Bacteria On Mars!
Asteroids, Meteors, Black Holes,
Creepy Bugs Invade USA!
Beer, John the Baptist & More!
Ancient Bacteria on Mars!

NASA NEWS RELEASE August 4, 2002 - In the latest study of a 4.5 billion-year-old Martian meteorite, researchers have presented new evidence confirming that 25 percent of the magnetic material in the meteorite was produced by ancient bacteria on Mars.

These latest results were published in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology. 

The researchers used six physical properties they refer to as the Magnetite Assay for Biogenicity (MAB) to compare all the magnetic material found in the ancient meteorite -- using the MAB as a biosignature.

A biosignature is a physical and/or chemical marker of life that does not occur through random processes or human intervention. 

"No non-biologic magnetite population, whether produced by nature or in the laboratory, has ever met the MAB criteria," said Kathie Thomas-Keprta, an astrobiologist at NASA's Johnson Space Center (JSC) in Houston and the lead researcher on the study. "This means that one-quarter of the magnetite crystals embedded in the carbonates in Martian meteorite ALH84001 require the intervention of biology to explain their presence." 

Magnetotactic bacteria, which occur in aquatic habitats on Earth, arrange magnetite crystals in chains within their cells to make compasses, which help the bacteria locate sources of food and energy. Magnetite (Fe3O4) is produced inorganically on Earth, but the magnetite crystals produced by magnetotactic bacteria are very different -- they are chemically pure and defect-free, with distinct sizes and shapes. Four of the MAB biosignature properties relate to the external physical structure of the magnetite crystals, while another refers to their internal structure and another to their chemical composition.

In their earlier studies, the researchers found that approximately one-quarter of the nanometer-sized magnetite crystals in ALH84001 had remarkable physical and chemical similarities to magnetite particles produced by a bacteria strain on Earth called MV-1. This is the first time, however, that any researcher has used the full MAB range of biosignature properties to compare the proposed bacteria- produced crystals in Mars meteorite ALH84001with the bacteria-produced crystals from Earth and with the other magnetites in the meteorite.

The comparison between the proposed bacteria-produced crystals in the meteorite and crystals known to be produced by Earth-bacteria MV-1 is striking and provides strong evidence that these crystals were made by bacteria on Mars. 

The fact that Mars Global Surveyor data suggest that early Mars had a magnetic field is consistent with a reason why Mars would have magnetotactic bacteria.

"Our best working hypothesis is that early Mars supported the evolution of bacteria that share several traits with magnetotactic bacteria on Earth, most notably the MV-1 group," said Simon Clemett, a coauthor of the paper at Johnson. 

Mars has long been understood to provide the sources of light and chemical energy sufficient to support life, but in 2001 the Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft observed magnetized stripes in the crust of Mars, which showed that a strong magnetic field existed in the planet's early history, about the same time as the carbonate containing the unique magnetites in ALH84001 was formed. 

In June, researchers using the Mars Odyssey spacecraft announced that they had found water ice under the surface of Mars. These attributes, coupled with a carbon dioxide-rich atmosphere, would have provided the necessary environment for the evolution of microbes similar to the fossils found in ALH84001. 

"We believe this latest study proves that the magnetites in ALH84001 can be best explained as the products of multiple biogenic and inorganic processes that operated on early Mars," Thomas-Keprta said. 

An international team of nine researchers collaborated on the three-year study. The team, led by Thomas-Keprta of Lockheed Martin at Johnson Space Center, was funded by the NASA Astrobiology Institute. Co-authors of the study are Clemett and Susan Wentworth of Lockheed Martin at JSC; Dennis Bazylinski of Iowa State University (funded by the National Science Foundation); Joseph Kirschvink of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena; David McKay and Everett Gibson of JSC; Hojatollah Vali of McGill University in Canada; and Christopher Romanek of the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory.

France Cracks Down on Neo-Nazis

Associated Press Writer 

COURCOURONNES France August 7, 2002 (AP) — The squat, modest homes of Courcouronnes are quiet at midday. Flowers hang from the balconies, and the silence is broken only by the soft murmur of lunchtime talk in the kitchens. 

The calm, however, masks the neighborhood's sudden claim to infamy as the home of Maxime Brunerie, a reputed neo-Nazi accused of pulling a rifle from a guitar case on July 14 and shooting at President Jacques Chirac. 

Chirac was unhurt, but the attack has prompted the Cabinet to ban the group Brunerie allegedly belonged to, Radical Unity, and has triggered a wider examination of the shadowy world of right-wing extremism in France. 

"It's necessary to be particularly vigilant about everything that could lead to the development of extremism, everything that could lead to xenophobia, anti-Semitism and racism," Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said recently. 

Radical Unity is based in Paris, and residents say Courcouronnes — 20 miles south of the capital — is no hotbed of extremism. But it suffers from some of the same conditions that have fueled neo-Nazism elsewhere. The area is split by a highway that runs between Brunerie's lower middle-class white neighborhood and an enclave of North African immigrants who live in apartment blocks. Residents say the town has suffered from gang violence in recent years. 

Bruno Bertin, who lives near Brunerie's home, listed increasing illegal immigration and violent crime as reasons that some young people are opting for the far-right. 

"I'm not surprised that someone shot at the president," said Bertin, who said he did not know Brunerie and was not a supporter of the far-right. "It had to happen someday. Everyone's sick of the situation." 

Movements like Radical Unity are small, secretive and usually have a presence on the Internet. Marc Knobel, a researcher in Paris for the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish human rights group, estimates that extremists, sympathizers and related groups such as soccer hooligans and skinheads in France number between 2,000 and 4,000. The extremists can match their talk with violence. During an annual far-right May Day rally in 1995, a group of skinheads pushed a Moroccan off a bridge into the Seine, drowning him. 

Radical Unity was formed in 1998, but the roots of the extreme right in France run deep. During World War II, France's Vichy regime collaborated with Nazi Germany and about 75,000 Jews were deported to concentration camps. Various neo-Nazi groups have come and gone since the end of the war. 

On Tuesday, France's Cabinet used a musty 1936 law against movements that incite violence and discrimination to issue a decree banning the group. The ban requires final approval from France's highest administrative body, the Council of State. 

"Radical Unity preaches ... hostility as a matter of principle to all forms of immigration, and its ideology is founded on the exaltation of the white race and a hatred of the foreigner," Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy said. 

Radical Unity president Fabrice Robert denied any link between his group and Brunerie's act, but said the Cabinet's decision will have little impact. 

"It's possible to ban an organization, but it's not possible to ban people and ideas," he said. 

The extremists are being challenged from other quarters, too. Two groups, J'Accuse and the Jewish Students Union of France, have gone to court to demand the Radical Unity Web site be banned from the Internet. A judge could rule on that Thursday. 

The threat of extremist violence is being taken especially seriously in France following the impressive showing of the far-right leader Jean-Marie Le Pen in the first-round presidential election in April. Le Pen was soundly defeated by Chirac in the second round in May and his National Front does not openly espouse violence. But the magnitude of support for him has worried many about a swing to the right. On Wednesday, Le Pen told RMC-Info radio that the proposed ban on Radical Unity was "absurd" and "contrary to the principles of the law." 

Since the shooting, the French press has been rife with accounts of Brunerie's political activities and photos of him marching with right-wing extremists and giving the Nazi salute. A copy of Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf was reportedly found in his home. But on the immigrant side of Courcouronnes — the part of town known as The Canal — many people were reluctant to say the assassination attempt had anything to do with right-wing politics or with their area. 

