|Ancient Maya Rosetta Found! |
Uranium Shells, Supernova,
Psychedelic Salvia, Marilyn Manson,
Warp Speed Crashes & More!
|Ancient Maya Rosetta Found! |
By Peter N. Spotts
Christian Science Monitor
Guatemala March 14, 2002 (CSM) - A Harvard University archaeologist's quest for shade from the searing Guatemalan sun has led to one of the most significant finds in the past 20 years involving the ancient civilization of the Maya.
In a "back before lunch" trek that, instead, became a grueling three-day ordeal, William Saturno discovered an exquisitely preserved mural at the ruins of San Bartolo. Researchers say the find will shed light on a critical period in Mayan history, when it shifted from a farm-based society to one that would be remembered for its art, architecture, and astronomy.
Dating from 100 A.D., the mural is the oldest intact painting of Mayan mythology ever found, Saturno says. "It opens a window into the mythology and courtly life of the ancient Maya" during the end of what researchers term its pre-classical period, which extended from about 2,000 BC to 250 AD
The last time archaeologists hit this kind of paydirt was in 1946, when scientists uncovered the Bonampak murals at ruins in the Mexican state of Chiapas. That find dated to 790 AD, during the late-classical period.
The Bonampak murals "altered our vision of the late classical period," says Saturno. "We could see so many different characters. There were battle scenes, sacrifices, and named individuals."
The newly discovered murals in Guatemala "are going to be in any textbook that mentions the Maya," agrees David Freidel, an anthropologist and Maya specialist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "They will become central to our understanding of Mayan civilization."
Saturno adds that the murals are only the tip of the iceberg at the site, which appears to be a preclassical city of respectable size. Up until now, researchers have found it difficult to piece together details of early Mayan civilization. The Maya would often rebuild atop older structures, turning preclassical artifacts at other ancient cities into rubble. Trying to reconstruct early Mayan life from these shards has been a tedious task for today's cultural sleuths. Thus, the entire site of San Bartolo could well open one of the clearest windows on this period.
The path to the murals' discovery was as tortured as any a Hollywood script writer could devise.
Acting on a tip-off about a pair of Mayan stone monuments covered with inscriptions, Saturno set off on a trip to photograph them last March - the height of Guatemala's dry season. He and colleagues at Harvard University's Peabody Museum wanted to record and publish the complete set of Mayan inscriptions before looters and the region's harsh weather erase them forever.
The site has long been known to looters, but apparently not to archaeologists, Saturno says. According to his guides, the plunderers had vacated the area only a month earlier.
The group set out on what was scheduled to have been a half-day round trip. Twelve hours later, they had covered only a fraction of the distance. Illegal loggers had felled trees across the wheel ruts that passed for a road through the jungle. All the group could do was swing machetes to clear a path for their vehicle.
As Saturno tells it, the guides kept saying "not much farther." That vague encouragement led to an 8-1/2 hour hike covering 20 kilometers before the exhausted, hungry, and thirsty group reached San Bartolo. When they arrived, they found no carving-covered monuments next to the site's 80-foot-high pyramid.
Discouraged, "I went poking around in one of the looters' excavations, in part to get some shade," Saturno recalls. As they were tunneling into the pyramid, the pillagers had uncovered a room and stripped away some of the mud covering its sides. As Saturno swept the walls with flashlight, his beam fell on an exposed section of the mural. "I started laughing," he says. "There was this Mayan mural, a very rare thing."
Given the size of the room, Saturno estimates, the entire painting is up to 20 meters long, running around the perimeter of the underground chamber in which he found himself.
"It was an ugly hike back," Saturno recalls, but when the group returned to civilization, Saturno secured an an emergency grant from the National Geographic Society. He returned to the location with colleague David Stuart, who, with the assistance of Hector Escobedo from Guatemala's Universidad del Valle, performed preliminary surveys.
In addition to the pyramid, the entire site includes another ceremonial structure about half-a-kilometer away. Saturno estimates that the ruins cover about 500 acres, from north to south, but the team hasn't had a chance to gauge its east-west extent yet.
Researchers, who announced their results today and are reporting them in the April issue of National Geographic magazine, say they plan to return to the site next month to shore up the wall bearing the exposed portion of the mural. The wall was undermined by the looters' tunnel and is in danger of collapsing. Then they will begin work to uncover, record, and preserve what is likely to become a very influential piece of Mesoamerican art.
|Chinook Nation Recognition Delayed Again |
By Tom Wanamaker
Indian Country Today
SEATTLE March 11, 2002 (ICT) - The Chinook Nation of Washington must wait at least four more months before learning whether the tribe will be granted federal recognition.
Assistant Interior Secretary Neal McCaleb recently requested a 120--day extension on his time frame within which to decide on the tribe’s request. That request was granted on March 6. The decision had been due this week; its delay brings greater attention to what many believe is a flawed and inefficient tribal recognition process.
"I don’t know what [Interior’s] intentions are," said Gary Johnson, tribal Chairman, when asked whether the delay might affect the tribe’s chances for recognition. "We strongly believe in the 1925 constructive ratification in our treaty by both houses of Congress.
"We feel we’ve always been a recognized tribe," Johnson told ICT. "We’ve always received services from BIA. It’s bewildering ... we work on a daily basis with all kinds of state and federal agencies. Our office is kept open by a federal grant."
In 1997, former Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Kevin Gover originally found insufficient grounds to grant the tribe formal recognition. Upon further review, however, Gover reversed himself, declaring that the Chinook tribe met all required criteria mandated under both the 1978 and 1994 recognition regulations. Gover’s signing of the final determination was his last official act as Secretary.
An administrative court, to which the recognition decision was appealed, eventually upheld Gover’s ruling. The court eventually upheld recognition, but tasked incoming Interior Secretary Gale Norton to reconsider certain issues. Norton delegated the review to McCaleb, who on Feb. 26 asked for more time.
The Chinook "are feeling good about" the wide range of support from the Congressional and Senate delegations from both Washington and Oregon, as well as "from tribes across the country and the Lewis and Clark bicentennial group," Johnson said. "We just feel somebody needs to listen. It’s difficult to have somebody making a decision who’s never been out here to meet with us.
"It’s frustrating that we aren’t able to move forward in terms of health care and housing and [other] areas that could really benefit the Chinook people," Johnson continued. "That process dragging out is keeping us from providing services."
Federal recognition brings eligibility for funding to support things like medical care, schools, social services. Recognition also provides the authorization to negotiate potentially lucrative gaming compacts with state governments.
The 2,000-member tribe is located primarily in southwestern Washington State. The Chinook, who initiated the petition for recognition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1979, are descendants of natives who sheltered Meriwether Lewis and William Clark after the explorers reached the mouth of the Columbia River and the shores of the Pacific Ocean in late 1805. Bicentennial celebrations of the expedition begin next year.
|Secret Pentagon Nuclear Posture |
By Carol Giacomo
WASHINGTON March 12, 2002 (Reuters) — A new Pentagon policy review is sowing confusion about America's intentions for the world's most lethal nuclear arsenal.
On the one hand, President Bush has declared his intention to slash the U.S. nuclear stockpile. But the secret Pentagon nuclear posture review has raised the possibility of developing new types of nuclear weapons and described contingency plans for using them against at least seven countries.
Senior U.S. officials tried to play down news media reports about the review as nothing revolutionary, just prudent planning on the part of Pentagon strategists. "I think there's less than meets the eye and less than meets the headline with respect to the story," Secretary of State Colin Powell told a television interviewer. "We're always reviewing our options, military options, on conventional weapons, nuclear weapons. We're always reviewing our diplomatic, economic, and political options," he said.
