts astronomers well within arm's reach of calculating the absolute age of the universe. 

Though previous Hubble research sets the age of the universe at 13 to 14 billion years based on the rate of expansion of space, the universe's birthday is such a fundamental and profound value that astronomers have long sought other age-dating techniques to cross-check their conclusions. "This new observation short-circuits getting to the age question, and offers a completely independent way of pinning down that value," says Harvey Richer of the University of British Columbia, Canada. 

The new age-dating observations were done by Richer and colleagues by using Hubble to go hunting for elusive ancient stars hidden inside a globular star cluster located 7,000 light-years away in the constellation Scorpius. The results are to be published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. 

Conceptually, the new age-dating observation is as elegantly simple as estimating how long ago a campfire was burning by measuring the temperature of the smoldering coals. For Hubble, the "coals" are white dwarf stars, the burned out remnants of the earliest stars that formed in our galaxy. 

Hot, dense spheres of carbon "ash" left behind by the long-dead star's nuclear furnace, white dwarfs cool down at a predictable rate - the older the dwarf, the cooler it is, making it a perfect "clock" that has been ticking for almost as long as the universe has existed. 

This approach has been recognized as more reliable than age-dating the oldest stars still burning by nuclear fusion, which relies on complex models and calculations about how a star burns its nuclear fuel and ages. White dwarfs are easier to age-date because they are simply cooling, but the trick has always been finding the dimmest and hence longest-running "clocks." 

As white dwarfs cool they grow fainter, and this required that Hubble take many snapshots of the ancient globular star cluster M4. The observations amounted to nearly eight days of exposure time over a 67-day period. This allowed for even fainter dwarfs to become visible, until at last the coolest - and oldest - dwarfs were seen. These stars are so feeble (at 30th magnitude - which is considerably fainter than originally anticipated for any Hubble telescope imaging with the original cameras), they are less than one-billionth the apparent brightness of the faintest stars that can be seen by the naked eye. 

Globular clusters are the first pioneer settlers of the Milky Way. Many coalesced to build the hub of our galaxy and formed billions of years before the appearance of the Milky Way's magnificent pinwheel disk (as further confirmed by Richer's observations). Today 150 globular clusters survive in the galactic halo. The globular cluster M4 was selected because it is the nearest to Earth, so the intrinsically feeblest white dwarfs are still apparently bright enough to be picked out by Hubble. 

In 1928, Edwin Hubble's measurements of galaxies made him realize that the universe was uniformly expanding, which meant the universe had a finite age that could be estimated by mathematically "running the expansion backward." Edwin Hubble first estimated the universe was only 2 billion years old. Uncertainties over the true expansion rate led to a spirited debate in the late 1970s, with estimates ranging from 8 billion to 18 billion years. Estimates of the ages of the oldest normal "main-sequence" stars were at odds with the lower value, since stars could not be older than the universe itself. 

In 1997 Hubble astronomers broke this impasse by triumphantly announcing a reliable age for the universe, calculated from a very precise measurement of the expansion rate. The picture soon got more complicated when astronomers using Hubble and ground-based observatories discovered the universe was not expanding at a constant rate, but accelerating due to an unknown repulsive force termed "dark energy." When dark energy is factored into the universe's expansion history, astronomers arrive at an age for the universe of 13-14 billion years. This age is now independently verified by the ages of the "clockwork" white dwarfs measured by Hubble. 

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).

GOP Hopeful Wants Sci-fi Tax

Huntsville AL April 22, 2002 (Huntsville Times) - Michael Williams, a Republican candidate for the 5th Congressional District seat, has a novel plan to fully fund NASA: tax science fiction! Williams proposes a 1 percent "NASA tax" on science fiction books, science fiction comic books, space sciences books and any other space-related literature. 

The tax would also apply to "space, space-related, and science fiction toys, puzzles and games," Williams said in a listing of his platform. 

He also proposes increasing tax depreciation for research and development expenses to at least equal similar tax breaks granted by European governments. Several other tax breaks he proposes include investment tax credits and a 3- to 5-percent tax cut for the middle class. 

A pro-life candidate, Williams also promises if elected to sponsor a bill that would allow abortions only in cases of rape, incest or for medical reasons. He also favors providing money for medical research to perform "pre-birth" adoptions, which "will allow for the safe removal of unborn children from their mothers that does not harm the mothers or the unborn children." 

Williams wants Congress to adopt a resolution establishing a "global grand convention" that would ensure all inhabitants of Earth the same basic rights found in the U.S. Constitution. His resolution would also require holding a constitutional convention when 30,000 colonists have settled or been born "on the moon, Mars or any other celestial body besides the Earth." 

A Hampton Cove resident, Williams, 28, holds a master's degree in political science from the University of Alabama in Huntsville and a bachelor's degree in business management from Athens State University. He works at Publix Super Market at Hampton Cove. He is a graduate of Madison County High School, a member of the Huntsville/Madison County Chamber of Commerce and the North Alabama African-American Chamber of Commerce. 

Williams faces Stephen Engel of Athens in the June 4 GOP primary. The winner faces U.S. Rep. Bud Cramer, D-Huntsville, in November.

Canadian Readers Speak Out On Rumsfeld's Defense 

Toronto April 24, 2002 (The Toronto Star) - U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says the F-16 fighter pilot's decision to drop the bomb that killed four Canadians was acceptable if the pilot believed he was doing so in self-defense. We asked readers whether they agreed. Here's what some had to say: 

"If they had the right to do it, why is the identity of the genius who dropped the bomb being kept confidential? If you've done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide.'' - Gail Miller, Timmins, April 24

"Perhaps this will be a reminder to our military to remove Canadian soldiers and allow the US to go it alone, which is what they seem to want to do anyway.'' - Jenni Holland, Guelph, April 24

"The pilot who dropped the bomb undoubtedly feels a great deal of remorse. If indeed he bombed troops believing his life was in jeopardy, he was just trying to save himself - the exact thing anyone would do if it came down to a `him or me' scenario.'' - Dan Patterson, Kingston, April 24

"This horrible accident reinforces my firm belief that Canadian troops should be doing what we have been doing better than any other nation on earth for the past 50 years - peace-keeping. We are not warmongers.'' - Paul Paskewitz, Hong Kong, April 24

"Why is it so difficult for the U.S. government to issue a sincere apology, and admit they made a mistake? As parents we teach our children from the time they are very small to own up to their mistakes, take responsibility and apologize. Knowing someone is truly sorry goes along way toward healing.'' - Patricia Houde, Cambridge, April 24

"It is clear to me as a U.S. citizen that the U.S. government should be showing the same compassion, and providing compensation as if these brother Canadian soldiers were U.S. soldiers. If the situation were reversed I believe Canadians would do the same.'' - William Clarke, Albany, N.Y., April 24

"Rumsfeld's remarks are reflective of America's attitude towards the rest of the world, Canadians included: you just don't matter. However, if the shoe were on the other foot, there would be demands for an investigation, an apology and reparations.'' - Ronald Wilson, New Orleans, April 24

"Using small arms fire to bring down an F-16 at high altitude is a waste of ammo. Therefore, there was no threat and to say it was self-defense is b.s. The pilot did not have permission to drop the bomb, and was just another hotshot looking for some kills under his belt.'' - Rocel Ona, Oshawa, April 24

"Maybe here it is not the big story it is in Canada because we are more used to having our soldiers killed in the battle for freedom.'' - Marsha Bodary, Utica, Mich., April 24

For the rest of the responses and Canada's reaction, go to the Toronto Star site: 

Zogby Says Bush Low - Gore High

Washington April 23, 2002 (Zogby) - President George W. Bush's job performance rating continues to decline among U.S. voters, latest Zogby America results reveal.