While people said that race relations in the town were not especially tense, they acknowledged that it wasn't that way everywhere in France, where immigrants have been targeted by racist attacks. Noureddine Majid, a longtime resident of France born in Morocco, said there was a common reaction in his neighborhood to the shooting:

"All the Arabs after the attack said, `Lucky it wasn't an Arab."'

British Monument Adorned with Giant Condom

LONDON August 06, 2002 (Reuters) - The Cerne Abbas Giant, a giant fertility symbol cut into a hillside in southern England, bore a new accessory on Monday: a 21-foot condom. 

In a publicity stunt carried out by the British Family Planning Association to raise sexual health awareness, the 197-foot tall figure famous for its erect phallus was adorned with the huge sheath overnight Sunday. 

The image, etched into the chalk rock of a Dorset hillside, is believed to date from the second millennium BC. At least one couple claim to have cured their infertility by making love in its one-foot-wide trenches. 

"It does get used rather by people doing stunts...we just hope it doesn't do any damage," said a spokesman for the National Trust, which owns the chalk man. He added, however, "We've got a sense of humor too."

FBI and Other Agencies Report 775 Missing Weapons

By James Vicini

WASHINGTON August 05, 2002 (Reuters) - The FBI, the Immigration and Naturalization Service and three other U.S. Justice Department law enforcement agencies had at least 775 weapons and 400 laptops computers stolen, lost or missing over a recent two-year period, according to a report released on Monday. 

The department's inspector general found substantial losses of weapons and laptops -- mainly at the FBI, the top U.S. law enforcement agency, and at the immigration agency, which also has been criticized for a series of management problems. 

"Our audits found significant deficiencies in the accountability for sensitive department property," Inspector General Glenn Fine said in a statement. 

He said the agencies must improve their own management controls over property like weapons and laptops computer, and urged the Justice Department to take a more active oversight role to tighten controls that are weak, inadequate or not fully implemented. 

The FBI's problems with stolen, missing or lost laptop computers and weapons first surfaced in July 2001, adding to a string a blunders that included misplaced files in the case of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh and the discovery of a longtime Russian spy within the bureau's own ranks. 

The report said the INS had 539 missing weapons while the FBI had 212 missing weapons in the two-year audit period. The FBI had an additional 211 weapons reported missing during a time period not covered by the audit. 

In contrast, the Drug Enforcement Administration had just 16 stolen, lost or missing weapons, the U.S. Marshals Service had six and the Bureau of Prisons had two. 

Local police recovered at least 18 of the missing weapons in connection with investigations into such crimes as robberies and drug dealing, according to the report.


For example, local police recovered a handgun stolen from an FBI agent's residence in New Orleans from the pocket of a murder victim. Police in Atlanta recovered a stolen DEA weapon during a narcotics search at a suspect's residence while police in Philadelphia and in Tampa, Florida, recovered INS weapons used to commit armed robberies. 

The FBI and the INS have a total of about 100,000 weapons, the report found. The FBI has more than 15,000 computers, of which 317 were lost, stolen or missing. Sen. Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican who is a Judiciary Committee member, blamed the missing FBI guns on "weak discipline, lax standards, tardy reporting and few, if any, consequences." 

Grassley, a longtime critic of the FBI, said in a statement that the missing deadly weapons and lost computers with sensitive information have "real consequences in criminal acts and danger to national security." 

Investigators were unable to determine the type of information stored on the 400 missing computers, but they said some of the computers could have been used to store sensitive law enforcement information that could have jeopardized investigations if divulged. 

The audit for three agencies lasted from October 1999 to August 2001 while the FBI audit covered from October 1999 through January 2002. The INS audit covered a different time period and was completed in March 2001.

Space News: Asteroids, Meteors and Black Holes

Asteroid Will Be Visible from Earth

Powys UK August 6, 2002 (BBC) - A close encounter with a small asteroid this month could be viewed with binoculars or a small telescope, say experts. The space rock, 800 meters across (a quarter of a mile) and designated 2002 NY40, will make its closest approach on 18 August. 

The opportunity for amateur skywatchers get such a close-up view of an asteroid occurs only once every half-century. The nearest the asteroid will get is within 530,000 kilometers (330,000 miles) - slightly farther away than the Moon. 

Its track in the sky will pass close by the bright star Vega and through the constellation of Hercules. It will be significantly dimmer than even the faintest star visible with the naked eye. European skywatchers will catch their best glimpse in the early hours of the 18th. For viewing from North America, the best time to watch will be in the evening of 17 August. 

Scientists will be able to use the close approach to plot the course of the asteroid over the years to come. They say there is a minute risk - one in 500,000 - that the rock could strike Earth in 2022, but the new measurements could show it will definitely miss us. 

Jay Tate, from the Spaceguard UK observatory in Powys, said that with a little effort, it should be possible to detect the movement of the asteroid. He told BBC News Online: "People should look at the right area of the sky through their binoculars, and make a rough drawing of the position of all the bright objects. Then they should look again five minutes or so later and see which of them has moved. This asteroid won't look anything like a normal shooting star, or even a satellite. It's not groundbreaking science for us, but this is an opportunity for thousands of amateur astronomers to see something like this." 

He said that measurements taken by experts might show the rate at which the rock was spinning in space, giving clues to its composition. Other astronomers may also be able to produce three-dimensional maps of its surface. 

The asteroid fly-by follows last month's reports of another, bigger, rock, called 2002 NT7, which scientists speculated might be a candidate for colliding with the Earth in 2019. Further data revealed, however, that there was no chance of this happening.

Perseid Meteors Return 

By Alan M. MacRobert
Globe Correspondent

Boston August 6, 2002 (Boston Globe) - It's meteor season again. Shooting stars are beginning to streak across the late-night sky in growing numbers, as the Earth begins passing through the Perseid meteor stream, which it does every year in mid-August. The show will culminate late next Sunday and Monday nights. 

The meteor-watching conditions will be ideal this year - weather permitting - with no moonlight to wash out the view.

You don't need a telescope. All you need is an open view of the sky someplace with no bright lights nearby. The best observing locations are far out in the country where the night sky still retains its natural splendor. City and suburban light pollution hides faint meteors just like it hides faint stars; but, even so, you should be able to see some of the brighter Perseids from your own backyard.

But you do need to be something of a night owl. Like most meteor showers, the Perseids are at their best between midnight and the first light of dawn, the later the better. 

You'll also need some patience. Only a few times per century does a meteor shower turn into a real fireworks show, and the Perseids aren't going to do it in 2002. But they do have one thing going for them - reliability. Late on the nights of the 11th and 12th - that is, on the mornings of the 12th and 13th - you're pretty sure to see a meteor every couple of minutes on average from a dark-sky location. You'll see at least one every five or 10 minutes from a dark, open yard in the suburbs.

Here are some tips for an enjoyable meteor-watching experience. Try to get comfortable. Take out a reclining lawn chair, and be sure to dress warmly; late nights under a clear sky get surprisingly cold. Don't forget the bug repellent. A sleeping bag works well both for warmth and mosquito armor. Lie back, relax, and gaze into the stars. Face whatever part of your sky is darkest, probably straight up. Try to fill your vision with nothing but sky. 

Every once in a while you'll see a little streak of light zip among the stars. Notice the direction it comes from. The meteors can flash into view anywhere in the sky, but their paths, if you trace them back far enough, will appear to diverge from a point in the northeast as shown in the accompanying illustration (though you're very unlikely to see three at once!). This point is in the constellation Perseus, near W-shaped Cassiopeia. It's the perspective point from which the meteors would all seem to be originating if we could see them approaching from the far distance.

What you're seeing is tiny bits of space dirt arriving at 37 miles per second, or 133,000 miles per hour, and burning up by air friction when they hit the Earth's atmosphere. The streak of light is not the solid object itself, but a much larger column of white-hot air surrounding it. The meteors burn out at altitudes of 40 to 60 miles. Most are no bigger than a pea.