But National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice defended the Pentagon's plans, saying the Bush administration "wants to send a very strong signal to anyone who might try to use weapons of mass destruction against the United States. The only way to deter such a use is to be clear it would be met with a devastating response," she said.
This attempt at diplomatic damage control has not stifled debate over what, to many experts, appears to be significantly shifting U.S. attitudes about the circumstances under which nuclear weapons might be used. "What the nuclear posture review does is details and confirms that the Bush administration is seeking to increase, not decrease, the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. foreign and military policy," said Darryl Kimball, director of the nonprofit Arms Control Association.
No country has used nuclear weapons since 1945, when the United States dropped bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in World War II. Since then, the United States has worked to discourage nations from developing and using nuclear weapons.
John Isaacs of the Coalition for a Liveable World said the Pentagon review takes U.S. policy "in the other direction, with the administration trying to find ways to make nuclear weapons useful and find ways in which we might actually use them." Critics fear the perceived new U.S. approach would erode even further the diplomatic pressures on countries like Iran and Iraq not to develop a nuclear capability.
As reported in the Los Angeles Times on Saturday and The New York Times on Sunday, the Pentagon has been told to draft contingency plans for using nuclear weapons against at least seven countries: Russia, China, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Libya, and Syria. Also, the Pentagon has been ordered to prepare for the possibility that nuclear weapons may be required in some future Arab-Israeli crisis and in retaliation for chemical and biological attacks, as well as "surprising military developments" of an unspecified nature, the reports said.
According to Los Angeles Times columnist William Arkin, a senior fellow at the Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies, the Bush plan "reverses an almost two-decades-long trend of relegating nuclear weapons to the category of weapons of last resort.'' Redefining nuclear requirements in light of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Pentagon review cites the need for a "host" of new nuclear weapons and support systems that could have a lower yield and produce less nuclear fallout, he said.
The United States long held that nuclear weapons were a deterrent against attack by its Cold War adversary, the Soviet Union. It has rejected using nuclear weapons against a nonnuclear state unless that state was allied with a nuclear-capable state. Now it seems the administration is "looking for nuclear weapons that could play a role in the kinds of challenges the United States faces against al Queda," the Islamic network blamed for the Sept. 11 attacks, Arkin wrote in a column.
The disclosures come at an awkward time. The administration is negotiating with Russia on a new strategic relationship, including an accord slashing both countries' nuclear arsenals by two-thirds to 1,700 to 2,200 warheads each. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov is in Washington this week for talks aimed at achieving agreements in time for a May summit between Bush and his Russian counterpart.
Bush has argued effusively that Russia is no longer an enemy but a partner, and hence, Cold War–style trappings like formal arms control agreements are no longer required.
By lumping Russia among countries to be targeted by U.S. nuclear weapons, the administration raises the question of "why are we targeting our friend," Isaacs said. "I think there are basic contradictions within the Bush administration that are not yet settled," he added.
|Acid Leak at Ohio Nuclear Plant |
By JOHN SEEWER
TOLEDO, Ohio March 12, 2002 (AP) - An acid leak inside a nuclear power plant ate a 6-inch-deep hole into a steel cap that covers the plant's reactor vessel, federal inspectors said.
The hole, which was stopped by a layer impervious to the acid, does not pose a safety threat, said Nuclear Regulatory Commission spokesman Jan Strasma. If the acid had penetrated the massive cap and allowed steam to escape, safety systems would have immediately cooled the reactor, he said.
While the steam would contain some radioactive material, it would have been confined by the reactor containment building. Even if steam had escaped from the building, there would have been no danger to the public, Strasma said.
"It's only when you get into the what-ifs that you would have had any leakage from the reactor cooling system," Strasma said Tuesday. "There was no hazard," he said. "It's certainly very unusual. It's a deterioration of a very important safety feature."
The regulatory commission is investigating to determine the cause and whether similar conditions could exist at other plants. The commission has also alerted the nation's 102 other commercial nuclear plants to watch for similar problems. It said this was the most extensive corrosion ever found on top of a U.S. nuclear plant reactor.
The hole was discovered last week while the Davis-Besse nuclear plant was shut down for normal refueling and maintenance. It could have been slowly leaking for years, Strasma said. Trace amounts of boric acid, a byproduct of the nuclear fission process inside the reactor, are believed to have dribbled onto the cap from at least one of the reactor's 69 control rods.
The acid did not penetrate an inner layer of the cap, only about three-eighths of an inch thick, because that layer of steel is impervious to boric acid, said Richard Wilkins, a spokesman for FirstEnergy Corp., the plant's operator.
"We didn't expect to find it to advance as far as it had," he said Tuesday, adding that this much corrosion had not been seen in the industry before.
The corrosion problem will keep the plant closed an extra month, Wilkins said. The plant, located along Lake Erie and about 25 miles east of Toledo, has been shut down since mid-February. The utility said it would remain shut down until at least late April.
"We know this can be repaired," Wilkins said. "We're confident the fix will be the right one."
Plant officials discovered the corrosion during repairs to five control rod nozzles after cracks were found earlier during the shutdown. The corrosion appears linked to at least one of those two leaking nozzles or to aging weld seams surrounding them, Wilkins said. FirstEnergy plans to install a new reactor head during the plant's next refueling shutdown in 2004.
The company said a new reactor cannot be installed now because it will take months to build.
"That's absolutely unacceptable," said Paul Gunter, a spokesman for the Nuclear Information and Resource Service, an industry watchdog group. "They're going to risk public health and safety."
The group wants the commission to shut down the plant until a new reactor can be installed.
|Depleted Uranium Shells May Cause Liver Damage |
By Patricia Reaney
LONDON March 12, 2002 (Reuters) — Soldiers exposed to high levels of depleted uranium may suffer kidney damage, and it could pose a danger to civilians through contaminated soil or water supplies, scientists warned on Tuesday.
But in the latest contribution to a sometimes heated debate, a report by Britain's Royal Society said that only a small number of soldiers would have inhaled large enough amounts of depleted uranium (DU) to seriously damage their health, and preventive measures could limit any danger to civilians. It said most veterans of the Gulf War or Balkans conflicts were unlikely to suffer from heavy metal poisoning.
A by-product of nuclear reactors, depleted uranium (DU) is used not for its low radioactivity but as a cheap, heavy tip that helps armor-piercing shells batter through steel plate.
"For the majority of soldiers on the battlefield, it is unlikely there will be any adverse effects on the kidneys," Professor Brian Spratt told a news conference. "The concerns that we have are about soldiers who have the highest levels of exposure to DU, those surviving within struck tanks or those working for long periods cleaning up contaminated vehicles after a battle."
Spratt said a few hundred U.S. soldiers and an unknown number of Iraqi soldiers would have been exposed to the most dangerous levels of DU.
The report also warned that DU particles in the ground near attack sites could contaminate the soil and pose a risk if some of the soil is swallowed by children. It also suggested the topsoil in heavily contaminated areas should be removed and water quality should be monitored for any contamination.
"It is very difficult to predict whether contamination of a local water supply will occur in these areas because there are too many uncertainties and variables," said Spratt. Water samples in areas where DU shells were used have been examined and there has been no sign of contamination, but the scientists said monitoring should continue because contamination could take decades.
FEAR OF CANCERS
Concerns about the health effects of the armor-piercing depleted uranium shells used in the Gulf War and the Balkans arose last year after peacekeepers in Bosnia and Kosovo said they had developed leukemia after exposure to the material. Iraq also says there is a link between depleted uranium in weapons and an increase in leukemia and other cancers.
