China Hacks,
Hugh Hefner,
Bugs Bunny and
Big Bang!
Who's Hacking Who?
Los Angeles May 5, 2001 (eXoNews) - It may be the Chinese - or maybe not.

Apparently the news media and the US government don't think the "hacker war" is much to worry about.  After a week of intrusions all across the web, "major" Internet news sources have yet to run a lead article on the story. But all may not be what it seems.

In an exclusive interview, eXoNews talks to the webmaster of a US-based company providing government services to at number of major US cities. For security reasons, the name of the company and its webmaster will remain anonymous:

eXoNews: You were hacked this week?

Webmaster: Yes. Early in the week.

eXoNews: By Chinese hackers?

Webmaster: Supposedly. At least we thought they were Chinese, at first. The hack was signed with an email address with a .cn extension. That extension means China.

eXoNews: Would you say it was a serious hack?

Webmaster: It wasn't life threatening, but it was very thorough. They inserted a substitute page for every index and default page on one of our servers. We managed a very quick response because the server was being phased out and most of the sites on it weren't live anyway. We shifted the active sites to a backup server in a few minutes, but at least one of our government clients did report the hack - saw the message - so it wasn't quite quick enough. We had about 200 default pages on that server and the hack replaced most of them.

eXoNews: For our readers, the index and default pages are the first page you see when you hit a web site. And these substitute pages said what?

Webmaster: Well, I won't repeat the exact language. They basically had an anti-US government message in red against black, signed with the Chinese email address. It's strange though. Once we had time to do a little research we read that the hacker's handle was the same as the one who was claiming to have hacked hundreds of Chinese sites. It makes you wonder: who is hacking who?

eXoNews: Again for our readers, a "handle" is a signature. So your hack may not have been from China?

Webmaster: I suspect it came from outside China. Why would a Chinese hacker sign it with someone else's handle? It's pretty much a mystery, though.

eXoNews: Any conspiracy theories? Our readers all watch X-Files.

Webmaster: LOL! I hope they're watching The Lone Gunmen, too! Personally, I think its a convenient wave of hacks for the US, considering the current political back and forth between the Bush administration and China. It would be relatively easy to masquerade as a Chinese hacker if you were, say, operating with the budget of a covert US government agency.

eXoNews: So you suspect its all a propaganda thing? It's staged?

Webmaster: Let's just say Trust No One and leave it at that.

China Tit-For-Tat Hacks Escalate
By James Middleton

Tuesday 01 May 2001 (VNUNET.COM) - The online sparring match between supposed US and Chinese hacking groups appears to have stepped up, with widespread media reports of the possibility of increased attacks starting today, International Workers Day.

However, security experts have pointed out the dangers in assuming that US hackers are attacking China and vice versa. It could be anyone doing the defacing and laying the blame on someone else, they warned.

Rumours circulating on the web claim that Chinese hackers will be kicking off a 'Hack the USA' week today, while numerous Chinese Government sites have been defaced in what could be seen as retaliation.

Almost 40 Chinese and US sites have been attacked in the last 24 hours, with the numbers surging into the hundreds over the last month.

US sites for the departments of Labour and Health and Human Services were compromised recently, with the index pages replaced with a picture of Wang Wei, the Chinese pilot killed in the spy plane collision.

Chinese Government sites have also been defaced with messages calling for "American hackers ... join our work and hack together Chinese sites".

But as Sarah Gordon, senior research fellow for security firm Symantec, pointed out: "There is no proof that these hacks are being carried out by US or Chinese hackers. The virtual world allows for so much anonymity. Add this to the dangerous ways that some computers can be used, such as for propaganda purposes, and the internet is an ideal tool for cybercrime and terrorism."

In fact, Poizonb0x, a defacing group claiming the credit for over 200 Chinese domains defaced last month, said in an interview with Brass Knuckles webzine that the attacks were not politically motivated.

"We could crack all *.au sites too ... no politics! No plans! ... I'm not an American," said a Poizonb0x spokesperson.

But the unverifiable motive for the attacks has not stopped risk management firms like iDefense releasing reports suggesting the attacks on US sites are "state-sponsored" by China.