You may also see a few slower meteors coming from a southerly direction. These are members of the much weaker Delta Aquarid shower, which is also active at this time of year. And, in the course of an hour, you'll probably see two or three ''sporadic'' meteors moving in any direction - remnants of other, more ancient showers long since dispersed.

Skywatchers have been seeing the Perseids for centuries. My first experience with them was from Newton's Cold Spring Playground on the night of Aug. 12, 1966. I still have my notes. The skyglow of Boston washed the sky, and I was really watching too early, from 10 to 11 p.m. Nevertheless, in that one hour I counted 10 Perseids and four sporadics. It was the start of a celestial relationship that has lasted ever since.

When Black Holes Collide

RUTGERS UNIVERSITY NEWS RELEASE August 2, 2002 - One of the more spectacular phenomena in the cosmos might just be the collision of supermassive black holes that accompanies the merger of galaxies. But the astronomical community has not had definitive proof that these black holes are actually coming together. For the first time, astronomers have now produced a convincing mathematical model that offers the strongest support to date for the idea that the black holes merge when their host galaxies do. 

David Merritt of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and Ron Ekers of the Australia Telescope National Facility in Sydney, Australia, have published a paper online in Science Express that supports this interpretation. 

Their calculations demonstrated that when two black holes merge, the interaction will realign the larger one. They showed for the first time that a smaller hole could knock a bigger one, with five times the mass, out of kilter. 

The realignment takes place with a sudden flip in the spin axis of the larger hole. It shows up, said Merritt and Ekers, as a sudden switch in direction of the jets of particles that shoot out along the black hole's spin axis. Images made with a radio telescope show both the old and the new paths, and the galaxy appears X-shaped. 

Supermassive black holes have been found in the center of almost every galaxy where astronomers have looked. From a few million to a few billion times the size of our sun (or solar masses), they are thought to have formed from giant gas clouds or from the collapse of clusters of immense numbers of stars shortly after the Big Bang when the universe began. 

Merritt, who leads the Supermassive Black Hole Research Group at Rutgers, is a theorist who has worked extensively on the interaction of black holes with galaxies. Ekers, a prominent radio astronomer, is the president-elect of the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and director of the Australia Telescope National Facility. 

"Supermassive black holes may have collided in a surprisingly large number of galaxies, leaving their signatures plain to read," reported Merritt and Ekers. About 7 percent of known radio-emitting galaxies show their jets in this characteristic X-shaped pattern. Merritt and Ekers calculated that a large galaxy has the probability of being involved in a collision once every billion years. Based on this calculation, one of these spectacles is bound to take place somewhere in the universe each year. 

"We have known about X-shaped galaxies for a long time, but until now we have never had a convincing explanation for them," said Merritt. "Most astronomers were fairly sure that black holes coalesce, but we now regard the X-shaped galaxies as the first 'smoking-gun' evidence. Our model demonstrates that these constitute solid evidence that the black hole mergers actually take place."

Talking Cock Celebrates Joy of Manhood

By Paul Majendie

Edinburgh August 6, 2002 (Reuters) - After the worldwide success of the Vagina Monologues, British comedian Richard Herring felt it was high time to celebrate the joy of his manhood.

Herring had no idea how anxious man was about his prized possession until he launched a questionnaire on the Internet which solicited 3,000 heartfelt responses from around the world on the taboos of sex.

The answers provided a rich mine of information and quirky statistics for Talking Cock, his sell-out one-man show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival which takes an offbeat look at man's innermost performance anxieties.

Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues was launched off Broadway in New York in 1996. Since then, it has become a global phenomenon performed in several countries with a trio of actresses recounting a collection of women's experiences and thoughts about their genitalia.

Last year, Herring performed one of his comedy shows in London alongside the Vagina Monologues and that got him thinking about how to tell man's side of the story. He decided to do it with humor - mixing ribaldry with poignant true-life confessions of insecurity.

Bouncing off stage still on a high after his show was given a riotous reception, Herring said: "It feels like women enjoy it just as much as men. It is for everyone. You don't come out of the Vagina Monologues as a man thinking 'I have learnt something.' You come out thinking 'Oh God they all hate us.' It talks all about the downside."

As a stand-up comedian presented with a raft of new real-life material, he is the first to admit: "There is a danger of turning into a self-help guru but I think it is much better done with humor. And I wanted to make people think."

"I had over 3 000 responses to the questionnaire. There were lots from America, lots from Australia, quite a lot from Scandinavia, some from Africa," he said. Men and women were equally forthright in their replies.

Thirty-five percent of men admitted to faking an orgasm and a comforting 96 percent of women felt the penis was their friend. Seventeen percent of women envied it, albeit for reasons for that soon deflated men's egos: "With one of them you don't have to queue for the toilet," said one woman.

One in four woman admitted to laughing at the size of their partner's member. As a counterpoint, Herring read out the revelations of a man who felt suicidal about what he viewed as his inadequacy.

Herring is eager to hone the constantly changing show and take it round the globe. He would like to inject more serious topics too. "It would be interesting to talk to people with Aids or try to talk to someone who had been castrated," he said.

But the humor will always shine through as he proved at the end of the Edinburgh show, getting the shy and tight-lipped British to shed their inhibitions and chant: "Allow our penises to be praised" while he reassured the men in the audience - "it is not a battering ram but a drawbridge that brings us together".

Official Talking Cock Homepage - 

Genre News: Teens Choose, David Duchovny, Smallville, Buffy and Angel, Area 51 & More!

Teen Choice Chooses Buffy

Hollywood August 7, 2002 (eXoNews) Buffy and friends scored again in this year's Teen Choice Awards: Sarah Michelle Gellar was voted Choice TV Actress, Drama, for Buffy and Choice Movie Actress, Comedy, for Scooby-Doo. Alyson Hannigan also took Choice TV Sidekick for Buffy.

Tom Welling (Smallville) got this year's teen Choice TV Breakout TV Star for Smallville. Tobey Maguire got Choice Movie Actor, Action Adventure, for Spidey and shared the dubious honor of Choice Lip Lock with Spider-man co-star Kirsten Dunst. Spider-man was also voted Choice Movie, Action Adventure.

Teen taste is still in question though: Choice Female Music Artist went to Britney Spears again and, for some reason, the voters think Adam Sandler is a Choice Comedian.

Duchovny Returns to the Small Screen

LOS ANGELES August 6, 2002 ( - This fall, David Duchovny will be guest starring on an episode of the new ABC comedy series, "Life with Bonnie," playing Johnny Volcano, a weatherman trying to break into the film industry. 

"Life with Bonnie" stars Bonnie Hunt as a talk show host trying to balance the demands of her career with the needs of her family. Hunt will conduct unscripted interviews with celebrities on the talk show within the show, "Morning Chicago." 

The episode will reunite Hunt and Duchovny, who appeared together in the film, "Return To Me," which Hunt also wrote and directed.

The pair also starred together in the 1992 movie, "Beethoven."

Duchovny left the now-canceled FOX hit "The X-Files" in 2001 to pursue other projects. He is currently appearing in the Steven Soderbergh film, "Full Frontal." 

"Life with Bonnie" premieres on Tuesday, Sept. 17 at 8:30 p.m. before moving to its regular 9:00 p.m. timeslot the following week.

Batboy May Get Axed from Smallville

Hollywood August 7, 2002 (Cinescape) - It seems the impending production of BATMAN VS. SUPERMAN might be making it harder for the producers of SMALLVILLE to bring a young Bruce Wayne to the town that built Clark Kent, which is something they’ve been publicly contemplating for awhile now. 