In an earlier report, the Royal Society concluded that the levels of DU soldiers were exposed to were not high enough to raise their risk of leukemia. But it added that very high amounts could cause a very small increased risk of lung cancer.
Scientists have been hampered in their research into the health effects of DU because there is no accurate test to measure very small levels of the element in the human body. Spratt said a sensitive test could be available by the end of the year, but he added that just testing positive for DU does not mean someone will suffer from health problems.
The report called for more research into the effects of DU and long-term studies of soldiers exposed to high levels to determine any link to kidney disease and lung cancer.
Depleted uranium shells are favored by the United States, Britain, and France among others as the best and cheapest ammunition available to smash enemy armor. Some 40,000 rounds were fired in the Balkans by U.S. ground attack aircraft during the Kosovo conflict and in 1995 in Bosnia.
|Chewing Gum May Make You Smarter |
|LONDON March 13, 2002 (Reuters) - The often-maligned act of chewing gum could in fact make us smarter, according to British research. |
A joint study carried out by the University of Northumbria and the Cognitive Research Unit, Reading, has found that chewing gum has a positive effect on cognitive tasks such as thinking and memory.
"The results were extremely clear and specifically we found that chewing gum targeted memory," Andrew Scholey of the university's Human Cognitive Neuroscience Unit said. "People recalled more words and performed better in tests on working memory."
Peppermint gum, menthol or spearmint -- it makes no difference. The key is the repetitive chewing motion.
|Arctic Drilling Issue Draws Fire |
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON March 11, 2002 (AP) - Pitching the president's energy agenda, Interior Secretary Gale Norton told a farm group in Arkansas last week that oil drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge would produce more than 700,000 jobs.
She also cited the number at stops in Missouri and Indiana — and has used it in recent months on talk shows, in speeches and in newspaper op-ed articles.
But some independent economists call the figure highly suspect, based on a 12-year-old study using assumptions that may or may not be valid. A separate study for the Energy Department estimates about a third as many jobs. Environmentalists say a more accurate number — though disputed as well — would be about 50,000. Even some drilling supporters say the Norton number is at best a "high water mark" guess.
As the Senate prepares in the coming weeks to debate whether to allow oil companies to drill in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (news - web sites), the spin from both sides of the issue has contained distortions ranging from the amount of oil the refuge contains to the likely environmental impact. But it is the issue of jobs that has resonated most clearly in Congress where the future of ANWR, as the refuge is called, will be decided. Last summer the Teamsters Union dangled a 735,000 jobs number before lawmakers, helping win House passage of an energy bill that includes drilling in the refuge.
Last week, Norton cited the likelihood of "more than 700,000 jobs" across the country as she urged approval of ANWR drilling to a business group in South Bend, Ind., in St. Louis and during a stop at the Arkansas Farm Bureau in Little Rock. The last stop was no coincidence. Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas is among a handful of Democrats still undecided on the drilling issue.
Norton's spokesman, Mark Pfeifle, said Norton is not alone in using the 700,000 number. Indeed, it has been cited frequently by pro-drilling union leaders and by members of Congress, primarily Republicans, who want the drilling ban lifted.
So where does it come from? And is it reliable?
Norton is relying on "her discussions with labor leaders," said Pfeifle, adding, "It could possibly be a little bit more or a little bit less."
The Teamsters cite a 1990 report written by WEFA Group, an economic consulting firm, for the American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry trade group. But Teamsters lobbyist Jerry Hood said in an interview he now prefers to talk of "a range" of anticipated jobs from ANWR development of from 250,000 to 735,000. "Jobs creation is an art. It's not a science," he said.
Hood's lower figure comes from a 1992 study done for the Energy Department by DRI-McGraw Hill, another consulting firm, that projected 222,480 jobs from ANWR drilling. Pfeifle said he does not know whether Norton has seen the 60-page WEFA report, a copy of which was obtained by The Associated Press. He said he had never heard of the 1992 study for the Energy Department.
The authors of the 1990 WEFA study no longer work at the company, according to a spokesman who acknowledged it was "a bit out of date."
"We would not come up with the same numbers today," said Mary Novak, an economist and managing director of WEFA's energy programs. Not involved in the 1990 study, she declined to discuss the report in detail.
Some other economists have questioned whether the analysis from 12 years ago — and the assumptions its authors used — can provide an accurate forecast of jobs today. The study assumes ANWR development would begin in the late 1990s and peak in 2005.
"The numbers don't make sense. ... They're not even in the ballpark," maintains Dean Baker, an economist whose analysis has been cited frequently by environmentalists.
Baker contends that if WEFA's assumptions were changed to reflect current oil markets and more likely ANWR production levels, the job forecast would be no more than 50,000 — a number dismissed by pro-drilling advocates as unrealistic. Baker says WEFA used a package of assumptions that deliberately exaggerated the impact of ANWR oil on world markets.
For example, the study assumes ANWR will produce 1.9 million barrels of oil a day and that world production will be no more than 55 million barrels when ANWR production reaches peak levels. The Energy Department says that level of ANWR production is given a 5 percent chance of probability and critics note world production today already is 77 million barrels a day and will be much higher by the time ANWR begins to produce.
Also, says Baker, the study assumes that other producers will not respond to a decline in oil prices.
Some of these assumptions made more than a decade ago "are suspect, and you might underline suspect," says Robert Ebel, a global energy expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who has no involvement in the ANWR drilling debate.
But John Felmy, chief economist at the American Petroleum Institute, which commissioned the 1990 WEFA study, says it's still valid and its jobs projections shouldn't be discounted. "There's going to be hundreds of thousands of jobs," he says, though predicting no specific number.
|Ancient Supernova May Have Sparked Earth Disaster |
By Richard Stenger
Earth March 11, 2002 (CNN) - Piecing together clues from astronomy, paleontology and geology, scientists have proposed that an ancient supernova may have damaged the protective ozone layer around the Earth and wreaked havoc on terrestrial life.
The researchers theorize that a group of young stars prone to short, cataclysmic lives passed relatively near our solar system several million years ago.
"Nobody had realized that this cluster of stars ... could have been so close to Earth during the (time)," says astronomer Narciso Benitiez.
Along with his partner Jesus Maiz-Appellanis, Benitez dug around in the geologic record for evidence that one of the rogue stars detonated with the Earth in the blast zone.
"When I did a search, one of the first things that popped out was a 1999 finding," Benitiez says. A team of German astronomers had found an unusual variety of iron in samples drilled from the Earth's crust below the ocean floor.
The Germans hypothesized that the iron isotope originated from a supernova, but knew of no suspect stars in our celestial neighborhood when the strange metal was thought to have dusted the planet, Benitez says.
But Maiz-Appellanis and Benitez did some detective work and came up with the likely culprit -- a volatile star pack known as the Scorpius-Centaurus OB Association, which passed relatively near the solar system several million years ago.
A crucial break in the detective case came from a fortuitous source, Benitez's wife, microbiologist Matilde Canelles, whom Benitez enlisted to search the fossil record for clues.
Canelles found strong evidence that a catastrophe killed off a large population of marine organisms about two million years ago.
Her husband calculated that the Scorpius-Centaurus horde so was close to the Earth at the time, that if one of them had gone supernova, the powerful energy blast could have stripped away much of the ozone layer, which protects terrestrial life from harmful solar ultraviolet rays.
"This would have produced a significant reduction in phytoplankton abundance and biomass, with devastating effects on other marine populations, such as bivalves," Benitez says.
The scientists acknowledge that more study is necessary to confirm their theory. But if it proves correct, there's little to worry about from Scorpius-Centaurus.