One spokesman for iDefense is quoted as saying: "But the Chinese Government tries to control the internet closely and attempts to filter Western influences, so it leads to the suspicion they're at least looking the other way."
US Calls ‘Net War’ Mostly Harmless
By Ted Bridis

WASHINGTON, May 1 — Chinese and U.S. hackers traded insults across the Internet as part of a threatened weeklong “Net War,” breaking into dozens of corporate and government computers on both sides of the Pacific and replacing Web pages with political statements.

U.S. OFFICIALS SAID there was no evidence of Chinese government coordination of the hacker attacks against U.S. sites, which they described as embarrassing to victims but otherwise harmless. There appeared to be little impact on consumers world-wide.

U.S. officials identified at least eight federal Web sites taken over since Saturday night, including one for the clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. A hacker, presumed to be Chinese, taunted: “What happened to this American site?” At a site run by the Philadelphia mayor’s office, other hackers wrote: “Beat down Imperialism of American!”

In public discussion forums, Chinese hackers have described plans for a May 1 “Net War.” The attacks are to continue through next Saturday, the anniversary of the accidental bombing by a U.S. warplane of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.

These hacker groups alternately call themselves the “Honker Union of China” and the “Red Guest Alliance.” Most of the organization for the attacks apparently took place Monday in a single publicly accessible Internet chat room operated in China, where participants identified vulnerable computers. Within minutes after Web sites were so identified, vandals attacked them.

While there was no proof of Chinese government coordination of the attacks, some said Beijing clearly was tolerating them. “It’s safe to assume they’re not making any strenuous efforts to shut this down,” said James Lewis, who once negotiated technology policy with China for the State Department and is now an expert on tech policy for the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank.

On the U.S. side, there apparently have been no arrests of hackers targeting Chinese servers.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s National Infrastructure Protection Center issued a public warning last week about the threat from Chinese hackers, telling computer operators to monitor more closely their systems and asking them to report attacks to law-enforcement officers. Officials from the NIPC declined to comment.

Ever since a Chinese fighter jet collided with a U.S. surveillance plane last month, groups of hackers from the U.S., Brazil and Europe have been attacking Internet sites in China. Those attacks appear to have increased in reaction to the online discussions about hitting vulnerable U.S. sites this week.

The online vandalism could escalate with the discovery of a serious flaw that will make it easier to break into some Web sites. The bug was found in Microsoft Corp.’s popular Internet-server software in Windows 2000 by eEye Digital Security Inc., of Aliso Viejo, Calif. (MSNBC is a Microsoft-NBC joint venture.)

The vulnerability, which Microsoft is expected to warn customers about Tuesday, allows hackers to send a command of about 500 characters and take complete control of a server computer. Microsoft said it would offer a patch Tuesday to fix the problem, but users must download and install it themselves.
Hugh Hefner Parties On And On

By Jill Serjeant

LOS ANGELES May 4, 2001 (Reuters) - Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has decided to invite the neighbors over more often to meet the bunnies in the hopes they will quit complaining.

Neighbors of the swinging 75-year-old have been complaining to authorities about the seemingly endless round of parties at Hefner's opulent 31-room Playboy Mansion, counting 22 big parties at the mansion over a three-month period last year.

They say the parties cause noise and traffic congestion and filed a complaint alleging that Hefner had turned his home into a money-making business.

Inspectors said this week they had found no evidence of zoning or building code violations at the opulent Tudor-style house where Hefner has lived with various playmates for 30 years.

"There is no definition under Los Angeles law on how many parties a person can have at his home, and we could find no evidence that they were renting out the mansion to others for parties and making a profit," Dave Keim, chief of building code enforcement, said on Thursday.

But Hefner's spokesman said the complaints had been taken to heart and that sound barriers and a shuttle bus system for guests should help to keep the peace.

"Hugh Hefner has lived there for a very long time. He wants to be a good citizen. He has also asked the local home-owner's association to use the mansion for their meetings," said Bill Farley, spokesman for Playboy Enterprises.

Describing the Playboy founder as a "very generous and frequent host", Farley said Hefner had friends over four or five nights a week, held a personal party about twice a month, held political and charity fund-raisers there as well as promotional Playboy events involving several hundred guests.