While speaking at this weekend’s San Diego Comic Con, producers Miles Millar and Alfred Gough said the continuity concerns of Wolfgang Petersen’s newly announced big screen face off might effect their plans to have a small screen crossover. 

According to Comics2Film, the producers acknowledged the new film “complicated” the matter of bringing a BATMAN-to-be Bruce Wayne to the small Kansas town of SMALLVILLE.

Freddy Vs. Jason A Go 

Hollywood August 5, 2002 (Sci Fi Wire) - Confirming months of rumors, New Line Cinema gave a green light to Freddy vs. Jason, which pits the villain of the Nightmare on Elm Street films against the nemesis from the Friday the 13th series, Variety reported.

Brad Renfro will star beside Robert Englund, who will reprise his Elm Street role of Freddy Krueger for the eighth time, the trade paper reported.

The studio hasn't decided who will play Jason Voorhees, Friday the 13th's hockey-masked serial killer, who has been played most recently by Kane Hodder.

Hong Kong director Ronny Yu (Bride of Chucky) will helm the film, which is slated to start shooting Sept. 9 in Vancouver, B.C. Mark Swift and Damian Shannon wrote the script, and longtime Friday the 13th producer Sean Cunningham will produce, Variety reported.

Buffy and Angel Stars Enjoy Hiatus
By Kate O'Hare

LOS ANGELES August 5, 2002 ( - Last year, Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof traveled the world.

"Last summer, we took, like, 17 flights or something," says Denisof. "We went to Papua New Guinea and Fiji, London and New York, you name it. This year, we kept it kind of simple." 

The two actors met on the set of "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but didn't start dating until Denisof's character, pompous British "Watcher" Wesley Wyndham-Price, moved to spin-off series "Angel," while Hannigan continued as witch Willow Rosenberg on "Buffy." 

Denisof, an American, spent several years working and living in Britain, but this past summer, Hannigan had as much reason to visit there as he did.

After losing her lover, Tara (Amber Benson), to a stray gunshot, Willow turned to dark magic. Under its influence, she killed Tara's attacker, Warren (Adam Busch), and nearly destroyed the world. After the intervention of Buffy's (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Watcher, Giles (Anthony Stewart Head), who teleported back from England to help, and childhood friend Xander (Nicholas Brendon), Willow was still in need of some intensive therapy. Apparently, this entails a trip to Giles' hometown of Bath, a Roman-founded city in the southwest of England.

"She already finished that," says Denisof. "It rained buckets. They probably could have been on a green backdrop in Ventura County for the amount of England we got to see -- no, that's not true. They got lots of great shots of Bath and the surrounding areas. It looked really beautiful. I was there for the days of shooting. They got wonderful stuff." 

This marks the first time that "Buffy" filmed in the U.K., where series creator Joss Whedon spent his high-school years, and where the show is extremely popular.

Asked if a road trip for the darker-themed "Angel" might be in the offing, Denisof says, "I shudder at the thought of where they would send people from 'Angel.' It would be like the wrong side of Detroit or something." 

Interestingly, both Willow and Wesley took trips to the dark side at the end of the season, with Wesley becoming estranged from his co-workers and winding up in bed with Lilah (Stephanie Romanov), a lawyer from the evil firm of Wolfram & Hart.

"We mirrored each other a little bit in that," Denisof says. "Thank God we didn't take too much of that home, but I loved that storyline for her." 

Although both he and Hannigan co-star in as-yet-unreleased film "Beyond the City Limits," Denisof didn't feel the need to take on another project during his hiatus.

"No work, thank God, just life," he says. "I mean, if there were something exciting I'd love to do ... but it's so nice to see your friends and family and take care of all the things that don't get to get done during the nine to 10 months that we shoot. I'm very good at being unemployed. I really need to develop a better work ethic, because I just find there are a million and one things to do the minute I walk off the set. Several months later, I think, 'I've got to go back to work -- how inconvenient.'"

Parents Group Spanks MTV Fare
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK August 2, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - After getting body slammed in court last month by World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., the Parents Television Council is taking a new entertainment giant to the mat: MTV. The TV watchdog group denounced MTV on Thursday for excessive raunchiness in a new report, "The Ten Best and Worst Shows on Cable Television of the 2001/2002 Season."

MTV programs like "The Osbournes" comprise half of the "Worst" list; the other spots were reserved for FX's "The Shield," which topped the list, TNT's "Witchblade," the National Network's "WWE Raw Is War" and two series from Comedy Central, "South Park" and "The Man Show."

L. Brent Bozell III, founder and president of the PTC, feels that MTV's plethora of salacious programming targeted at teen viewers can no longer be ignored. "One of the things we're looking at is making a much bigger deal about MTV," he said. "Parents don't watch MTV, and I suspect they don't know what's on it." Other MTV shows on the list include "The Real World," "Undressed," "Celebrity Deathmatch" and "The Andy Dick Show."

Stan Winston Enters Area 51

Hollywood August 6, 2002 (Cinescape) - The movie rights for the arcade shoot’em up AREA 51 have been snatched up by none other than Stan Winston Productions. Winston, the make-up and puppet genius behind PLANET OF THE APES, JURASSIC PARK, TERMINATOR films, and too many more to mention here, will both help develop a film and a new home version of the special-ops-team- venturing-onto-the- mythic-government-base- now-overrun-by-the- very-aliens-they-were- studying-there game. 

The new console version of the game is expected on the PlayStation 2, Xbox and GameCube in 2004. 

The Excellent Stan Winston Official Site! - 

Stan Winston Creatures Site - 

Creepy Bugs Invade USA!

By Patrick O'Driscoll

US August 6, 2002 (USA Today) - Wildfires in Oregon, California, Colorado and Arizona. Flash floods in Texas, Idaho, New Mexico and Nebraska. Drought just about everywhere else. What could be next for the West this summer -- biblical plagues of locusts?

Well, yes. Across the parched western half of the USA, creepy-crawlies are boring through forests, invading rangelands and chomping on crops, making an already bad season worse.

Bark beetles are attacking drought-withered pine, spruce and fir in parts of the same forests now in flames. Although some outbreaks go largely unseen in remote wilderness, others damage the scenic views from backyard foothills to popular tourist destinations such as Colorado's Vail resort.

Hordes of grasshoppers spawned by another mild winter and chronic dryness have hit Nebraska, several other states and Canadian provinces.

Some infestations are the worst since the Great Depression, costing millions of dollars in lost crops and insecticide bills. Grasshoppers have even eaten the paint off homes.

"If you're an entomologist, it's quite interesting, but if you're a farmer, it's scary," says Greg Abbott of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), a federal agency that battles agricultural pests.

Bands of wingless Mormon crickets are marching cross-country in Utah, Nevada and Idaho, damaging vegetation and crawling over houses.

"They won't poison your cat and don't bite your children," says Abbott, cricket coordinator for Utah and Nevada. "But when they die, they stink to high heaven."

The bug woes aren't confined to the West. The southern pine beetle, scourge of the South's forests, continues last year's assault, which killed trees valued at $275.3 million. Midyear trends now show rising infestations in Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Virginia. A widespread outbreak continues across South Carolina. And an outbreak of West Nile disease, which is carried by mosquitoes, has killed four people in Louisiana.

On Western ranches and farms, growers fight the grasshoppers and crickets with airborne spraying. In woodlands, foresters use insecticides and "treat" beetle-prone areas by thinning the trees. They also use artificial sex hormones to lure bark beetles into "trap trees." The trees are then felled and hauled away to stop further infestation. 

All the insects are part of the natural ecology of growth, decline and renewal. But scientists say the intensity of the beetles' attacks is another consequence of the mismanagement of overgrown forests. Some farmers and ranchers also accuse federal managers of not controlling grasshopper and cricket outbreaks that start on government land and spread to private lands.