The next member of the gang expected to go supernova is Antares, which at roughly 500 light-years away is too distant to rattle our planet, they say.
|Hunt Distant Planets - Cheap! |
NASA/JPL NEWS RELEASE March 12, 2002 - It could fit on your desk, and it's made mostly from parts bought at a camera shop, but two scientists believe their new instrument will help them find a slew of large planets orbiting stars in our Milky Way galaxy.
"An amateur astronomer could do this, except maybe for the debugging of the software, which requires several people working 10 hours a day," said Dr. David Charbonneau of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. "But it's easy to understand what's going on and cheap to build the equipment. That's why everyone thinks it's an ideal project, if it works."
The assembly of the new instrument is a cooperative effort between Charbonneau and Dr. John Trauger of NASA'S Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, which is managed by Caltech. "David's approach promises to locate new planets orbiting distant stars. The instrument is simple and straightforward, taking advantage of spare parts and computer code we already have on hand at JPL, and we hope to have it up and running in a few months," Trauger said.
Charbonneau and his colleagues will soon use their gizmo to begin a three-year survey for extra-solar planets at Palomar Observatory in San Diego County. The instrument is based on a standard telephoto lens for a 35-millimeter camera. It will sweep the skies, looking for "hot Jupiters," or large, gaseous planets, as their fast orbits take them in front of other stars, into the line of sight between a star and Earth. Astronomers will watch for the "wink" from the star as an orbiting planet partially blocks its light.
Charbonneau, a recent import to the Caltech astronomy staff from the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Cambridge, Mass., is a leading authority on the search for such "transiting planets."
The new instrument uses a standard 300-millimeter Leica camera lens, with a charge-coupled device, or CCD. The CCD, which costs $22,000, will be mounted in a specially constructed camera housing to fit at the back of the lens. The entire device will be fitted onto an inexpensive equatorial mount, available at many stores carrying amateur astronomical equipment.
"Basically, the philosophy of this project is that, if we can buy the stuff we need off the shelf, we'll buy it," Charbonneau said. The project costs $100,000, a fraction of the cost of most large Earth and space-based telescopes.
The Palomar staff will provide a small dome for the instrument, and the system will be automated so it can be operated remotely. The new telescope will be linked with an existing weather system, which will monitor atmospheric conditions and determine whether the dome should be opened.
Charbonneau will be able to photograph a single square of sky about five degrees by five degrees. About 100 full moons or an entire constellation could fit in that field of view. With special software Charbonneau helped develop at Harvard-Smithsonian and the National Center for Atmospheric Research, he will compare many pictures of the same patch of sky to see if any of the thousands of stars in each field has "winked."
If the software reveals a star has dimmed slightly, it could mean a planet passed in front of the star between exposures. Repeated measurements will allow Charbonneau to measure the orbital period and size of each planet. Further work with the 10-meter (33-foot) telescopes at Keck Observatory at Mauna Kea, Hawaii, will provide spectrographic data, and thus, will infer more detailed information about the planet.
Weather permitting, Charbonneau will gather up to 300 images a night. With 20 good nights per month, about 6,000 images would be gathered each month for computer analysis. The ideal time will be in the fall and winter, when the Milky Way is in view, and an extremely high number of stars can be squeezed into each photograph.
"It's estimated that about one in three stars in our field of view will be like the Sun, and one percent of Sun-like stars have a hot Jupiter, or a gas giant that is so close to the star that its orbit is about four or five days," Charbonneau said. "One-tenth of this 1-percent will be inclined in the right direction so that it will pass in front of the star, so maybe one in 3,000 stars will have a planet we can detect. Or if you want to be conservative, about one in 6,000."
|Churning Whirlpool Stars in Ultraviolet Jupiter Movie |
Pasadena March 13, 2002 (NASA) - A dark patch of hydrocarbon haze, wider than Earth, develops and swirls in a new movie clip from ultraviolet images taken by NASA's Cassini spacecraft of Jupiter's upper atmosphere, or stratosphere.
Observations in the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum reveal features in Jupiter's stratosphere that are transparent in the visible-light portion of the spectrum. One surprise is the dark vortex whose birth and migration can be seen during the 11-week span of the movie taken while Cassini was approaching Jupiter in late 2000.
Development of this feature resembles development of ozone holes in Earth's stratosphere in that both processes appear to occur only within confined masses of high-altitude polar air. The similarity may help scientists understand both processes better.
A video file related to this release will air on NASA Television March 13 and 14 during the NASA TV video file feed scheduled for noon, 3 p.m., 6 p.m., 9 p.m., and midnight EST. NASA TV is broadcast on GE-2, transponder 9C, C-Band, located at 85 degrees West longitude. The frequency is 3880.0 MHz. Polarization is vertical and audio is monaural at 6.8 MHz. For general questions about NASA video files, contact Fred Brown, NASA TV, Washington, D.C. (202) 358-0713.
Cassini made its closest pass to Jupiter on Dec. 30, 2000, gaining a gravitational boost for reaching its main destination, Saturn, in 2004. More information about the mission is available at http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov . Cassini is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL manages the Cassini and Galileo missions for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
The movie clip and a still image mapping all 360 degrees of Jupiter in ultraviolet are available online from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., at http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/images/jupiter and from the Cassini imaging team, based at the Boulder, Colo., campus of the Southwest Research Institute, at http://ciclops.lpl.arizona.edu
|Car Dweller Gets Red Mercedes to Live In |
|LONDON March 12, 2002 (Reuters) - A British woman who lived in a car for 26 years has been given a new home in a neighbor's red Mercedes after the local authority towed away her rusting wreck. |
Former music teacher Ann Naysmith moved into her beloved Ford Consul in 1976 in protest at being evicted from her London flat, and had lived there ever since.
The local council removed the hulk as a possible health hazard.
But neighbors who had grown used to its 60-year-old owner stepped in to help, parking a red Mercedes in the Ford's place with a sign in the window reading: "Welcome home Miss Naysmith."
"It seemed a straightforward and sensible solution," said Sian Lines, owner of the Mercedes, adding that Naysmith had threatened to set fire to herself as a protest.
|Bush Proposes Ending Protection for Fish |
By Katherine Pfleger
WASHINGTON March 12, 2002 (AP) — The Bush administration is seeking to temporarily end habitat protections for 19 populations of salmon and steelhead in four Western states, which could open the areas to greater development.
In a proposed settlement entered in federal court Monday, the National Marine Fisheries Service said it will eliminate and then revise the protections to settle lawsuits filed by the Association of California Water Agencies, National Association of Home Builders, and 16 other groups of developers and local governments.
Jim Lecky, the service's Southwest regional administrator for protected resources, said the fish still will be protected under the Endangered Species Act while the habitat provisions are reworked, a process that could take roughly two years.
The developers and local governments filed suit, arguing the protections were "excessive, unduly vague, not justified as essential" and "not based upon a required analysis of economic impacts."
Duane Desiderio of the homebuilders' association said his group sees value in such habitat protection but added, "We just want the government to do it right."
Environmentalists say President Bush is going against his campaign promise to help save the endangered fish and that the proposed settlement is part of a larger campaign to roll back environmental protections enacted under President Clinton. "It sounds like they are giving the home builders a pass," said Nicole Cordan, policy and legal director for Save Our Wild Salmon.
An environmental group, Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund, has asked to intervene in the case and planned to file an objection to the settlement on behalf of environmental and fishing industry groups.
Critical habitat designations are one of the most controversial provisions of the Endangered Species Act. In some cases, they allow the National Marine and Fisheries Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service to limit or block activities in the areas if threatened or endangered species may be harmed.