In the latest Zogby America poll, conducted of 1002 registered voters nationwide between April 19-22, voters now give Bush a (69% positive, 30% negative), job performance rating, a new low in job performance since September 11th. 

Bush's previous low mark in job performance after Sept. 11th was in March (73% positive, 25% negative). On September 4th, one week before the terrorist attacks, Bush's job performance rating was 50% positive, 49% negative. 

The latest Zogby America poll has a margin of sampling error of +/- 3.2%.

While views about the President's job performance declines, voters are more encouraged (63% positive, 35% negative), about the President's handling of the crisis in the Middle East. Two weeks ago, voters gave Bush a 54% positive, 44% negative rating, for his handling of the Middle East conflict.

Former Vice President Al Gore has greatly expanded his lead for the 2004 Democratic nomination as the top choice among Democratic voters. Gore now leads New York Senator and Former First Lady Hillary Clinton 36% - 18%. In March, Gore led Clinton 27% - 22%. 

Clinton is followed in the race for the 2004 Democratic nomination by Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (6%), former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley (5%), and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman (4%), with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry both at (3%). 

Others receiving support for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination include California Governor Gray Davis and Civil Rights Leader Al Sharpton, both at 2%, and North Carolina Senator John Edwards, at 1%. 

Without Clinton as a candidate, Gore leads Daschle 46% - 7%.

All You Need Is Love 
Singing In The Reign

London April 23, 2002 (Daily Record UK) - The Queen is set to lead Britain in a huge sing-along version of All You Need Is Love for her Golden Jubilee.

She will cue musicians in 21 locations around the UK to perform the Beatles classic as part of a BBC celebration on June 3. And later in the day, Sir Paul McCartney will round off a concert at Buckingham Palace in London with the same chart-topping tune.

The song was commissioned 35 years ago by the BBC and was performed as part of the world's first global broadcast in 1967.

The BBC's Jubilee coverage will also give young Blue Peter viewers a chance to quiz the Queen. She will answer questions from 50 viewers. The Blue Peter program will be broadcast live from Birmingham's Centenary Square for two hours.

The All You Need Is Love performance will echo the nationwide singing of Perfect Day in 2000. Nearly five million balloons, printed with the words of the song, will be distributed by National Lottery outlets, allowing people to join in. The Queen will be in Slough, Berkshire, to begin the song, with musicians elsewhere picking up a cue from the BBC broadcasts and joining in.

Director Bill Morris said: "We're still discussing how the Queen will begin it. It might be that she just gives permission for it to start, she may press a button but it'll be dignified. We wanted a song that was appropriate and this just sprang out. There will be a range of community musicians and some professionals. We will have the cast of Evita in one location, African drumming, junk bands and the Turkish Beatles Orchestra."

Two million people who applied for tickets to the Queen's Golden Jubilee concerts at Buckingham Palace will know by the end of this week whether they have been successful. Letters to the 24,000 lucky ones, selected by ballot, should arrive by Friday.

Party at the Palace will feature Atomic Kitten, Phil Collins, Aretha Franklin, Sir Elton John, Annie Lennox, Sir Paul McCartney, Queen, Sir Cliff Richard, S Club and Will Young.

Queen No Dummy

London April 23, 2002 (Daily Record UK) - Madame Tussaud's is giving people the chance to have an "audience" with the Queen.

The London wax museum unveiled the clay sculpture, left, that will be used to mould its 21st dummy of the monarch. Visitors will be invited to "meet" the Queen during May and June. The tourist attraction is removing the velvet rope that keeps visitors away from the model of the royal. 

And tourists will be heralded by trumpets as they walk down the red carpet for their personal audience.

Genre News: Lone Gunmen, Roswell, Hawaii Five-O, Rod Serling, Matt Helm, Buffy, Marlene Dietrich & More!

The Lone Gunmen Killed - Again!

Hollywood April 22, 2002 (eXoNews) - Once you're canceled, you might as well be dead. That seems to be what Lone Gunmen series creators Vince Gilligan, John Shiban, Frank Spotnitz and Chris Carter were telling us in last night's X-Files episode "Jump The Shark".

Yes, it is true, kids: The Lone Gunmen die at the end.

The sad demise of our trio might even be construed as a tribute to Glen Morgan and James Wong (who created the Lone Gunmen for X-Files), known for killing off their main characters when Space: Above and Beyond (Fox) and The Others (NBC) were canceled - not to mention trying to kill off the cast of MillenniuM a bit prematurely when they left Fox at the end of Season Two. (Vince Gilligan and Frank Spotnitz both helped Carter revive MillenniuM for a third season.)

Of course, no one ever dies for sure in The X-Files universe.

A recent Sci Fi Wire poll showed that the LG were easily the most favored choice over The Cigarette Smoking Man and other recurring characters for a return in the new X-Files movie (due in 2004), so who knows what Carter and company really have in mind?

We see the caskets, BTW, but not the corpses - and Jimmy and Yves survive.

According to an interview in the April issue of the X-Files Official Magazine, LG sidekicks Zuleikha Robinson (Yves) and Stephen Snedden (Jimmy) were not all that happy about the script:

"When I read the ending, I started crying," admits Robinson. "Of course, they go down heroically, but I still do feel very sad about it." 

Snedden didn't like it either, but thought it appropriate. "They're going out the way they should. So, in that case, it makes me proud that they kept their integrity." 

The Lone Gunmen actually did pretty well, considering they began as a sort of gag after Glen Morgan saw three guys who looked like Byers (Bruce Harwood), Langley (Dean Haglund), and Frohicke (Tom Braidwood) manning a booth at a UFO convention in 1993.

Morgan and Wong wrote them into the 1994 Season One episode "E.B.E", where Mulder first introduces them to Scully.