The bark beetles can even foster a vicious cycle in which trees injured by forest fires become more susceptible to infestation. Those "host" trees, in turn, die and become potential kindling for the next wildfire.

This year's insect invaders:

Bark beetles. These pests strike more than 1,560 square miles of Western forest a year. A Forest Service report last spring estimated that more than 32,800 square miles of Western forests -- an area half the size of Florida -- are at high risk of "significant" tree kills in the next 15 years. That's 6% of the West's 565,000 square miles of woodlands.

While grasshoppers and crickets destroy grass and crops, beetles kill by attacking the nutrient membrane beneath the bark and infecting trees with a fatal virus. The chief culprits:

Spruce beetle. As many as 80% of the trees on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula have been killed by this insect, which ravaged more than 4,500 square miles of Alaskan forests in the 1990s. Outbreaks in southern Utah have killed more than 3 million trees. A new infestation in the Colorado Rockies could become the most aggressive of all, officials say.

A freak windstorm near Steamboat Springs, Colo., in 1997 blew down more than 20 square miles of spruce. The resulting jumble of deadwood became a breeding ground for beetles that have invaded more than 780 square miles of nearby forest. Experts fear that one-third of Colorado's mature spruce trees could be dead within the decade.

Mountain pine beetle. Outbreaks in South Dakota have turned broad swaths of forest in the Black Hills to rusty red. "For the homeowner or tourist who has enjoyed the view for the last 20 to 30 years from their cabin, it can be a real negative thing," Frank Cross of the Forest Service says. 

Douglas fir beetle. Montana's fiery summer of 2000, in which 1,100 square miles of forest burned, set up the largest outbreak of this insect in state history. At least 156 square miles of Douglas fir, the predominant tree in Montana's forests, are infested. Drought and wildfire stress have made the trees "prime hosts" for the tiny bugs, says Peter Kolb, a forest specialist for Montana State University's extension office.

Grasshoppers. Hundreds of species prey on green farm crops from hay to zucchini once drought dries up the brush and grasslands where they often emerge. This year, APHIS has charted numerous "hot spots" of serious outbreaks but not a widespread infestation in the West.

Even so, near Steamboat Springs, federal pest surveyors counted more than 200 grasshoppers per square yard, 25 times the threshold for economic damage to crops and rangeland. Hardest hit is Nebraska, where pervasive drought already had forced many ranchers to pull cattle off parched rangelands early.

Some banded together to spray pesticides at more than $6 an acre.

Mormon crickets. This year's infestations in Utah and Nevada are the worst in more than 50 years, covering 4,700 square miles of Utah and more than 3,100 square miles of Nevada. The worst previous outbreak started in 1931 and lasted 17 years. It peaked with nearly 30,000 square miles infested in 11 Western states.

Native to the arid Great Basin region, this insect is named for the 1848 legend in which flocks of seagulls are said to have rescued the crops of Mormon pioneers by gorging on crickets and grasshoppers. Though not as destructive as the grasshopper, it has been known to chew through screen doors and travel as far as a mile a day.

Even as efforts to prepare for and treat insect outbreaks continue, "we cannot totally control these things," Abbott says. "Nature is going to bring us the relief, just like it brought us the suffering."

Federal Court Upholds Ruling on Plutonium Shipments
By Andrea Shalal-Esa 

WASHINGTON August 6, 2002 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Tuesday upheld a lower court ruling that cleared the way for federal shipments of weapons-grade plutonium to a nuclear facility in South Carolina, but the state's governor vowed he would take the case to the Supreme Court. 

The Department of Energy welcomed the decision from the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals and underscored the administration's commitment to disposing safely of the radioactive matter, which will be transformed into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. 

"This administration is committed to ensuring America's national security and the security of the people of South Carolina are maintained by proceeding with a program to dispose of weapons grade plutonium in a safe and responsible manner," said Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis. 

Davis said the United States agreed in a September 2000 treaty with Russia that each side would dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. 

He said the June ruling by U.S. District Court cleared the way for shipments to begin to the Savannah River nuclear facility, including some six metric tons from the Rocky Flats nuclear facility near Denver, Colorado. 

He had no immediate details on how much of the plutonium had already been shipped to the facility since June. 

South Carolina Gov. Jim Hodges signed an executive order last week declaring the plutonium a threat and ordering state police to stop any vehicle attempting to carry it into South Carolina, but the court said he could not block the shipments. 

Tuesday's ruling upheld that decision, but Hodges, a Democrat seeking re-election in November, vowed to take his battle to the Supreme Court. 


"I spent the last four years trying to end South Carolina's role as the nation's nuclear dumping ground and I don't want us to go back," Hodges said in a statement. 

At the Savannah River site 160 miles southwest of Charlotte, the plutonium is to be converted into fuel for commercial nuclear reactors. 

The Department of Energy is under pressure to start shipping it soon because it plans to shut down the Colorado facility by 2006 and must move the plutonium this year to stay on schedule. 

South Carolina has never objected to temporarily holding such plutonium. 

But Hodges questioned the environmental impact and sought legal guarantees that the federal government would follow through on plans to convert the plutonium to reactor fuel, saying he feared the state would become a permanent dumping ground for nuclear waste. 

In its ruling on Tuesday, the three-judge appeals court panel said it had reviewed the Energy Department's actions and felt it complied with federal environmental requirements. 

"We are satisfied that the DOE took a 'hard look' at the environmental consequences of its proposed course of action," the judges said, noting that the department's decision to store the plutonium there was "neither arbitrary nor capricious." 

Davis said the department was proceeding with its plans. The appeals court has confirmed that we've made all the right decisions, and we're moving forward," he said. He had no comment on Hodges' decision to take the case to the Supreme Court.
Japan Remembers Hiroshima and Nagasaki

HIROSHIMA, Japan August 6, 2002 (AP) — As thousands assembled in Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park to mark the 57th anniversary of the world's first atomic bomb attack, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi reaffirmed Japan's policy against building or possessing nuclear weapons. In May, Koizumi's cabinet spokesman sparked controversy when he said that Japan is not legally prohibited from having nuclear arms — an assertion interpreted by some as a major shift in the country's long-standing anti-nuclear policy.

Koizumi repeatedly has tried to quell the controversy, and again stressed Japan's no-nuclear policy today, at his second appearance at the annual Hiroshima event.

"As the only country in history to have experienced atomic bombings, I would like to underline Japan's unwavering commitment to its war-renouncing constitution and its three principles: non-possession, non-production and non-entry of nuclear weapons," Koizumi said.

At the ceremony, a lone bell rang out to mark the day 57 years ago when Hiroshima was flattened by the world's first atomic bomb attack — by the United States.

More than 30,000 survivors, residents and dignitaries from around the world bowed their heads for 60 seconds of silence at 8:15 a.m. local time — the moment Aug. 6, 1945 when the bomb, dropped from a U.S. B-29 plane, enshrouded the city in a mushroom cloud.

The bomb killed about 140,000 people and sickened hundreds of thousands more in Hiroshima, 690 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. Three days later, a U.S. bomber dropped a second atomic bomb on Nagasaki, killing 70,000 people. Japan surrendered Aug. 15, 1945, ending the Second World War. 

Hiroshima Mayor Tadatoshi Akiba urged countries to get rid of weapons of mass destruction, even as nuclear-armed India and Pakistan remain on the brink of war in the hotly contested region of Kashmir.

"The probability that nuclear weapons will be used again and the danger of nuclear war are increasing," Akiba said in the annual peace declaration. "Today, we vow to do our utmost to create a century of peace and humanity."