"There have been a couple of incidents when lots of cars have backed up but now we are bringing guests in on a shuttle from a nearby parking lot," said Farley.

"We have also put up a 'sound wall' to block the music and we have an employee monitoring the noise with decibel equipment.

"We feel we are pretty much in sync with our neighbors and hope to put this behind us," said Farley.

King Seeks Patent for Palm Oil Engine Fuel
BANGKOK May 4, 2001 (Reuters) - Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej has applied for a patent on a formula for using palm oil which could fuel diesel engines, helping to cut pollution and save on oil imports, officials said on Friday.

Santi Rattanasuwan, deputy director-general of the intellectual property department, told Reuters the king had found that a special mixture of palm and diesel oil could be used in diesel engines without the need for modifications or a filter.

"This will be a great help for the country," Santi said.

"The concept of using palm oil as engine fuel is not new. Many people have talked about it, tested it and failed.

"But the king's formula, which he tested and proved himself, works well with the engine," Santi said.

Industry Minister Suriya Jungrungreangkit said the ministry would ask the state-run Petroleum Authority of Thailand to assist with producing the palm oil formula fuel so it could be sold in Thailand at low cost.
Map Helps Amazon Indians Claim Their Rain Forest

By Maggie Fox

ALEXANDRIA, Va. May 03, 2001 (Reuters) - It doesn't look like much of a map: lots and lots of open space representing virgin South American rain forest, a few rivers and a single village.

But to the Tirio Indians of southern Suriname, the map represents their past, present and future, putting on paper for the first time the names of rivers they have fished for millennia, mountains they have used to navigate and sacred places. They hope it will protect them from loggers and miners who ache to exploit the riches of the Amazon forests.

"Now the Indians can say, 'Our village is here and our sacred mountain is here and our hunting grounds are here,"' Mark Plotkin, head of the Amazon Conservation Team, which organized the mapping project, told Reuters in an interview.

"We are hoping this will create facts on the ground. It says, 'Here is where we live, here is where our resources are.' It is a pre-emptive statement."

The map, being unveiled on May 4 at a mapping conference at the Library of Congress in Washington, covers about 16,000 square miles of southern Suriname, a small country nestled in the northeast shoulder of South America. It represents a large chunk of the lushly forested country, itself only 63,000 square miles in size, an area inhabited by about 2,000 indigenous Tirio people.

"The Indians say, 'We want title to our land,"' Plotkin said. "What could be more ridiculous, because they have been living there 15,000 years?"

But Plotkin's group, and the Tirio, realize that maps are the only way to stake a legal claim in the 21st century.

"The Indians themselves some time ago had produced a map of their own, but that map did not have any credibility with the government," said Neville Gunther, who headed the mapping project for the Amazon Conservation Team.

"There was no involvement whatsoever of the government. They don't attach any meaning to it."

Anthropologist Mac Chapin of the Center for the Support of Native Lands, which carried out the $100,000 project, said the Tirio maps were also too primitive.

"They stick with sketch maps and don't combine that information with cartographically accurate maps," he said. "They are useful for some purposes but the maps our team made are better because they contain all the cultural information in a format which is credible for legal and political work. You get maps that the government people will accept."

Plotkin, who has worked with Amazonian shamans for years to try to preserve some of their botanical and medical knowledge, put together a plan with Chapin, who was himself plotting ways to help indigenous people verify their land claims.

The best way to get the approval of the government, they decided, was to work with it. So they enlisted cartographers from the government of Suriname.


The cartographers had aerial images of the former Dutch colony. "You can see some features on aerial images but aerial images cannot provide you with the name," Gunther said. "The existing maps were just empty."

Chapin said there was no way to tell that vast areas that looked empty on maps were actually used by the hunter-gatherer Tirio. "Sometimes you see a little dot that says village, but people don't live in dots, they live in territories, and we had to document the territories of these people."

And for simple-living hunter-gatherers, it takes a lot of territory just to live. "When people look at a map and see a dot that says 'Kwamalasamutu,' they might say, 'Give them 3 kilometers around that dot,"' Gunther said.