After that, the trio became legend on the Internet and returned to The X-Files often. They eventually graduated to their own series last year with co-stars Snedden and Robinson.

Fox killed the series, of course, after 14 episodes, and the trio returned to The X-Files. The Lone Gunmen series also inspired a Dark Horse comic, which is probably a collectors' item considering last night's final appearance.

The Official Lone Gunman site has been up but inactive since the series cancellation.

The Official X-Files site is at and you can get free music at 

[R.I.P., boys! Gone, but not forgotten! Ed.}

Roswell Returns For Last Time 

Hollywood April 23, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Jason Katims, executive producer of UPN's teen alien series Roswell, offered SCI FI Wire a sneak peek at the upcoming series-ending story arc, which kicks off April 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT with the first of several new episodes.

"For the finale, ... [producer] Ron [Moore] and I ... wanted to make sure that we brought the series to a satisfying conclusion. So over the last few episodes, we tried to resolve as many loose ends as we could. In the final episode, we really focused on what we thought was the most important question, which is, where are they headed? What's going to become of them? And are they going to move forward in this world as a group or separately? And that means both in terms of the group that has formed between these human kids and alien kids, and it also means each individual relationship. And in that final episode we try to focus on both of those things."

Katims added, "One thing is that ... we wanted ... in this final episode ... [to] bookend the show with ... how the series started. So we returned to Liz's [Shiri Appleby] voiceover. ... I think it gives the episode a sort of nostalgic feeling. And we also returned to Max and Liz as the central relationship in this final episode, as I sort of feel that is the central relationship of the series. I've always thought that. And so Max and Liz are very much front and center, and in the episode, ... the question about where they're headed and what their future will be is very clearly answered."

[Roswell's last gasp may hardly be noticed. The first of four "new" Roswell episodes shown Tuesday April 23rd garnered a lowly 2.1/3 in overnight ratings, compared to competitors Smallville (4.8/7), 24 (5.3/9), Philly (5.5/9), The Guardian (6.4/11), Scrubs (6.3/10) and the seemingly never-ending laconic adventures of middle-aged Dr. Fraiser Crane and his predictable pals winning the hour with a 7.9/13. Sometimes it's better to just fade away! Ed.]

Roswell's series finale airs May 14, if anybody's still watching by then...

You continue to object to Roswell's cancellation (but what's the use?) at

More Genre Finales Due On UPN 

Hollywood April 18, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - UPN announced a slate of season finales in May, including a four-episode Buffy The Vampire Slayer season-ending arc that leaves one of the friends dead and another looking to exact revenge on the killer, the network said.

Buffy ends its sixth season with a two-part finale at 8 p.m. ET/PT on May 21.

Enterprise finishes its maiden voyage at 8 p.m. ET/PT May 22, when Starfleet orders the ship to return home after the crew seemingly causes the destruction of a planet.

Wolf Lake also ends its first season on UPN at 9 p.m. ET/PT May 1, with a finale in which a crackpot Web adventurer has cornered Ruby in a cage in wolf form and plans to expose the Wolf Lake community to his Internet audience.

Berlin Makes Marlene Dietrich an Honorary Citizen

BERLIN April 19, 2002 (AP) - Ten years after the death of movie legend Marlene Dietrich, Berlin - the city where she was born but that she shunned for most of her life - is making her an honorary citizen.

The city legislature decided Thursday to bestow the honor on Dietrich as "an ambassador for a democratic, freedom-loving and humane Germany." It added in its decision that the move "would symbolize the city of Berlin's reconciliation with her."

Dietrich was born in Berlin on Dec. 27, 1901. She left for the United States in 1930 and turned her back on Germany after Adolph Hitler rose to power three years later, rejecting approaches from the Nazis to return.

She became a U.S. citizen and sang for American troops as they fought her countrymen.

Berlin's decision to make her an honorary citizen follows a gesture by the city government last December, on what would have been her 100th birthday. It asked forgiveness for a hostile reception Dietrich received in 1960 - reflecting bitterness at the star's support for the Allies during World War II and her failure to return home after the war.

Bomb threats, picket signs reading "Marlene Go Home" and editorials calling her a "traitor" led the actress to swear she would never return to Germany.

Dietrich, whose films included 1930's "The Blue Angel" and 1961's "Judgment at Nuremberg" with Spencer Tracy, died in Paris in 1992 and was buried in Berlin next to the grave of her mother, Josefine.

Reflecting her bittersweet relationship with the city, officials only approved in 1997, after years of debate, the naming of a square after her. The Marlene-Dietrich-Platz, in the new Potsdamer Platz complex, was named after her native Schoeneberg neighborhood failed in a five-year struggle to agree on a suitable site.

Book 'Em, Danno! One of These Days, Alice!

Hollywood April 24, 2002 (BBC) - Hawaii Five-O, the classic TV cop series, is set to be turned into a film following a bidding war between Hollywood studios. 

Steven Spielberg's studio, DreamWorks fought off competition from at least three other companies to negotiate for the film rights, according to trade newspaper Variety. 

Hawaii Five-O, which became a worldwide hit in the 1970s, saw Jack Lord play Detective Steve McGarrett, who would chase criminals on the islands before telling his partner to "book 'em, Danno". 

It is expected to be brought into the 21st century for the big screen, as another TV favorite, Charlie's Angels, was for its film revival. DreamWorks, who were behind A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator and American Beauty, are likely to pay a seven-figure sum for the film rights, Variety said. 

The Hawaii Five-O film is expected to keep the same characters, which also included Danny Williams, played by James MacArthur in the TV series, and criminal mastermind Wo Fat, played by Khigh Diegh. 

Hawaii Five-O was seen on the small screen between 1968 and 1980, and has been credited with being the longest continuous-running police series in US TV history. The film script has been written by Roger Towne, who wrote the screenplay for the 1984 Robert Redford drama The Natural and has also penned a forthcoming Al Pacino Thriller, The Farm.

Another series, 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners, has also recently been lined up to become a film, Variety said.

Sopranos star James Gandolfini is reported to be interested in playing Ralph Kramden, a role originally filled by Jackie Gleason.

DreamWorks To Revive Matt Helm 
By Chris Gardner

Hollywood April 22, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Scribe Blake Masters is in negotiations with DreamWorks Pictures to pen a screenplay based on the series of Matt Helm action novels. 

DreamWorks optioned the 27 books in the series in January, with studio-based Team Todd on board to produce and "Legally Blonde" helmer Robert Luketic signed on to direct the first movie in the series. Masters will pen a script based on an amalgamation of several of the novels in the series, the studio said.

The deal is part of a blind two-script deal Masters has with DreamWorks. The well-known Matt Helm books, written by Donald Hamilton, center on the life and spy missions of Helm, a former Army lieutenant.

[Matt Helm was originally played by Dean Martin in the late 1960s. Ed.]