Akiba criticized what he called the prevailing international philosophy of " `I'll show you' and `I'm stronger than you are,' " and accused the United States of trying to impose "Pax Americana on the rest of us."

He then invited U.S. President George W. Bush to visit Hiroshima and "confirm with his own eyes what nuclear weapons hold in store." 

Among those paying respects Tuesday was Junichiro Nagai, 71, who was a middle school student on the outskirts of Hiroshima when the city was incinerated. For months afterward, he suffered from radiation sickness, vomiting and diarrhea fits. And to this day he is haunted by memories of a city burned to the ground in a single instant and images of zombie-like victims with melted skin.

"My body's fine now," Nagai said after praying at the memorial. ``It's what I saw that day that was most disturbing." 

During Tuesday's ceremony, 1,500 white doves were released into the sky. Five hundred children sang a song of peace to an orchestral accompaniment.

The memorial in Hiroshima includes the names of more than 200,000 people who were in the city on the day of the bombing. Every year, the names of those who have died since the previous year's anniversary are added to the cenotaph.

This year's total rose by 4,977 people to 226,870 victims, as more of the older generation succumbed to long-term illnesses, such as cancer, that were triggered by the blast, Hiroshima city spokeswoman Yukiko Ota said.

On Thursday, ceremonies are to be held to mark the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, on the southernmost main island of Kyushu.

US Violates Shoshone Human Rights

By Valerie Taliman
Southwest Bureau Chief
Indian Country Today

WASHINGTON August 02, 2002 (ICT) - The United States government is violating international human rights in its treatment of Western Shoshone elders Carrie and Mary Dann, said a long-awaited report released July 29 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. It is the first time an international body has formally recognized that the U.S. has violated the rights of American Indians.

The report supports the Danns’ argument that the U.S. government used illegitimate means to gain control of ancestral Shoshone lands and questions the government’s handling of millions of acres of land under the Indian Claims Commission. 

The human rights charges came on the eve of a Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing Aug. 2 on S. 958, a bill sponsored by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that would distribute some $138 million in a land claim settlement to members of the Western Shoshone Nation. The Danns and other traditional leaders oppose the payout, although a large majority of voting members supported it in a recent referendum organized by tribal allies of Sen. Reid.

"This report will have important implications for Indian nations all over the country that have complained for years about losing their lands as a result of fraudulent or high-handed claims in the Indian Claims Commission," said Robert T. Coulter, executive director of the Indian Law Resource Center, which brought the case before the Inter-American Commission on the Danns’ behalf. "At last, there is a thorough, legal decision concluding that these procedures are seriously wrong and that they violate the most basic human rights of the Indian peoples involved."

The human rights commission found that the claims process -- which the U.S. says extinguished the Western Shoshone rights to most of their land in Nevada -- was a flawed process that denied the Danns and other Western Shoshones their human rights.

The commission concluded that the U.S. violated several articles of the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, including the right of equality before the law, the right to a fair trial and the right to property.

The commission recommended that the government take steps to provide a fair legal process to determine the Danns’ and other Western Shoshone land rights.

The sisters, now in their 70s, have spent 30 years fighting for the collective rights of their people to retain Native homelands and have been subjected to threats, harassment, helicopter surveillance and raids by federal agents to confiscate their livestock.

Carrie Dann insists the federal government has "terrorized" them for years, causing daily mental stress and even physical assaults as the sisters tried to block Bureau of Land Management agents from taking 269 horses in one particularly traumatic round-up. They have repeatedly refused to pay federal grazing fees for their livestock on the grounds that the land still belongs to the Western Shoshone Nation.

The Aug. 2 Senate hearing was to take up a controversial bill that would distribute the money awarded by the Indian Claims Commission in the Western Shoshone case though five tribal chairmen representing the Western Shoshone Nation have publicly objected to Reid’s efforts to distribute the money. 

In a referendum organized by Te-Moak Tribal Council Chairman Felix Ike in early June, 1647 tribal members voted in favor of the payout and 156 opposed it. The vote delighted the Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Steering Committee, which supports the distribution. But chairman of five Western Shoshone bands, including the four that make up the Te-Moak Council, objected that the vote did not follow established procedures. Some also questioned the role of Sen. Reid in organizing the referendum. Questions about the wording of a previous vote were instrumental in canceling a Senate hearing on S. 958 scheduled for March.

"It is very saddening that Senator Reid has decided to unapologetically undermine Western Shoshone tribal sovereignty and governmental integrity by supporting the legislative objectives of a few people comprising the self-appointed Western Shoshone Claims Distribution Steering Committee without regard to the strong opposition of virtually all Western Shoshone tribal governments to S. 958," said Tom Luebben, attorney for two of the Shoshone bands.

"The scheduled March 21 hearing was cancelled on less than a day’s notice, although representatives of most Shoshone governments were in Washington and prepared to testify. The hearing was apparently cancelled because most of the witnesses were going to say things Senator Reid doesn’t want to hear and doesn’t want in the record." 

Many Western Shoshone bands and the Danns oppose the bill because of concern that it would undermine their rights to their lands and compound the human rights violations identified by the Inter-American Commission.

"Western Shoshone leaders have opposed distribution of the Indian Claims Commission Award for 22 years. Reid is attempting to work around tribal leaders representing the vast majority of Western Shoshone citizens," said Ian Zabarte, a longtime activist in defense of Shoshone lands.

"S. 958 does not provide for a land base necessary for the growth and development of the Western Shoshone Nation as contemplated by the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, ensuring instead that the current condition of economic starvation continues on the tiny colonies and reservations."

Vatican Boots Seven Women Priests
By John Innes 

Rome August 6, 2002 (The Scotsman) - The Vatican yesterday excommunicated seven women who claim to be priests and refuse to repent, saying that the group had wounded the Church. 

The women - from Austria, Germany and the United States - participated in an ordination ceremony carried out by Romulo Braschi, an Argentine who calls himself an archbishop but who is rejected by the Vatican. 

The Church’s guardian of orthodoxy, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, set a 22 July deadline for the women to reverse their claims. 

However, the women did not "give any indication of amendment or repentance for the most serious offence they had committed", the Vatican said in a statement signed by Cardinal Ratzinger of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

"This Dicastery, in keeping with this warning, declares that they have incurred excommunication," the Vatican said. 

The statement expressed hope, however, that the women would eventually return to the fold.
Beer News!

Women to Worship Goddess of Beer 

LONDON August 6, 2002 (Reuters) - British beer lovers have enlisted the support of a Sumerian goddess in their efforts to shake off the masculine image of their favorite tipple. Fed up with the drink's beer bellied image, the Campaign for Real Ale (Camra) said on Tuesday it had adopted the goddess Ninkasi -- said to have created a recipe for beer 4,000 years ago -- as patron in a bid to attract more women to the pumps. 

"We think real British beer is something to be proud of and it should be marketed to women as well as men," said Camra's Mike Benner. "Almost all the advertising we see on our TV a real turn off for women. Ninkasi, the new Goddess of British beer, is here to change all that." 

Ninkasi, worshipped by one of the world's earliest civilizations in what is now Iraq in around 3500 BC, is thought to be one of the early brewers of beer.

She was worshipped by both men and women at a time when ale was made and served exclusively by women. 

Camra decided to adopt the cult after its research revealed that less than a quarter of British women had tried real cask ale in a pub, Benner said. Almost a fifth of women polled by Camra said they thought it was an old-fashioned drink, while a third believed it was "unfeminine." 

"Brewers need to present beer in a more original and modern way if they are going to build a following with women," Benner said in a statement. "It needs to be a little less Inspector Morse." 