But people who live off the animals they can find and shoot, the fruit they can gather and the little bit of cassava they grow for a staple need a great deal of land. The Tirio now have guns and do not have to rely on traditional methods such as poison darts, but guns make noise and noise spooks animals. They have to go pretty far to hunt now."

Kwamalasamutu is the main Tirio village -- the only true village marked on the map -- but the people go off to camps dispersed over a large area, the anthropologists said.

So how to fill in all those gaps in the government satellite maps? The two nonprofit groups put together an unusual alliance of city folk and forest dwellers who left the Stone Age just a generation ago.

"We had to get young guys in blue jeans to sit next to the old guys, the shamans, and ask, 'What is our name for this stream?"' Plotkin said.

Chapin's team arranged workshops where government cartographers conferred with Tirio to name every river, stream, mountain and swamp they could. "What we are doing is transferring what is in a person's head onto paper," he said.

"They gathered all the information on land use, subsistence patterns, where people hunt, where they fish, where they farm, where they gather. You end up with maps that contain all sorts of cultural information."

This in turn can be used to fight off developers, miners and foresters who claim the land is not used.

"Now they (the Tirio) can apply for title to the lands," said Plotkin, whose group's Internet Web Site at describes the project.


"The government is on the verge of giving out a bunch of concessions for timbering," Chapin said. "One of the ways that a lot of these timber concessions come in is you have a map which shows nothing and they say it is all empty -- there are no people out there. We show there are people by using a map."

Gunther added, "Brazilian gold miners were entering the area and the Tirio didn't have anything to say, 'Hey you are trespassing now."'

Chapin's group has done similar work in Honduras, Panama and Bolivia and in Cameroon in Africa and plan to do more projects elsewhere in Suriname, in Guatemala and in Brazil.

The hope is not only to preserve Indians' legal rights but to help save the rain forest and its huge diversity of delicate wildlife. Many researchers believe rain forest plants may contain unique medical properties, which is one motivation behind the Amazon Conservation Team's shaman project.

"Indians protect the forest and the forest protects the Indians," Plotkin said. "This is not going to save the Amazon per se. But why not, where you have Indians, where you have forest, why not try to head off the problem?"

And, he said, others could benefit if the map serves to help the Tirio protect their forest. For example, mining produces toxic metals that can get into the water supply.

"Every river in the western half of the country originates in this area," Plotkin said. "They are all drinking downstream of these guys. So you protect the headwaters."

Loch Ness Monster Hunter Nets Big Witch Trouble

EDINBURGH April 24, 2001 (Reuters) - Veteran monster hunter Jan Sundberg landed himself in hot water with a white witch on Tuesday as he began an underwater attempt to catch the most famous and elusive resident of Scotland's Loch Ness.

The Swede has sparked fury among animal lovers and witches alike with plans for Operation 'Clean Sweep', a trawl of the lake which he hopes will net Nessie, the legendary Loch Ness monster.

But Kevin Carlyon, high priest of the British White Witches, is determined to put a stop to the hunt by casting a protective spell over the loch and any monsters lurking peacefully beneath the waves.

Sundberg, who is adamant the work of his Global Underwater Research Team is legitimate scientific research, is unimpressed by the interference and plans a distinctly unscientific solution.

"It's all a lot of mumbo jumbo, so we haven't bothered with this guy," he said. "If he shows his face down here again, we'll throw him into the lake. I think he needs to be cooled off a bit."

The legend of a monster in the dark waters of Britain's largest lake dates back to 565 AD when St. Columba, the holy man who brought Christianity to Scotland, spotted a fearsome lake-dwelling beastie.

Illinois Representative Claims Maltreatment by US Navy

Associated Press Writer

CHICAGO May 2, 2001 (AP) — Rep. Luis Gutierrez says he and others protesting naval bombing exercises in Puerto Rico were handcuffed for 24 hours and held in a former dog kennel where they slept on the concrete floor as roaches and lizards crawled around them.

The Illinois Democrat called the treatment by the Navy security officers on the island of Vieques "very inhumane.''