The critical habitat provisions for the salmon and steelhead were issued by the Clinton administration in February 2000. They outlined safeguards for populations of chinook, chum, coho, and sockeye salmon and covered a wide swath of land, touching 150 watersheds, river segments, bays, and estuaries in Washington, Oregon, California, and Idaho, including metropolitan areas like Seattle and Portland.
The Fish and Wildlife Service also said recently that it plans to review — and in some cases set aside — critical habitat designations for up to 10 other endangered species in the West. The government's proposal to eliminate the protections stems from a decision in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals requiring the federal agencies to do a better job analyzing the economic impact of the critical habitat protections.
U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, based in the District of Columbia, will decide whether to grant the motion for settlement.
|New Poll Says Hillary Closes Gap for 2004 |
March 11, 2002 (Zogby) - New York Senator and former First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton has moved significantly closer to being the top choice as the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee, a new Zogby America poll reveals.
Former Vice President Al Gore is still the top choice among likely Democratic voters at 27%, with Clinton the clear second choice at 22%. In August 2001, Gore led Clinton 40%-24%.
Clinton is followed in the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination by Senate Democratic Leader Tom Daschle (8%), with House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt and former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley, both at 7%. The poll of 414 likely Democratic voters nationwide was conducted March 8-10. Margin of sampling error is +/- 5%.
Others receiving support for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination include Massachusetts Senator John Kerry (3%), with former Nebraska Senator Bob Kerry, Indiana Senator Evan Bayh, and Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, all at 2%.
Although Gore won the popular vote over President George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential elections, slightly more Democratic voters believe it is time for another Democratic presidential nominee (42%) in 2004 than those who believe Gore deserves the Democratic nomination (38%).
|Court Rules Frozen Couple Must Be Buried |
|By CHRISTIAN PANVERT |
SAUMUR, France March 13, 2002 (AP) - The corpses of a dead couple who were frozen in the hope of one day being brought back to life must be removed from their cryogenic chambers and buried, a French court ruled Wednesday.
The court in the central French town of Saumur ruled in favor of local authorities, who had argued that the continued refrigeration of Raymond Martinot and Monique Leroy was against the law.
According to French law, a corpse must be buried, cremated or donated to science. The couple's son, Remy Martinot, 35, had sought to keep his parents' bodies in the basement of the family's chateau in the town of Neuil-sur-Layon, arguing he was carrying out his parents' last wishes.
When his longtime companion died in 1984, Raymond Martinot, a doctor who was fascinated by cryonics, received an authorization from local authorities to have her body buried at the family's chateau. But instead of interring her, he injected anticoagulants into her veins and froze the body.
Raymond Martinot told his son that when he died, he wanted to be frozen alongside his wife, and left the necessary needles and products to inject him with. The elder Martinot died on Feb. 22 at the age of 80.
But this time, local authorities objected. The court in Suamur authorized officials to use force if necessary in carrying out its ruling. After the verdict, the son's lawyer, Alain Fouquet, said he would appeal the decision. But an appeal will not delay the couple's burial. Fouquet said he felt the court had not deliberated long enough, and that the subject of cryonics "had the right to a profound debate."
Fouquet, had urged the court "to respect the last wishes of Dr. Martinot" and argued that although "funerary legislation gives no permission for freezing a corpse, it does not prohibit it." Prosecutor Jean-Frederic Lamouroux argued last week that the couple's removal from their refrigerated chambers was an "issue of public order and public health."
Several years before Dr. Martinot died, he was interviewed by French television station M6 and said he was unsure that scientific advances would ever meet his goal.
"It might be extremely long, because no one can predict what will happen in the future," he told his interviewer. "It might never be possible."
|Sacred Salvia Divinorum New Psychedelic Favorite |
By WILL WEISSERT
HUAUTLA DE JIMENEZ, Mexico March 11, 2002 (AP) - This sweltering corner of the Sierra Mazateca Mountains has gotten some unusual visitors lately, thanks to a fernlike plant with thick stems and fluffy leaves.
A British businessman showed up with a sack of pesos, asking to trade them for a sack of leaves. A Spanish importer offered a theater-style TV and satellite service in exchange for three seedlings. A couple from Mexico City spent four days asking questions, learning how to dry the plant's stems and extract its bitter juice.
All were trying to grab a piece of the small but growing market for Salvia Divinorum, a legal hallucinogen that packs a more powerful psychedelic punch than peyote, psyllocybin mushrooms or any other natural hallucinogen.
"More and more people come here and ask to try it. Others ask me how they can grow it," said Alejandro Martinez, a 24-year-old student who grows more than 700 Salvia plants next to a mountain stream. "I had coffee plants, but now I'm planting Pastora in their place."
Known to locals as "Maria Pastora," or "Mary the Shepherdess," Salvia is a member of the mint family and a distant relative of cooking sage that grows naturally only around Mazatec Indian settlements in this remote corner of Oaxaca state. Web sites hawk the herb as "legal ecstasy," boast of its wild popularity on the streets of New York's Greenwich Village and encourage would-be buyers to experience a Salvia trip before authorities declare it illegal. But for dozens of Mazatec healers, Salvia is a powerful and sacred plant with curative powers and frightening mind-altering effects.
"One has to be very delicate with Pastora. It is the most dangerous plant we have," said Aurelia Catarino Oseguera, a 56-year-old shaman who speaks only Mazatec. "It opens doors in your head that let you see God, and that can be frightening."
Users say Salvia can produce vivid hallucinations and out-of-body experiences, but can also make them feel like inanimate objects and cause short-term memory loss. Its unpredictable effects make even regular users nervous. One Internet chat room participant warned those trying Salvia to be ready for "the most intense experience humanly possible next to death."
"This is not a party drug. It's a drug that takes you to a very deep and introspective place, and that's not always a fun place to be," said Daniel Siebert, creator of a Malibu, Calif.-based Web site devoted to selling and researching Salvia. "With high doses, its effects happen so fast and are so intense that you don't have time to really understand what's going on and you spend your time trying to get back to reality."
The Mazatecs believe that people who disrespect an animal, a river or any other feature of nature can find themselves cursed with illness. They must seek the advice of a shaman who offers patients psyllocybin mushrooms or Salvia to discover what they did wrong. Herbal healers say rubbing Salvia on skin can heal burns and make scars disappear. They say wearing the sage on the head for 20 minutes can cure any headache.
"For our ancestors, Pastora was the most important plant there was," said Arturo Ortiz, a 38-year-old healer whose one-room shack is cluttered with an assortment of pickle jars filled with herbal concoctions for afflictions from foot pain to cardiac arrest. "Its juices have more power to heal than outsiders can understand."
Since the early 1960s, this scruffy coffee-growing city of 50,000 has been famous in hard-drugging circles, attracting thousands of hippies looking for a shaman to guide them on a magical mushroom trip. The promise of psychedelic romps brought Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones and Pete Townsend to Huautla. Locals swear that the Beatles arrived here by helicopter to celebrate Ringo Starr's birthday in 1968.
But fresh mushrooms are available only during the rainy season between May and August. Four-foot-high Salvia plants grow year-round. Catarino has overseen the mushroom trips of hundreds of foreigners inside a fiberglass-roofed barn plastered with statues and pictures of Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary. She said so many tourists have come asking for Salvia recently that she now refuses to give it out.
"When you die, everyone has to pay for what they did in life," said Catarino, who still grows Salvia in her garden to treat sick neighbors. "If I give Pastora to people who don't need it, I will pay for it and be punished when I die."