Zone Writer Talks Serling Biopic 

Hollywood April 22, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - George Clayton Johnson, who wrote episodes of The Twilight Zone, told SCI FI Wire that Showtime interviewed him for a proposed biographical TV movie about Zone creator Rod Serling.

Johnson wrote eight episodes of the classic 1950s SF anthology series, as well as one episode of the 1980s version of the show and the "Kick the Can" segment from 1983's Twilight Zone: The Movie; that segment was directed by Steven Spielberg.

"They want to use [Zone writers] Richard Matheson, myself and the late Charles Beaumont as characters," the soft-spoken Johnson said in an interview. "They came and interviewed me for several hours about what it was like to be 30 years old, how'd I get into this group and what was my relationship with Rod."

Matheson wrote 16 episodes of the original show and three segments of Twilight Zone: The Movie, including the remake of his classic episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet." Beaumont, who died in 1967, is credited with writing 21 episodes of the original show.

Johnson joked about how the Showtime folks were able to pigeonhole the famed writers with his help. "They finally figured out that Richard Matheson was the 'family man,' Charles Beaumont was the sort of 'philosopher/adviser/gadabout/guru' of Rod Serling," Johnson said. "He took him very, very seriously and called him in the middle of the night for advice. And George Clayton Johnson was the wild card, the 'Bohemian beatnik' trying to break into television and movies."

Spielberg Considers Another Jurassic

Hollywood April 24, 2002 (WENN) - Legendary movie maker Steven Spielberg is considering finishing the Jurassic Park franchise with a fourth and final movie.

Spielberg, who helmed the first two movies in 1993 and 1997, has been approached by film studio Universal to create a script for the Jurassic IV. Reports suggest Universal were unhappy with the screenplay for last year's III, which starred Tea Leoni and Sam Neill, and want Spielberg back so the movie series can go out with a bang.

Earth Day: Students Protest Monks Pray and Bush Preaches

By Arshad Mohammed

WILMINGTON, N.Y. April 23, 2002 (Reuters) – President Bush, stung by a fresh defeat by pro-environment forces in the U.S. Congress, Monday marked Earth Day by repairing a hiking trail and preaching the virtues of conservation in the rugged, snowy Adirondack Mountains. 

Under fire from his 2000 Democratic presidential rival, Al Gore, and others for abandoning the Kyoto treaty on global warming and advocating oil drilling in an Alaskan wildlife refuge, Bush visited the pine trees and pristine lakes of New York's Adirondack Park to burnish his environmental record. 

"We have a duty in our country to make sure our land is preserved, our air is clean, our water is pure, our parks are accessible and open and well preserved," Bush said in a speech driven indoors by a heavy snowfall on a cold, blustery day. 

Bush hailed the Adirondacks, among the first protected wilderness areas in the United States, as an example of the cooperative efforts between the government, private sector and volunteers he wants to preserve the nation's wilderness. 

Critics like Gore, a possible White House rival in 2004, suggested Bush's deeds belied his words and many honed in on his plan -- rejected by the Senate last week -- to drill for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. 

"The environmental and energy policies of our government are completely dominated by a group of current and former oil and chemical company executives who are trying to dismantle America's ability to force them to reduce the extremely dangerous levels of pollution in the Earth's atmosphere," Gore wrote in a New York Times opinion piece published Sunday. 

Gore accused Bush of committing environmental "sabotage" by rejecting the Kyoto global warming treaty that would require industrial nations to cut emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, and by voiding an agreement requiring automakers boost fuel efficiency. 


On Indonesia's Sumatra island earlier Monday, students at the University of Lampung blocked all vehicles from entering the campus in a 10-hour campaign that snarled traffic, the Antara news agency reported. Environmentalists elsewhere in Indonesia, home to the world's second largest expanse of rainforests after Brazil, held tree-planting programs, clean-ups and seminars. 

In Thailand, some 15,000 Buddhist monks and devotees gathered at a temple on the outskirts of Bangkok to mark the day with prayers for the earth and world peace. Saffron-robed monks gathered from various parts of the mainly Buddhist country for a special day of chanting and alms-giving. 

In Singapore, a campaign to get people to use public transportation fell flat, prompting "Car Free Day" organizers to complain it would take years for the city-state to go green. Penelope Phoon, executive director of the Singapore Environment Council (SEC), estimated around 5,000 car owners gave up using their cars to mark Earth Day -- a little over one percent of the 403,000 private and rental cars. 


Earth Day was first marked in 1970 by American organizers Gaylord Nelson and Denis Hayes. 

Three decades on, the pioneers head an Earth Day Network based in Seattle, which coordinates global Earth Day activities, and acts as a prominent vehicle to stimulate environmental responsibility. 

Their website (  ) says the worldwide network has grown to include 5,000 organizations in 184 countries. 

A spokesman for the United Nations regional office in Bangkok said the U.N. supported Earth Day, but noted his organization observed its own "World Environment Day" June 5. 

"These days, however, serve to remind us all to renew our commitment to the environment," he told Reuters. 

In the Philippines Sunday, thousands of cyclists took to the streets of the capital Manila to press for more bicycle-friendly streets and to protest against the city's horrendous air pollution. The ride, covering 31 miles through seven cities in the greater metropolitan Manila region was also held to highlight the plight of fireflies. 

The Firefly Brigade, a volunteer citizens action group that organized the cycle ride, claims the city's fireflies have all fled Manila because of the high level of toxins in the air. 

Bush's visit to the vast state forest preserve in the Adirondacks, covering almost 10,0000 square miles (26,000 square kms), follows last week's defeat of the President's plan to allow oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In a blow to Bush's energy plan, pro-environment forces blocked the effort in the Democratic-controlled U.S. Senate. 

Democrats view protection of the environment as a key issue in this year's pivotal congressional elections in which control of both houses will be at stake.

Thousands Rally at Washington Summit

Washington 20 April, 2002 (BBC) - Thousands of demonstrators have gathered in Washington to protest against Israel's military actions in the West Bank, the United States' war on terror and globalization. 

Mass rallies were taking place around the capital as the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank began their annual spring meeting. 

Hundreds of police, fearing a repeat of the violence of previous years, sealed off the downtown venue as the protests got under way. So far the protests have been colorful and noisy and police say they have made no arrests. 

"There are just large numbers of people who want to have their voices heard and that's what America is all about," said Washington Metropolitan Police Department Chief Charles Ramsey. 

But security forces are taking no chances: rubbish bins and post boxes have been removed, while all police leave has been cancelled and reinforcements drafted in. The BBC's Washington correspondent Justin Webb says a pro-Palestinian rally is probably the largest at the moment, with an estimated couple of thousand supporters. 