To tempt female taste buds, the society is launching a range of 10 "female friendly" ales at its Great British Beer Festival in London this week. While none is brewed to the recipe used by Ninkasi, Benner said the 10 beers on offer demonstrated the wide variety available. He added that women would also not be expected to drink the beer in the same way as ancient Sumerian women -- from bulky clay jugs through lengthy drinking straws. 

The annual Great British Beer Festival is on at London's Olympia from Tuesday to Saturday. Some 45,000 beer lovers are expected to attend. 

Camra surveyed 1,000 people across Britain in June this year.

Ancient Egyptian Beer Resurrected

JAPAN August 4, 2002 (Sydney Morning Herald) - A major Japanese brewery has claimed to have recreated a 4,000-year-old Egyptian beer by following a recipe portrayed in ancient tomb paintings.

Kirin Brewery Co Ltd said in a statement yesterday that the beer was dark brown, had a strong sour taste and an alcohol content of about 10 per cent, despite a widely held theory that the ancient brew may have had an alcohol content of just three per cent.

The rate in modern beers ranges between 4.5-5.5 per cent.

"The beer contains little carbonic acid gas and has no froth. It also contains a greater amount of lactic acid than modern beers as it is produced through lactic fermentation," the statement, on the company's website, said.

The statement said the recipe was based on wall paintings from tombs built in Egypt from between 2650 BC and 2180. The company said it planned to recreate other ancient Egyptian brews next year.

It said it planned to release the full details about its new beer at a meeting of the Master Brewers Association of America in October.

Earth Getting Fatter!

NASA NEWS RELEASE August 5, 2002 - Satellite data since 1998 indicates the bulge in the Earth's gravity field at the equator is growing, and scientists think that the ocean may hold the answer to the mystery of how the changes in the trend of Earth's gravity are occurring. 

Before 1998, Earth's equatorial bulge in the gravity field was getting smaller because of the post-glacial rebound, or PGR, that occurred as a result of the melting of the ice sheets after the last Ice Age. When the ice sheets melted, land that was underneath the ice started rising. As the ground rebounded in this fashion, the gravity field changed. 

"The Earth behaved much like putting your finger into a sponge ball and watching it slowly bounce back," said Christopher Cox, a research scientist supporting the Space Geodesy Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 

Currently, the Earth has a significant upward bulge at the equator, and a downward bulge at the poles. "Observations of the Earth's gravity field show that some phenomena are counteracting the gravitational effects of PGR. Whereas PGR has been decreasing the bulge in the Earth's gravity field at the equator, this recent phenomena is causing the bulge to increase," Cox said. Such changes in the gravity field can be sensed using ultra precise laser tracking of satellites to observe tiny changes in the orbits of those satellites and by tracking changes in the length of day or rotation of the Earth. 

Scientists believe movements of mass cause this recent change from the high latitudes to the equator. Such large changes may be caused by climate change, but could also be part of normal long-period climatic variation. "The three areas that can trigger large changes in the Earth's gravitational field are oceans, polar and glacial ice, and atmosphere," Cox said. 

Cox and colleague Dr. Benjamin Chao have ruled out the atmosphere as the cause. Instead, they suggest a significant amount of Ice or water must be moving from high latitude regions to the equator, and oceans could be the vehicles of this movement. 

Estimates of today's glacier and polar ice melting are too small to explain the recent changes in the gravity field. If melting ice were the cause of the recent changes in the gravitational field, it would require melting a block of ice 10 km (6.2 miles) on each side by 5 km (3.1 miles) high every year since 1997 and pouring it into the oceans. 

"The recent reports of large icebergs calving in Antarctica can't explain this, because they were already floating in the ocean," Cox said. Further, radar altimeter observations of the average sea level rise provided by the TOPEX/POSEIDON satellite show no corresponding change in the rate of the global sea level increase. 

Consequently mass must have been redistributed within the oceans. That's where the ocean circulation theory comes in. Ocean currents can redistribute mass quickly, such as the 5- year time frame that these changes were first observed. The TOPEX/POSEIDON observations of sea level height do show an increase in the equatorial bulge of the oceans corresponding to the observed gravity changes, but the data are not yet conclusive. One critical factor is the temperature of the world's oceans, and its salinity, for which detailed data are not yet available. 

In 2002 NASA also launched the GRACE and JASON missions, missions that will help to more precisely track these sorts of changes in Earth's geodesy, and will launch the ICESAT mission this winter. 

An article on this NASA-funded study appears in the August 2 issue of the journal Science.

Whale News!

Government Calls Orcas Insignificant - Refuses Protection 

Seattle August 6th, 2002 (Earthjustice) - Today a coalition of environmental groups filed a 60-day notice of intent to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service for finding that Puget Sound’s Southern Resident killer whales are not ‘significant,’ a finding that precludes protection under the Endangered Species Act.

Today’s notice challenges the Fisheries Service’s failure to protect these whales on the ground that the Endangered Species Act protects discrete populations in the United States, even if killer whales may survive in Canada or on the high seas. 

"This was an historic and ominous determination: we know of no other determination where an agency baldly stated that it won’t protect an endangered species because it considers the species insignificant," said Brent Plater, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "This lawsuit will ensure that Puget Sound’s killer whales are protected, and that the Fisheries Service never makes such a blatantly illegal determination again." 

"People in the Pacific Northwest identify with the strength and beauty of Puget Sound’s killer whales," said Earthjustice attorney Patti Goldman. "NMFS is willing to write off this population, but we’re not." 

The Center for Biological Diversity is joined by Ocean Advocates, Orca Conservancy, Friends of the San Juans, People for Puget Sound, Project SeaWolf, former Secretary of State Ralph Munro, Karen Munro, Earth Island Institute, and other groups in filing the 60-day notice, which is a precondition to filing a lawsuit under the ESA. 

Over the past six years the Puget Sound resident killer whales have declined nearly 20%, leaving only 78 individuals in the population at the end of the 2001 survey year. The cause of the current decline appears to be the synergistic effects of high levels of toxic pollutants, a population decline in their preferred salmon prey, and human disturbance. 

In response to a petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity and 11 copetitioners to list the this orca group as ‘endangered’ under the ESA, the Fisheries Service determined that this population of orcas was a discrete population, and also found that they were in danger of extinction. However, the agency determined that the whales didn’t meet a subjective, superimposed criteria: whether the whales are ‘significant.’ 

"The Fisheries Service has scientists making legal determinations, lawyers sequestering scientific data, and bureaucrats making determinations on whether a species lives or goes extinct," said Stephanie Buffum, Executive Director of Friends of the San Juans. "The Puget Sound resident orcas need and deserve our help now, and that’s why this lawsuit is necessary." 

Instead of listing the Southern Residents as endangered, the Fisheries Service began considering if the Southern Residents are "depleted" under a different statute, the Marine Mammal Protection Act. However, depleted status cannot address the threats facing the Southern Residents. 

"The ‘depleted’ designation is a sham, because it is only useful to address threats such as unsustainable harvest levels and fishery bycatch. But we know that neither of these threats are impacting the Southern Residents," said Fred Felleman of Ocean Advocates. "The Fisheries Service is using this as a way to deflect attention away from the whales so their inaction on salmon declines and the threat of oil spills won’t be noticed by the public." 

Since late last year, a lone juvenile Southern Resident that was thought to have died has been found near Vancouver Island. This marks the first time in the history of the population that a killer whale has been absent from the summer survey of Southern Residents only to be found alone and alive. This discovery marks an ominous disruption of the social organization of the Southern Residents. And while NMFS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to return Springer, a Northern Resident killer whale, to Canada, the 3-year-old Southern Resident orphan has received almost no attention from the agency charged with protecting this population. 