Salvia's growing popularity has spawned a cottage industry of local coffee farmers who grow the plant for export, said Juan Campos, an anthropologist at the National Indigenous Institute's Huautla office.
"There is some evidence that ritual use is declining and that some Mazatecs are growing the plant for sale," he said, adding that shipping the sage out of the country is legal as long as exporters obtain a permit from Mexico's forestry service. Martinez, the student who makes extra money pairing tourists with their desired drug, said he now meets five foreigners a week who are looking for Salvia.
"Two years ago nobody wanted Pastora," he said. "Wait two more years and everyone is going to be like me: They are going to be selling it to lots of people."
Martinez offers foreigners the eight to 30 Salvia leaves it takes to get high for $5.50. On Web sites from Madison, Wis., to Manchester, England, an ounce of 100-200 leaves fetches up to $120. International sellers say they have yet to see an increase in sales, however.
"There has been a spike in sales lately but it's not usually something that lasts," Siebert said. "People who are curious buy it once, find they don't like it and don't buy it again."
The administrator of another online Salvia distributor said that despite its high price, the sage generates only about $5,000 in annual sales.
"It is not a top-selling item," said the distributor, who spoke only on condition of anonymity because he didn't want his cyberspace competitors to know his share of the Salvia market.
Rogene Waite, spokeswoman for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, said agents are gathering information on Salvia but there is "no kind of timetable" on banning it. Martinez said the longer the sage stays legal, the more people will come here looking for it.
"The attitude now is, 'Why not try it?'" he said. "Many of us hope that doesn't change."
|Genre News: Winona Ryder, Kelly Rutherford, Jolie and Thornton, Toons Thrive, Patrick Stewart, Mia Sara and Marilyn Manson! |
Winona Ryder Tape Shows No Misdeeds
LOS ANGELES March 12, 2002 (AP) — A surveillance tape of Winona Ryder's shopping spree that led to shoplifting charges does not show the actress using scissors to clip security tags from merchandise, as prosecutors have alleged, the Los Angeles Times reported Tuesday.
Ryder, who was arrested Dec. 12 at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, was charged in February with felony counts of theft, burglary, vandalism and possession of a pain reliever without a prescription.
At the time the charges were filed, the district attorney's office issued a news release quoting police as saying Ryder had been seen on a closed-circuit camera using scissors to clip security tags from merchandise.
The Times said no scenes involving scissors were shown on the tape. The paper did not say how it came to view the tape.
"Contrary to the public perception, this tape exonerates her,'' said Ryder's lawyer, Mark Geragos. "I'd say this is a prosecution, interrupted.''
Beverly Hills police have said store security officers saw Ryder remove security tags from several items, place them in her bag and leave the store.
The newspaper said the tape does show Ryder donning a black hat and riding an escalator with it on at one point. The price tag is visible on the hat when she enters a dressing room, the newspaper said, but can't be seen when she emerges 15 minutes later.
The star of such films as "Girl, Interrupted,'' "Heathers'' and "Edward Scissorhands'' is free on $20,000 bail. The tape is to be shown at her preliminary hearing on Thursday.
Rutherford Gets Witchy On Fox - Gayheart Exits
Hollywood March 12, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Kelly Rutherford (Dixie Cousins on The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.) will play a witch in Eastwick, a Fox drama pilot based on the movie The Witches of Eastwick, Variety reported. Chris Evans and Jonathan Bennett have also been cast as sons-of-witches in the show, the trade paper added.
In other Fox casting news, Rebecca Gayheart, who was previously cast in Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon's upcoming SF series Firefly, has dropped out of the two-hour pilot, the trade paper reported. The search is on for a replacement.
Jolie and Thornton Adopt Cambodian Boy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Film stars Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton on Tuesday have named their adopted son Maddox, and said the 7-1/2 month-old boy will be raised both in the United States and in Cambodia, where he was born.
News of Jolie and Thornton's new son came from Jolie's father, Jon Voight, at a luncheon for Academy Award nominees here on Monday, and the new parents said it took them by surprise. They had received Maddox only that day in Africa where Jolie is working on her latest film.
"We are very grateful to have him in our lives," the two said in a joint statement. Jolie and Thornton said in the statement they first met the baby boy in an orphanage during a trip to Cambodia in November, and they "felt a connection" to him.
Over the past several months, the two parents -- she a star of last summer's hit "Tomb Raider" and he of more recent films "The Man Who Wasn't There" and "Monster's Ball" -- have had their backgrounds checked for Cambodian officials. They said Maddox finally received a Cambodian passport, and he will be spending the next few months with his adoptive parents in Africa and Asia. While he has an American name, they will also give him a Cambodian name, the two said.
"In May, we return home where his brothers Willie and Harry are very excited to meet him," they said.
Willie and Harry are Thornton's sons from a marriage with his previous wife, Pietra. On Monday, at the Oscar luncheon, Voight was asked if Jolie had talked to him about his Oscar nomination for portraying sportscaster Howard Cosell in the movie "Ali."
Voight indicated she hadn't because she was busy with her new son. That is when reporters first heard the news.
Voight was obviously delighted. "I'm a grandfather today," said the actor, beaming with a broad smile like any new granddad would. "I'd be happy to go to Africa and baby-sit, change diapers.'' Voight said.
Toons Thrive As Net Grows 100 New Episodes
By Jim McConville
NEW YORK March 8, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - As buyers and sellers gear up for the kids upfront advertising sales market expected to break next week, the Cartoon Network unveiled its schedule for the 2002-03 season that includes two new original series and one Japanese animated import.
The new series are part of Cartoon's more than 100 new episodes of original animated programs slated to air during the next year 12 months that were unveiled at the network's pre-upfront presentation here Thursday. The so-called upfront market is the period when media buyers make the bulk of their advertising buys for the upcoming season.
The total volume of ad spending on kid-oriented TV programs has hovered about $700 million-$800 million for the past few years. Armed with its new series, Cartoon Network executives are bullish on this year's kids upfront after securing double-digit ad sales increases in what was considered a lackluster children's ad market.
Stewart Talks Nemesis
Hollywood March 8, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Star Trek: Nemesis star Patrick Stewart told E! News Daily that it's not clear whether the upcoming 10th Trek film will be the last for the Next Generation crew, according to a report on the TrekWeb site.
"I honestly don't know, and I also don't know if it should be," Stewart told the show. "Ultimately, these things come down to one issue, and that's profits. But I have a notion that there is a sequel begging to be made of this particular movie [laughs]."
Stewart reprises the role of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard in the movie, which introduces a new villain, Shinzon, played by British actor Tom Hardy.
"The good captain [patting his chest] has been captured, and he is a prisoner of Shinzon, our young bad guy," Stewart said. "[Let's call him a] confused guy. ... He is very bright, very charismatic, but psychologically a terrible mess." Nemesis is slated for a November release.
Oz Returns With Mia Sara
Hollywood March 12, 2002 (eXoNews) - According to Variety, WB is piloting "Lost in Oz" co-starring actress Mia Sara and featuring Australian actors Melissa George and Colin Egglesfield.
The series would be based on the Oz books written by original Wizard of Oz creator L. Frank Baum and his successors. Feature attempts at taking Oz beyond the 1939 MGM classic with Judy Garland have usually drawn lukewarm response, but the sequels to the original book have delighted children and parents for over 90 years.
Marilyn Manson Challenges UK Pop Idol Gareth
LONDON March 13, 2002 (Reuters) - The British pop charts are warming up for a struggle between good and evil as American Satanic rocker Marilyn Manson releases an album on the same day as stammering, squeaky-clean 'Pop Idol' runner-up Gareth Gates.