Demonstrators gathered in front of the White House, waving flags and posters reading "Free Palestine, no war on Iraq". Pro-Palestinian protesters said they want to rival a demonstration in favour of Israel in the capital last week which organizers said attracted up to 100,000 people. 

Ryan Sarni, a 21-year-old student said: "We're all working under the same banner of pro-choice, pro-environment, pro-worker and pro-women. There is just diversity of tactics and viewpoints here." 

A 30-foot (nine meters) balloon in the shape of the Earth, bearing a "For sale" sign, was displayed across the road from where finance officials met in advance of the IMF/World Bank summit. 

Hundreds of anti-globalization protesters have gathered outside the IMF building, and some are planning to protest outside the offices of Citibank, Coca-Cola and bio-tech firm Monsanto. 

Demonstrators from a range of groups are also planning to march down Pennsylvania Avenue - just blocks from the White House - before rallying on the steps of the Capitol Building. 

After the first financial meeting, the Group of Seven developed countries said they had endorsed a plan aimed at easing debt crises in emerging economies, but were seriously concerned about the current Argentine crisis. The group said prospects for global economic recovery were good, but rising oil prices could still pose a risk. 

Officials from the United States, Japan, Germany, France, Britain, Italy and Canada also said they had agreed to intensify efforts to cut off funding to international terrorist groups.

The Secret of Cosmic Rays

NASA-GODDARD NEWS RELEASE April 23, 2002 - They are old but not forgotten. Nearby "retired" quasar galaxies, billions of years past their glory days as the brightest beacons in the Universe, may be the current source of rare, high-energy cosmic rays, the fastest-moving bits of matter known and whose origin has been a long-standing mystery, according to scientists at NASA and Princeton University. 

The scientists have identified four elliptical galaxies that may have started this second career of cosmic-ray production, all located above the handle of the Big Dipper and visible with backyard telescopes. Each contains a central black hole of at least 100 million solar masses that, if spinning, could form a colossal battery sending atomic particles, like sparks, shooting off towards Earth at near light speed. 

These findings were discussed in a press conference at the joint meeting of the American Physical Society and the High Energy Astrophysics Division of the American Astronomical Society in Albuquerque, N.M. The team includes Dr. Diego Torres of Princeton University and Drs. Elihu Boldt, Timothy Hamilton and Michael Loewenstein of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. 

Quasar galaxies are thousands of times brighter than ordinary galaxies, fueled by a central black hole swallowing copious amounts of interstellar gas. In galaxies with so-called quasar remnants, the black hole nucleus is no longer a strong source of radiation. 

"Some quasar remnants might not be so lifeless after all, keeping busy in their later years," said Torres. "For the first time, we see the hint of a possible connection between the arrival directions of ultra-high energy cosmic rays and locations on the sky of nearby dormant galaxies hosting supermassive black holes." 

Ultra high-energy cosmic rays represent one of astrophysics' greatest mysteries. Each cosmic ray -- essentially a single sub-atomic particle such as a proton traveling just shy of light speed -- packs as much energy as a major league baseball pitch, over 40 million trillion electron volts. (The rest energy of a proton is about a billion electron volts.) The particles' source must be within 200 million light years of Earth, for cosmic rays from beyond this distance would lose energy as they traveled through the murk of the cosmic microwave radiation pervading the Universe. There is considerable uncertainty, however, over what kinds of objects within 200 million light years could generate such energetic particles. 

"The very fact that these four giant elliptical galaxies are apparently inactive makes them viable candidates for generating ultra high-energy cosmic rays," said Boldt. Drenching radiation from an active quasar would dampen cosmic-ray acceleration, sapping most of their energy, Boldt said. 

The team concedes it cannot determine if the black holes in these galaxies are spinning, a basic requirement for a compact dynamo to accelerate ultra-high energy cosmic rays. Yet scientists have confirmed the existence of at least one spinning supermassive black hole, announced in October 2001. The prevailing theory is that supermassive black holes spin up as they accrete matter, absorbing orbital energy from the infalling matter. 

Ultra-high-energy cosmic rays are detected by ground-based observatories, such as the Akeno Giant Air Shower Array near Yamanashi, Japan. They are extremely rare, striking the Earth's atmosphere at a rate about one per square kilometer per decade. Construction is underway for the Auger Observatory, which will cover 3,000 square kilometers (1,160 square miles) on an elevated plain in western Argentina. A proposed NASA mission called OWL (Orbiting Wide-angle Light-collectors) would detect the highest-energy cosmic rays by looking down on the atmosphere from space. 

Loewenstein joins NASA Goddard's Laboratory for High Energy Astrophysics as a research associate with the University of Maryland, College Park. Hamilton, also a member of the Lab, is a National Research Council fellow.

Moon May Have Chunks of Ancient Earth

By Keay Davidson
San Francisco Chronicle Science Writer

Mountain View CA April 22, 2002 (SFC) - Clues to Earth's earliest days and first microbial inhabitants may survive in an unexpected place: the moon. 

Scientists have long debated what happened on the primordial Earth almost 4 billion years ago. Did primitive microbes wriggle within volcano-heated pools of water? Did falling asteroids vaporize oceans and gouge craters the size of small states? 

Such questions are terribly hard to answer. The clues have been largely erased by erosion -- by rain, wind, tides, plate tectonics, and other natural forces. 

But some clues might still exist a quarter of a million miles away, on the frigid, airless surface of the moon. Long ignored by mainstream scientists, the idea has begun to attract some serious attention, including the first serious proposals to go looking for hard evidence. 

New calculations by a youthful team of researchers at the University of Washington and Iowa State suggest a strong probability that asteroid impacts could have splashed substantial amounts of terrestrial rock toward the moon, like mud sprayed by a car racing down a dirt road. 

Clouds of what the researchers call "terran meteorites" might have sprinkled across the lunar surface. There, in a much less erosive environment than exists on Earth -- no wind ever blew and no water ever flowed on the moon -- the rocky relics of Earth's primeval days may endure, awaiting discovery by future astronauts or remotely controlled robotic vehicles. 

Hence the three researchers dub the moon "Earth's attic": a deep-freeze repository for relics of the terrestrial dawn. 

The researchers have outlined a plan to test the hypothesis as part of some future lunar-prospecting mission. Details were presented for the first time at a recent astrobiology science conference held at NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View. 

After a large impact, the terrestrial rocks "could just fly off Earth and get scooped up by the moon, or go into orbit around the Sun and then later on land on the moon," explained John C. Armstrong of the Center for Astrobiology and Early Evolution at the University of Washington at Seattle. 

Perhaps 20 tons of terrestrial rock could be buried over a typical lunar area of about 40 square miles, according to calculations by Armstrong and Llyd E. Wells, also at the Seattle center, and Guillermo Gonzalez, assistant professor in the physics and astronomy department at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa. 