"This orphaned Southern Resident whale will likely die if it isn’t reunited with its family, yet the Fisheries Service sits idly by while its entire family goes extinct," said Michael Harris, President of the Orca Conservancy. "And since the Southern Residents need their population fortified by all means available, its time for NMFS to take these basic steps to protect the population."

Rare Whale Dead in South Africa

South Africa August 4, 2002 (BBC) - A very rare breed of whale has washed up on a South African beach, a marine scientist says.

Vic Cockcroft, of the country's Centre for Dolphin Studies, says the five-meter-long dead whale that appeared on a Western Cape beach last week is a Longman's beaked whale.

"It's amazingly valuable, simply because we know absolutely nothing about the animals because they have only been seen two or three times alive," he said. 

Only two other complete carcasses of this kind of whale (Mesoplodon pacificus) have previously been found, as well as three skulls. So the animals remain something of a mystery to researchers. 

"We don't know the maximum size, we don't know where they feed or what they feed on. I mean we know absolutely nothing about them, where they occur even," Dr Cockcroft said. 

The other two Longman's beaked whale carcasses found also turned up in South Africa, one a decade ago and the other in the early 1980s. Three skulls have also been found in Somalia, Kenya and Tasmania. 

As its name implies, it has a long, beak-like mouth, and is believed to normally inhabit waters far from shore. From the shape of their teeth, scientists believe the whales feed on squid. 

Scientists are performing an autopsy on the dead whale, and samples of its flesh have been taken for genetic and other testing. Its skeleton will reportedly be exhibited in a local museum. 

It is the second odd creature to turn up on a beach in South Africa in recent months. A rarely seen megamouth shark, a breed only discovered in 1976, washed up on a Western Cape beach just three months ago.

Nixon Daughters Meet Over Dispute

MIAMI August 6, 2002 (AP) — The daughters of former President Nixon met Tuesday in an attempt to resolve their two-year dispute over how to spend a $20 million bequest for their father's presidential library. 

No agreement had been reached in the daylong, court-ordered meeting, but Tricia Cox said she and her sister, Julie Eisenhower, were making progress. The session was continuing late Tuesday. 

"It's been a very good and productive day," Cox said while walking arm-and-arm with her sister during a break. "Julie and I have always loved each other for more than 50 years and we always will." 

Two off-duty police officers guarded the floor of the closed meeting room at a downtown hotel. The participants emerged only for breaks and while the air conditioning was briefly being repaired. 

In June, a judge ordered the daughters to meet with longtime Nixon friend Robert Abplanalp, estate trustees and representatives of the Nixon Library and Birthplace in Yorba Linda, Calif. 

Another of Nixon's friends, Key Biscayne banker Charles Rebozo, left 65 percent of his estate to the library when he died in 1998 on the condition that the sisters and Abplanalp approve the spending. 

The sisters can't agree whether the library should be operated by the family, which is Cox's choice, or by a 24-member board, the preference of Eisenhower and the library foundation.

Archaeologist Finds John the Baptist?

Courant Staff Writer 

Israel August 2, 2002 (The Hartford Courant) - A colorful University of Hartford archaeologist ignited an international debate Thursday when he claimed he had discovered a 2,000-year-old skeleton in Israel, possibly that of John the Baptist.

Skeptics in Israel immediately dismissed the theory as far-fetched after Professor Richard Freund said the skeleton may be the remains of a mysterious figure known in the Dead Sea Scrolls as the "Teacher of Righteousness."

Freund, along with other archaeologists and several University of Hartford students, unearthed the well-preserved skeleton this week during an expedition at Qumran in the Judean Desert.

The location of the remains, along with items found at the grave site, suggest the skeleton may be that of the "Teacher of Righteousness," founder of a Jewish sect called the Essenes, Freund said.

Some scholars believe John the Baptist was part of the Essene sect.

The Essenes, a monastic sect that flourished in Palestine, are thought to be the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were discovered at Qumran in 1947.

Freund's theory about the skeleton was disputed by other members of his own archaeology team.

"There is nothing to it," said Magen Broshi, an expert on the Dead Sea Scrolls. "What we have unearthed is most probably a skeleton of a Bedouin man from about two or three hundred years ago."

The energetic Freund, an ordained rabbi who speaks 10 languages and sometimes sports an Indiana Jones hat, has written several books on archaeology. One of the clues to the age of the skeleton, he said, was a cooking pot found at its feet that dates to the first century A.D.

"I don't know if this is John the Baptist, but it certainly is possible," Freund said by telephone Thursday. He theorizes there may have been several Teachers of Righteousness over a period of generations, including John the Baptist, the Biblical figure from the New Testament. It is very difficult to pick out a person from a literary text and have an archaeological fact mesh with it," said Freund, who said determining the skeleton's identity is "like looking for a needle in a 2,000-year-old haystack."

In an e-mail earlier Thursday, Freund told The Courant, "It remains to be seen who [the skeleton] actually was, but if this is the Teacher, it would be like coming face to face with a person who is responsible for the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity and, indirectly, Islam."

The team, which included professors from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, California State University-Long Beach and Bar-Ilan University in Israel, made the discovery after using ground-penetrating radar to probe a mausoleum, said Freund, the director of the University of Hartford's Maurice Greenberg Center for Judaic Studies.

Freund has led several summer trips to Israel on archaeology expeditions at Qumran and Bethsaida. Working in temperatures above 100 degrees, team members unearthed the skeleton Monday. Freund said it will be taken to the University of Arizona for carbon dating and DNA analysis.

"It is the single most exciting discovery I've ever made," said Freund, who has been an archaeologist for more than 20 years.

The Teacher of Righteousness is mentioned often in the Dead Sea Scrolls, Freund said. "He was a quasi-messianic figure like Jesus for the Christians. He was a priest and prophet, and his word was like the word of God for the followers," he said. The location of the remains in a burial chamber at the highest point overlooking Qumran, a place that first catches the light of sunrise, suggests it may be the burial site of the most important figure in the group, Freund said.

"There is no other burial like this. The Qumran sect were extremely attached to the sun. It is the most elaborate burial one can imagine in a very simple place," he said.

However, Broshi said there was too much of a discrepancy in the dates of the John the Baptist who was killed in A.D. 29 and the sect, which was active from 150 B.C. to A.D. 68. The skeleton was discovered near the site where the remains of two women from the period of the Second Temple, the first century A.D., were found last summer, and where a zinc coffin also was unearthed.

Freund said there were a number of reasons scholars believed the leader of the Essenes and John the Baptist were the same person. These included the similarities between ideas of John the Baptist in the New Testament and those of the Essenes; the fact that there were several ritual pools at Qumran; and that the early Christian went into the wilderness, was from a priestly family and was an ascetic whose lifestyle was close to that of the sect.

Although John the Baptist was beheaded by Herod, according to the Bible, a skull was found with the skeleton. However, Freund said the remains were not excavated intact, but that it was common to bury the skulls of people who had been beheaded together with their bodies.

Hanan Eshel, head of the archaeology department at Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv and another head of the expedition, dismissed Freund's theory as nonsense.

"John the Baptist was not part of this group. We don't have a clue who the skeleton buried there belonged to and we won't have," he said.

Adolfo Roitman, curator and director of the Shrine of the Book where the scrolls are kept at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, said some scholars tried to identify the founder of the sect with historic characters mentioned in the New Testament to try to resolve the riddle of the ancient texts.

"We don't know who the real person behind the title Teacher of Righteousness is. But attempts to try and identify these people as the first Christians is a theory most scholars, including myself, don't accept," he said. However, Roitman said it seemed reasonable that the skeleton and the artifacts found in the grave were from the same period, "but I won't dare to say more than that."

An Associated Press report is included in this story.

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