Drawing up the battlelines on Wednesday, Manson said his years of drug and alcohol abuse were just as much of a handicap as Gates' stammer, and he deserved a Number One hit.
Manson, who bases his act around devil worship, releases "Tainted Love" on Monday, the same day as former choir-boy Gates cover version of "Unchained Melody."
But in an interview with music magazine NME, Manson revealed he is worried about going head-to-head with Gates and called on record buyers to show him an equal amount of sympathy.
"You think he's going to win by default because he's handicapped and people feel sorry for him?" he said. "Well I can assure you that I'm mentally handicapped in some ways from years of drugs and alcohol, so I deserve my fair shot."
But Gennaro Castaldo, spokesman for record store HMV, is confident Gates will still outsell Manson.
"I can't see him beating Gareth," he said. "Although Manson's song is a good record, Gates is likely to sell hundreds of thousands and take the number one spot. However, Manson does have a large following and I could see him getting to number two or three."
|Western Shoshone Land Fight Heads to Congress |
By Valerie Taliman
Southwest Bureau Chief
Indian Country Today
RUBY VALLEY, Nev. March 12, 2002 (ICT) - The protracted struggle of the Western Shoshone to preserve their homelands spans more than 140 years and includes five decades of costly court battles to prove that they still own and occupy the land.
Now their fight moves to Congress March 21 when the Senate Indian Affairs Committee hears testimony on a controversial bill that threatens to end the tribes’ legal claim to the land.
Senate Bill 958, sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid, D--Nev., is intended to distribute $121 million awarded to the "Western Shoshone identifiable group" by the Indian Claims Commission in 1979. It does not contain provisions for a land settlement. Sen. Reid declined to make a fresh comment on the bill when called by ICT and referred to an earlier statement. "The Western Shoshone have waited long enough for the distribution of these funds," said his June release."The final distribution of this fund has lingered for more than 20 years, and the best interests of the tribe will not be served by a further delay in enacting this legislation."
The problem is the majority of Western Shoshone people don’t want the money. They want their land.
The basis of their claim is an 1863 treaty that granted settlers certain rights--of--way when the U.S. government asked permission from the Western Shoshone Nation to pass through their homelands, mine for gold and silver and establish towns to support mining. What is clear in the historical record is that the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley never ceded title to millions of acres of land in Nevada, Idaho, Utah and California. And despite decades of court battles and legal maneuvering, the question of title to the land has never been litigated.
Much controversy surrounds both the 1979 monetary judgment by the Indian Claims Commission (ICC) and a 1998 vote wherein a group of individual Western Shoshones worked with Reid to organize an effort to get Congress to distribute the ICC judgment fund. Despite opposition from nearly all the Western Shoshone tribal governments, and in violation of a 1994 Executive Order on "government-to-government" relations with Indian nations, Reid’s bill seeks a per capita distribution of the judgment to those tribal members who will accept the money.
Attorneys representing Western Shoshone governments argue that the vote by an "identifiable group" of individuals to accept a monetary award is not the same thing as acceptance by the Western Shoshone as a nation or tribe. Of more than 6,500 eligible tribal members, only 1,230 voted to accept payment of the ICC judgment and 53 voted against it. The vast majority, more than 5,200 Western Shoshone, didn’t attend the two meetings held in 1998 to conduct the vote.
"The Western Shoshone tribal future depends on getting an economically viable land base out of their ancestral territory," said Tom Luebben, whose Albuquerque, N.M. law firm represents two of the nine Western Shoshone tribal governments. "They’ve tried desperately to salvage their land claim and the courts told them it was too late for justice and to go to Congress for help. The Interior Department has failed to negotiate a land settlement, and if Senator Reid’s bill is enacted, it will leave the Shoshones with no significant land base and disinherit future generations."
Chief Raymond Yowell of the Western Shoshone National Council said the ICC lacked the authority to extinguish land title and that its jurisdiction was limited to awarding money damages for "ancient wrongs."
"By what law did the United States acquire Western Shoshone territory?" he asks. "There have been 15 court decisions on this and federal district and appeals courts have decided several times that we still hold title to our territory and that the Claims Commission never litigated the issue of title. But we were blocked by the Supreme Court in its 1985 ruling in United States v. Dann when it decided that the claims award itself prevents us from defending our territorial title in court," he said. "We have continually rejected the monetary award. It is our position that we will never accept an award for a taking that never occurred."
According to the Indian Claims Commission in 1962, the land was taken by "gradual encroachment of whites, settlers and others." No actual date of taking could be established, nor was the ICC able to identify the number of acres or specific areas where U.S. citizens encroached. But attorneys who were later fired by the tribe stipulated July 1, 1872 as the "date of valuation" for purposes of compensation. The ICC’s decision was used to ratify a presumption that a "taking" had somehow occurred.
In 1979, despite Western Shoshone attempts to stop the proceedings, the U.S. Court of Claims awarded less than $27 million -- the 1872 value without interest -- to the tribe to be held in by the Interior Department. That amount has since grown to $121 million.
Legal scholar Milner S. Ball at the University of Georgia Law School observed, "The Supreme Court held a ‘payment’ had been effected, though the Indians received no money and opposed the conversion of their land. The trust doctrine was the device the Court struck upon for executing this maneuver.
"The United States was not only the judgment debtor to Indians, but was also trustee to the Indians. Therefore, the U.S. as debtor can pay itself as trustee, say this change in bookkeeping constitutes payment to Indians, and the Court will certify the fiction as reality."
The Supreme Court’s decision "may be called a perversion of the trust doctrine because it eliminated the role of Congress, according to federal Indian law professor Peter d’Errico at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who sees an opportunity for an historical wrong to be made right.
"Congress retains the power to reinstitute the prior understanding of an Indian Claims Commission award, but Sen. Reid’s bill must be revised if it is to preserve Western Shoshone land rights," he said. "As written, it contains a substantial deception and is unworthy of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. In the face of opposition from the Western Shoshone National Council, the bill should be rejected. The bill is an outright deception. The law is quite clear. Acceptance of an ICC ‘award’ extinguishes land rights. I suspect the language in the bill that claims that ‘accepting judgment funds shall not be construed as a waiver of existing treaty rights’ is political. It appears to have been crafted with an eye to deceiving Western Shoshones. It encourages them to believe that they can accept the claims ‘award’ without prejudice to their ongoing efforts to enforce the terms of 1863 treaty, and that’s simply not true."
D’Errico said it is imperative for the Congress to deal honorably with Indian Nations under legal and ethical obligations of the U.S.
"If this bill passes, what rights will the Western Shoshone have left under the Treaty of Ruby Valley?" he asked. "The sponsors should enumerate those rights on the record."
The solution to the long-standing struggle for the land is to enact legislation to convert the ICC judgment award to compensate the Western Shoshone for past wrongs and open the path to enforce Western Shoshone title to the land, he said. Chief Yowell contends the most practical solution is a compromise that must be negotiated in good faith with his people who have spent decades and millions of dollars trying to achieve an agreement.
"The Western Shoshone will not consent to the distribution of the ICC monetary award as long as it is categorized as payment for our territory. The land is sacred; it is the church of the Western Shoshone people and cannot be sold. I hope the Senate Indian Affairs Committee will hear us out and wisely reject the bill. We’re still open to negotiations and we hope they are too."