Armstrong is a graduate student in astronomy who expects to receive his doctorate at year's end. Wells is a biologist and graduate student in oceanography. 

The surface of the moon is not completely free of erosion: It is pelted by a steady rain of "micrometeorites" and cosmic rays. The most intact terran rocks are likely to survive within a few feet of the lunar surface, shielded by the overlying rock. 

Armstrong said the three men got the idea while "stuck in traffic" near the Ames center in early 2000. Armstrong says they began batting around ideas for space exploration, "and Guillermo said, 'Say, have you ever thought about what would happen if an asteroid could blast stuff off the Earth and onto the moon?' " 

A similar question was asked in the 1960s by a famous chemist, Harold C. Urey, a top adviser to the U.S. space program. His idea drew little attention, though. One reason: It was hard to imagine how material could be violently transferred from one world to another without being destroyed in the process. (To escape Earth gravity, an object must be accelerated to a speed of 7 miles per second or 25,000 miles per hour.) 

In recent years, though, scientists have grown accustomed to finding fragments of the moon and Mars on Earth, especially in Antarctica. There, they pluck lunar and Martian meteorites out of the polar ice like kids plucking raisins from raisin pudding. 

They know the Mars rocks come from that planet because they contain small pockets of gas whose isotopic contents match those recorded in the Martian atmosphere by the twin Viking robots, which landed on Mars in 1976. Mars meteorites are clear evidence that chunks of one planet can survive a voyage to another.

The most controversial Martian meteorite is known as ALH84001 (ALH stands for the Allan Hills region of Antarctica, where it was found). A few scientists suspect it contains fossils of Martian microbes. 

"The moon is strategically located within the inner solar system as a collector of debris," Armstrong said. 'It has, potentially, collected material from all the terrestrial planets," including Earth, Mars and Venus. 

"The Earth meteorites on the moon could provide a geological record of early Earth not available anywhere else in the solar system. . . . While there isn't a whole lot of Earth stuff up there, some of the Earth material may contain geochemical and biological information such as isotopic signatures, organic carbon, biologically derived molecules and minerals, and maybe even microbial fossils." 

Skepticism is expressed by NASA-Ames scientist Dale Cruikshank, a leading figure in the search for organic molecules in space. 

"Earth materials probably exist on the moon," he acknowledged, but cautioned that they are probably "hugely diluted in the vast and thick dusty layers that mantle every square inch of our neighbor in space." 

Also, any Earth rocks that reached the moon about 4 billion years ago should have been altered by lunar volcanic activity or changed "chemically and mechanically beyond recognition" by other natural means, he said in an e-mail to The Chronicle. 

In response, Armstrong agreed that terrestrial materials might be diluted to a scarcity of one to 10 parts per million. Still, even such scarce particles are "not insignificant" and could be identified and studied with advanced scientific methods. 

He pointed out that in recent years, scientists have learned a great deal about the evolution of the solar system by studying interstellar dust particles (IDPs), which are literally dust grains that drop to Earth from space. As for lunar vulcanism, Armstrong says it might help, not harm, their proposal because lava "could actually help protect the material from the Earth" from lunar erosive processes such as micrometeorites. 

If robots or astronauts return to the moon, how could they distinguish terrestrial meteorites from native lunar rocks? Armstrong's team is now investigating that question, using small samples of lunar rocks from NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

One way, they suspect, is by analyzing the rocks' reaction to ultraviolet light. Ultraviolet light could expose carbonates typically formed in the presence of liquid water, which has long been abundant on Earth. 

Also, future explorers might keep their eyes peeled for rocks with burned or "ablated" surfaces. Ablation is a clue that they experienced high friction while shooting through the atmosphere of another planet. 

One of the most exciting questions facing space scientists is: Did the inner solar system experience a horrendous "late heavy bombardment" of asteroids 3.8 billion to 4.1 billion years ago? Scientists have debated this question for years. 

Terrestrial rocks on the moon might "shed a lot of light on the question of whether there really was a (late) heavy bombardment" at that time, Armstrong said. 

If the late heavy bombardment really happened, might it have wiped out any early life? Possibly so, some scientists say. 

However, Wells speculates that terrestrial life might have survived the bombardment via an unusual route: brief sojourns in space. 

To be specific, asteroid impacts might have hurled rocks with microbes into space. After thousands of years in the deep-freeze of orbit, the rocks might have fallen back to Earth and "re-seeded" the planet with life, Wells says. 

If he's right, then Earth's first "astronauts" were not Yuri Gagarin and Alan Shepard but, rather, microbes. Knowing that, maybe you'll show a little more respect for the greenish mold on your shower wall: It looks humble, but its ancestors might have boldly gone where no microbe went before.

China Hatches Space Chickens
China April 24, 2002 (BBC) - Three chickens have hatched in China from eggs that spent almost a week in orbit in March aboard the unmanned Shenzhou III spacecraft, Chinese state media says. 

The animals, one female and two male, hatched from nine eggs, which traveled 108 times around the Earth on a seven-day flight that ended on 1 April. 

Chinese scientists will study the chickens to see if their biology has been affected in any way by the time their eggs spent in space. 

They are well-suited to this end, being of a particularly pure native Chinese bloodline, Xinhua news agency quoted the head researcher, Yang Ning, as saying. 

He said the chicken's hatching was also evidence of the sophistication of the life support systems on board the spacecraft, the third of China's unmanned vessels launched in preparation for its manned program. 

He said it was fortunate that chickens of both sexes hatched, because this would allow researchers to breed them and study the offspring.
Solar Neutrino Mystery Solved

By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Science Editor 

Canada April 22, 2002 (BBC) - Neutrinos - some of nature's most elusive sub-atomic particles - do change their properties as they travel through space.

New evidence confirms last year's indication that one type of neutrino emerging from the Sun's core does switch to another type en route to the Earth. 

This explains the so-called solar neutrino mystery, which has had scientists puzzled for 30 years - why so few of the particles expected to emerge from the nuclear furnace in our star can actually be detected. The new data mean the reactions put forward by physicists to describe how the Sun works are correct. 

The data were obtained from the underground Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) in Canada. 

Neutrinos are ghostly particles with no electric charge and very little mass. They are known to exist in three types related to three different charged particles - the electron and its lesser-known relatives, the muon and the tau. Electron-neutrinos are created in the thermonuclear reactions at the solar core. Because these reactions are understood, it has been possible to estimate the number of electron-neutrinos that should emerge from our star. But it has baffled scientists for decades as to why just a third of this expected number could actually be detected.

Using the underground Sudbury neutrino detector, an international group of researchers has been able to determine that the observed number of electron-neutrinos is only a fraction of the total number emitted from the Sun - clear evidence that the particles change type en route to Earth. 