Western Shoshone Defense Project - http://www.alphacdc.com/wsdp/
NativeWeb - http://www.nativeweb.org/resources/law_legal_issues/
|Digital Domesday Dies After 16 Years |
By Robin McKie
and Vanessa Thorpe
England March 3, 2002 (Observer UK) - It was meant to be a showcase for Britain's electronic prowess - a computer-based, multimedia version of the Domesday Book. But 16 years after it was created, the £2.5 million BBC Domesday Project has achieved an unexpected and unwelcome status: it is now unreadable.
The special computers developed to play the 12in video discs of text, photographs, maps and archive footage of British life are - quite simply - obsolete.
As a result, no one can access the reams of project information - equivalent to several sets of encyclopedias - that were assembled about the state of the nation in 1986. By contrast, the original Domesday Book - an inventory of eleventh-century England compiled in 1086 by Norman monks - is in fine condition in the Public Record Office, Kew, and can be accessed by anyone who can read and has the right credentials.
'It is ironic, but the 15-year-old version is unreadable, while the ancient one is still perfectly usable,' said computer expert Paul Wheatley. 'We're lucky Shakespeare didn't write on an old PC.'
Nor is the problem a new one. A crisis in digital preservation now afflicts all developed countries. Databases recorded in old computer formats can no longer be accessed on new generation machines, while magnetic storage tapes and discs have physically decayed, ruining precious databases.
For millennia, men and women have used paper to create everything from the Dead Sea Scrolls to Neville Chamberlain's 'piece of paper from Herr Hitler'. In the past few decades, computers, scanners, cassettes, videos, CDs, minidiscs and floppy disks have been used to replace the written word. Yet in just a few short years these digital versions have started to degrade.
The space agency NASA has already lost digital records sent back by its early probes, and in 1995 the US government come close to losing a vast chunk of national census data, thanks to the obsolescence of its data retrieval technology.
Betamax video players, 8in and 5in computer disks, and eight-track music cartridges have all become redundant, making it impossible to access records stored on them. Data stored on the 3in disks used in the pioneering Amstrad word-processor is now equally inaccessible.
Our digital heritage - only a few decades old - is already endangered, as broadcaster Loyd Grossman pointed out last week. 'Last year marked the 30th anniversary of email, but it is salutary that we do not have the first email message and no knowledge of its contents,' he said at the launch of the Digital Preservation Coalition. Saving Domesday Project is viewed as one of the coalition's top priorities.
It was to be the mother of all time capsules, filled with images and sounds defining life in Britain in 1986 - when hill farmers struggled to cope with Chernobyl nuclear fallout, Maradona beat England with the 'hand of God', and Michael Heseltine resigned from the Cabinet over the Westland affair.
Thousands of schoolchildren helped record festivals, events and details of ordinary life, which were stored on 12-inch laser discs.
They contained more than 250,000 place names, 25,000 maps, 50,000 pictures, 3,000 data sets, 60 minutes of moving pictures, and an unknown number of words. Around a million people contributed. The trouble was that the discs could only be viewed using a special BBC Micro computer, which cost £5,000 to buy. Few were purchased, and only a handful are left in existence. 'The information on this incredible historical object will soon disappear forever,' Grossman said last week.
In a bid to rescue the project, Paul Wheatley has begun work on Camileon, a program aimed at recovering the data on the Domesday discs. 'We have got a couple of rather scratchy pairs of discs, and we are confident we will eventually be able to read all their images, maps and text,' he said. 'Unfortunately, we don't know what we will do after that. We could store the data on desktop computers - but they are likely to become redundant in a few years.
'That means we have to find a way to emulate this data, in other words to turn into a form that can be used no matter what is the computer format of the future. That is the real goal of this project.'
It won't be an easy task. Jeff Rothenberg of the Rand Corporation, one of the world's experts on data preservation, points out: 'There is currently no demonstrably viable technical solution to this problem; yet if it is not solved, our increasingly digital heritage is in grave risk of being lost.'
|Space Trip Is Latest Frequent-Flier Award |
|WASHINGTON March 11, 2002 (Reuters) - A free flight to a palm-fringed isle might seem a bit tame compared to US Airways' latest award for frequent fliers: a trip aboard a sub-orbital passenger space ship. |
No such flights are planned until 2004, but it could take a while to earn the 10 million Dividend Miles required.
The new award was announced in a statement on Monday by US Airways and Space Adventures Ltd., the space tourism firm that helped arrange the commercial space flight of U.S. millionaire Dennis Tito last year and currently is organizing the flight of South African millionaire Mark Shuttleworth to the International Space Station (news - web sites).
"Participants will be able to climb aboard a sub-orbital spacecraft and fly to an altitude of 65 miles, experience several minutes of weightlessness and see the planet from space," the statement said. "Upon return to Earth, participants earn their astronaut wings!"
Without the use of frequent-flier miles, the space flight would cost $98,000, according to the Space Adventures Web site, www.spaceadventures.com . On the Web site, a drawing of the craft makes it look a bit like NASA's space shuttles.
The sub-orbital flight is one of four space-related awards for US Airways' frequent fliers.
For 30,000 miles plus $650, passengers can get a tour of Kennedy Space Center (news - web sites) in Florida including a presentation by former astronauts, while 250,000 miles plus $2,000 gets a flight in zero-gravity.
A flight on a MiG-25 jet fighter can be had for 275,000 miles plus $8,000, according to the US Airways Web site, www.usairways.com . By contrast, frequent fliers can get a round-trip coach ticket between the continental United States and the Caribbean for 20,000 miles plus $225.
|Math Wizard Crashes Warp Speed Theory! |
By Joseph Brean
and Sarah Schmidt
Lisbon March 11, 2002 (National Post) - Using powerful gravity machines to compress the space in front of a rocket ship and send it hurtling across the universe faster than light is a fanciful, mathematically impossible notion, according to a Portuguese mathematician whose debunking of the previously accepted concept of "warp speed" has disappointed Star Trek fans.
Warp speed, so called because it involves warping space to shrink distances before traveling them, is predicted by Einstein's theory of relativity. In 1994, with the concept firmly rooted in the Trekkie vernacular, a German scientist made headlines by describing the physics that would allow a space ship to travel at warp speed -- faster than light.
But he made a mathematical error, Dr. Jose Natario says, and the warp speed he predicted is nothing more than an uncontrollable and unpredictable side-effect of producing huge amounts of energy.
"The kind of curvature you'd need to create something like [warp speed], it's very hard to understand how you could generate it," said Dr. Natario, a mathematician at the Instituto Superior Tecnico in Lisbon, whose report appears in the journal Classical and Quantum Gravity.
"Star Trek is fun, but many things are impossible," he said. "This is a case study of something that we know is completely impossible, but nevertheless is interesting to sort out the consequences."
To advance Star Trek's fantastic plots with quick trips across the universe, creator Gene Roddenberry endowed the flagship Enterprise with anti-matter engines running on dilithium crystals. The crystals are fiction, but creating energy by mixing matter and anti-matter is very real.
In the show, the energy from the engines expands space behind the ship and shrinks space in front of it, allowing it to move forward faster than normal. The idea is akin to a moving sidewalk. People can only walk so fast, but if they walk on a moving sidewalk, their speed relative to their surroundings can be quite high. In cosmic terms, a spaceship can be traveling quite slowly, but if the space in front of it is squeezed very small, it will cover vast distances in no time -- perhaps even more quickly than light.
Michael Wiley, an organizer of the Star Trek convention this summer in Toronto, said the more scientifically minded Star Trek fans will be "thoroughly disappointed" when they learn of Dr. Natario's work, since they have hailed Mr. Roddenberry as a technological prophet.
He said these fans will "hotly debate how this scientist is a nut job or whether they will watch Star Trek anymore."
[I vote for nut job! - Ed.]