SNO Project Director, Dr Art McDonald, of Queen's University, Canada, said the numbers of electron-neutrinos detected combined with the numbers of other types picked up at Sudbury gave a total that was consistent with scientists' understanding of the nuclear reactions occurring at the Sun's core. The Sudbury Neutrino Observatory is a unique neutrino telescope, the size of a 10-storey building, two kilometers underground, down a mine in Ontario. 

The SNO detector consists of 1,000 tons of ultrapure heavy water, enclosed in a 12-metre-diameter acrylic-plastic vessel, which in turn is surrounded by ultrapure ordinary water in a giant 22-metre-diameter by 34-metre-high cavity. Outside the acrylic vessel is a 17-metre-diameter geodesic sphere containing 9,600 light sensors or photomultiplier tubes, which detect tiny flashes of light emitted as neutrinos are stopped or scattered in the heavy water. 

At a detection rate of about one neutrino per hour, many days of operation are required to provide sufficient data for a complete analysis. Because SNO uses "heavy" water - the hydrogen atom in the water molecule has an extra neutron - it is able to detect not only electron-neutrinos through one type of reaction, but also all three known neutrino types through a different reaction.

Dr Andre Hamer, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, US, said: "In order to make these measurements, we had to restrict the radioactivity in the detector to minute levels and determine the background effects very accurately to show clearly that we are observing neutrinos from the Sun." 

The research not only improves our understanding of the Sun but of the elusive neutrinos as well. The latest results, entirely from the SNO detector, (and which have been submitted to Physical Review Letters) are said to be 99.999% accurate. 

Dr MacDonald said: "The SNO team is really excited because these measurements enable neutrino properties such as mass to be specified with much greater certainty for fundamental theories of elementary particles." 

This announcement is confirmation of indications released in June 2001 that suggested that it was highly likely that neutrinos changed type on their way from the Sun. However those conclusions were always tentative because they were based on comparisons of results from SNO with those from a different experiment, the Super-Kamiokande detector in Japan. 

Professor Dave Wark, of the University of Sussex and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, UK, commented: "Whenever a scientific conclusion relies on two experiments, and on the theory connecting them, it is twice as hard to be certain that you understand what is going on. 

"We are therefore much more certain now that we have really shown that solar neutrinos change type." 

Professor Hamish Robertson of the University of Washington, US, added: "There's absolutely no question the neutrino type changes and now we know quite precisely the mass differences between these particles."

320-Million-Year-Old Fossil Stolen
SEATTLE (AP) April 23, 2002 (AP) — A fossil that dates from before the time of the dinosaurs has been stolen from the Burke Museum at the University of Washington. 

Museum staff noticed that the fossilized crinoid, a plantlike animal related to starfish that lived at the bottom of the sea about 320 million years ago, was missing before closing Sunday. University police are investigating. 

A screwdriver was used to open a glass case where the fossil was kept near the museum lobby, said spokeswoman Natasha Dworkin. 

The crinoid was part of the natural history museum's permanent exhibit but had little value compared with some of the other objects and artifacts, and the case was not protected by an alarm or security camera, officials said. 

The theft was the museum's fourth security breach in a week, Dworkin said. 

A stuffed rooster from a Korean wedding exhibit and a $400 viewing screen for an earthquake display were stolen earlier, and there were obvious signs of an attempt to steal computer equipment, she said. 

Museum officials plan to begin requiring searches of visitors' bags, Dworkin said. 

Burke Museum: 
Explorer Thor Heyerdahl Dies at 87

Associated Press Writer 

OSLO, Norway April 19, 2002 (AP) - Experts scoffed at Thor Heyerdahl when he set off to cross the Pacific aboard a balsa raft in 1947, but the Norwegian adventurer's success thrilled the world and made him a hero in his homeland.

Heyerdahl, who died Thursday night at age 87, sold millions of copies of his book about the journey, "Kon-Tiki," and became a household name with his voyages aimed at proving his theories about human migration.

Heyerdahl died in his sleep at his home in Colla Michari, Italy, said his son, Thor Heyerdahl Jr. He had stopped taking food, water or medication in early April after being diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor.

"Norway has lost an original and spectacular researcher, explorer and adventurer," Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik said.

When Heyerdahl set off to cross the Pacific, experts warned his raft would sink within days. After 101 days and 4,900 miles, he proved them wrong by reaching Polynesia from Peru in a bid to prove his unconventional theories of human migration.

His later expeditions included voyages aboard the reed rafts Ra, Ra II and Tigris. His wide-ranging archaeological studies were often controversial and challenged accepted views.

Until his illness, Heyerdahl had maintained a daunting pace of research, lectures and public debate over his migration theories. His third wife, Jacqueline, said he made 70 airline trips last year.

He spent his final days surrounded by family at Colla Michari, a Roman-era Italian village he bought and restored in the 1950s. His permanent home since 1990 was on the Spanish island Tenerife in the Atlantic off Morocco.

Though he lived and worked abroad for decades, Heyerdahl was a national hero in his homeland, where one newspaper crowned him Norwegian of the Century in a millennium reader poll. He is survived by his third wife, four of his five children, eight grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

Kon-Tiki Museum: 

Dinotopia Comes Alive

Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON April 23, 2002 (AP) — Taking a break from the serious world of science, the Smithsonian's natural history museum is opening a fun new exhibit on "Dinotopia,'' a fantasy world where humans and dinosaurs live together peacefully. 

"I think art and science converge on this exhibition in special ways,'' said Robert Sullivan, associate director for public programs at the National Museum of Natural History. 

The exhibit of art and artifacts based on the popular series of Dinotopia books by James Gurney opens Wednesday and will remain at the museum through Sept. 26. Although dinosaurs died out millions of years before humans developed, the books depict a lost island where humans coexist with an array or dinosaurs long thought extinct. 

Dennis O'Connor, the Smithsonian's director of science programs, said the exhibit is "a look at what fantasy can do to learning.'' 

The lost world depicted in the books is "paleontologically absurd but at the same time fascinating,'' O'Connor said. It's thinking about what it would be like to live with dinosaurs that opens the mind to learning about them. 

Gurney calls his work "reality-based fantasy.'' He said he works closely with archeologists and other experts to make the dinosaurs he depicts as realistic as possible. 

"I want to encourage children to see dinosaurs not just as monsters but as interesting creatures,'' Gurney said. 

In his books, dinosaurs do some things real dinosaurs didn't, however, such as talk. One character, Bix, speaks several languages. Gurney said he chose a parrot-beaked dinosaur for that part because it seemed to him that if any dinosaur were to be able to talk it would be one with a beak like a parrot. His books have become increasingly popular with young people over the last 10 years. 

His art will seem familiar to adults too, the style reminiscent of N.C. Wyeth and Maxfield Parrish. 

Gurney, who also has done illustrations for magazines, said he developed the idea of Dinotopia while drawing realistic depictions of ancient cities for National Geographic. In addition to original paintings from his books, the exhibit also includes video excerpts and models from a Dinotopia miniseries scheduled to appear on ABC television next month. 

National Museum of Natural History: 


Sierra Club Sues Tyson Over Chicken Farm Waste
FRANKFORT, Ky. April 23, 2002 (AP) - The Sierra Club is suing poultry giant Tyson Foods for allegedly failing to clean up waste from four chicken farms in Kentucky. 

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Owensboro and announced Monday by the environmental group, includes charges that Tyson failed to report releases of ammonia. 

The Springdale, Ark.-based Tyson officials said they had not seen the suit and declined comment. 

In the past, the company has said the farmer-operators it contracts bear liability for pollution. Ed Nicholson, a spokesman, said there have been no comprehensive studies measuring how much ammonia is released. 

The federal Superfund law requires a permit if an operation releases more than 100 pounds of ammonia per day. 

Tyson operations in three western Kentucky counties are at issue in the suit. Local residents have also filed complaints in court against Tyson and the chicken farms over the smell.
Pigs Win Legal Battle

By Stathi Paxinos and AAP
Sydney Morning Herald

Gisborne Australia April 24 2002 (SMH) - Three not-so-little pigs have won a legal battle to remain in their own home. 

A tribunal has ruled that Lily, Lucy and Oliver don't need a special permit to stay with Maggie and Neil Park in their house in Gisborne, 50km north of Melbourne. 

Mrs Park said she was "as happy as a pig in mud" over the outcome of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal challenge, the latest in a series of protests from local residents over their unusual house pets. She said the pigs make a bit of noise when they get grumpy, but on the whole they really like nothing more than quietly watching their favorite television programs with the family.

Lucy is a real telly addict and jumps onto their bed at night to keep them company.

"She burps and farts and snores, everything my husband does so I'm pretty used to it," Mrs Park said. "She gets up on the bed when she wants to have a little bit of R'n'R and tries to get under the doona. But when she gets up, one of us has to get out of bed because she's so heavy. She's already broken a couple of slats." 

The trouble began last year when some of the Parks's neighbors did not take to the 200-kilogram porkers. They went to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal to prevent the Parks receiving a permit to keep the pigs, alleging that the animals were smelly and noisy. 

But the tribunal gave the Parks permission to keep their beloved pets at home. 

A relieved Mrs Park, who has only recently received the tribunal's decision, said she and her husband would have moved from their property had the ruling gone against them.

"They're part of our family. You don't get rid of your kids," she said yesterday. 

The Parks, who don't have children, lavish affection on the three pigs. They have the run of the house, with the couple even allocating a bedroom for the pigs, furnishing it with mattresses, blankets and a pet door. 

Mrs Park denied that the pigs were smelly or dirty, saying the reputation stemmed from commercial piggeries where the animals are kept in crowded conditions. 

"I'd prefer to have my pigs in the house than a lot of people that I have had in the house or kids who are noisy and messy and smelly," Mrs Park said. "They give you a lot of love and affection."

Greenpeace Plans Esso / Exxon Protests

Amsterdam, April 22, 2002 (Greenpeace) - Esso/Exxon Mobil, the world's biggest oil company, will be the target of a week of global protests in May, sparked by its continuing and blatant manipulation of US and international climate change policy, Greenpeace said today. 

"Yet again the Bush Administration is allowing Exxon to dictate how it should behave on energy and climate issues, with the highly politicised election of the new chair of the UN's panel on climate change," said Greenpeace campaigner, Stephanie Tunmore. 

Earlier this month a memo to the White House from ExxonMobil was leaked to a US environment group. In the memo ExxonMobil asked if the US could remove the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Dr. Bob Watson. The elections were held in Geneva on Friday, and Dr. Watson was defeated after heavy lobbying by the US. 

"This is despicable behavior" said Tunmore. "Not only does Exxon continue to deny the link between fossil fuels and climate change but now, it is interfering with the group of scientists set up by United Nations to study climate change." 

"Last year Exxon tried unsuccessfully to remove the reference in an IPCC report which linked human activities as a cause of climate change. Its strategy now seems to be if you don't like the science, change the scientists." 

Exxon is marketed as Mobil, Exxon-Mobil and Esso in different parts of the world. For the past year a coalition of environmental groups, under the banner StopEsso, has led a successful boycott against the oil company in the United Kingdom. 

"Greenpeace is calling for a global week of action in May, to protest against Exxon's outrageous behavior," said Tunmore. "Customers have a right to know about the role this company is playing in undermining climate protection. They can then choose not to buy from Exxon, or make their protest via other means. Either way, they can join the expanding global campaign against this corporate climate villain." 

The global Stop Exxon week will be held from May 12 to 18. More information is available at  and 

New Insects Dubbed Gladiator

Associated Press Writer 

WASHINGTON April 17, 2002 (AP)- For the first time in nearly a century scientists have discovered a new order of insects.

The discovery by Danish and German researchers is detailed in a paper appearing in Friday's issue of the journal Science.

Just three of the paperclip-sized insects are known. They have been placed in the new category "mantophasmatodea."

The insects are just under an inch long and two of the examples under study in laboratories came from tropical Africa. The two had been in museums. An additional example was found encased in amber from Europe's Baltic region.

The age of the African examples, now held for study in museums, is not known. The example in amber "is 45 million years old, but you can argue that they are surely much much older," said Klaus-Dieter Klass of the Max-Planck Institute for Limnology in Plon, Germany.

He said that when comparing characteristics of these insects with known orders the researchers found they did not fit with any other group.

They look a bit like crickets, for example, but lack the jumping hind legs that mark that order.

The scientists said that based on their stomach contents the insects appear to be carnivores.

In biology, an order is a primary classification of related animals, which is then subdivided into genera and species.

The researchers assigned one female insect from Namibia to the genus Mantophasma zephrya and a male from Tanzinia as Mantophasma solana. In addition they assigned the insect in Baltic amber, known as Raptophasma Zompro, to the Mantophasma order.

That insect had previously been classified in the order Orthoptera, which also includes cockroaches, crickets and grasshoppers.

The closest relatives of the new order may be the grylloblattodea (ice-crawlers) or the phasmatodea (stick insects), but there isn't enough evidence yet to be sure, the authors say.

While several different groups of marine animals have been discovered in the last fifty years, the many insects discovered have all fit into known orders, until now. The last time a new order of insects was discovered was in 1914.

The discovery was reported by researchers at the Max-Planck Institute and University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

The new insects have jaws with three small teeth and long antennae, the scientists reported. The examples found had external sex organs indicating they were adults. They lacked wings.

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