"Everyone was mistreated,'' he told reporters at a rally in Chicago on Tuesday, a few hours after being freed from a federal jail in Puerto Rico. "We would never want our armed forces to be treated that way.''

Navy officials denied the accusations.

Gutierrez is among opponents demanding that the Navy abandon its training ground after a bombing accident killed a civilian security guard on the range two years ago.

Decades of live bombing have stunted development and tourism, severely damaged the environment and caused health problems, critics claim. The Navy says Vieques is essential to prepare U.S. forces for combat.

The Navy resumed bombing on Vieques last week, after a Pentagon order in March to temporarily suspend the exercises to give negotiators a chance to pursue a permanent solution to the dispute.

The latest bombing exercises drew bitter demonstrations, and Gutierrez was among at least 180 protesters detained since Thursday for intruding on the Navy training ground on Vieques. Gutierrez was arrested on a misdemeanor trespassing charge.

"It's a misdemeanor. It's like a traffic ticket in Chicago, and I was held for three days,'' he said.

Gutierrez said Navy security officers ordered the handcuffed detainees to kneel on the rocky ground outside. He said he hesitated because he wanted to clear the rocks, but a sailor intervened.

"He kicked my feet from under me, put me face-down, put his knee on my back, and just said 'stay there,''' Gutierrez said in San Juan before flying back to Chicago. Then, he said, sailors "lifted me and threw me a few feet.''

The group spent the night on the floor of a "holding pen'' — a place smelling of urine that islanders told him had been used for guard dogs. He said there was no roof to protect them, which included an 81-year-old man, against the rain and chilly night air.

"They were being punitive. They were trying to dehumanize us,'' he said at the rally.

Navy officials disputed Gutierrez's account, saying he was treated fairly and that the concrete building where he was held for one night has never been used as a kennel.

The detainees were treated "with dignity and respect,'' Navy Lt. Carlos Pinero said, calling Gutierrez's account "absolutely false.''

The Navy said three sailors were hit by rocks during the protests. U.S. marshals said 16 of them were hit by rocks, ball bearings and nails that were hurled by protesters.

Gutierrez was held on the island for a full day by the Navy, then was transferred to San Juan and handed off to the U.S. Marshals service. He said protesters were treated well under the watch of marshals.

After posting the required $900 of the $3,000 bail, Gutierrez boarded a flight to Chicago.

The five-term congressman who spent his high school days in Puerto Rico and later taught English there, said he hoped to return to Vieques with other members of Congress around May 18.

"It's time for the people there to be allowed to live in peace,'' he said,

The Navy owns two-thirds of Vieques and its bombing range covers 900 acres — under 3 percent of the island. It used live bombs until two went astray in a 1999 practice and killed a civilian guard on the bombing range.

The Navy has used its Vieques range for six decades and says it is the only place its Atlantic fleet can conduct air, land and sea training simultaneously with live munitions. It denies claims that the exercises cause health problems.


On the Net:


U.S. Navy:

Vieques residents' site:

Bugs Bunny Too Racially Charged

NEW YORK May 4, 2001 (AP) - A retrospective initially intended to feature every Bugs Bunny cartoon will fall just short of complete, as Cartoon Network executives have decided not to air a dozen of the animated shorts deemed too racially charged.

In one episode, the wisecracking, carrot-chomping Bugs is featured parodying a black-faced Al Jolson; in another he calls an oafish, bucktoothed Eskimo a "big baboon"; and in yet another he distracts a black rabbit hunter by rattling a pair of dice.

These and other racially charged cartoons were supposed to be included in the retrospective slated for next month on AOL Time Warner Inc.'s Cartoon Network, until executives changed course last week, The Wall Street Journal reported Friday.

Initially the network planned to air the cartoons late at night with prominent disclaimers, explaining that the cartoons were representative of their time and should be viewed as historical records.

That idea was nixed after Warner Bros., which owns the rabbit, expressed its worry that the episodes might impact the company's extensive merchandising ventures.

The Cartoon Network holds licensing agreement with Warner Bros. for the entire library of Bugs Bunny cartoons.

Warner Bros. began pulling the cartoons lampooning blacks in the late 1960s, sensitized by the civil-rights movement, animation expert Jerry Beck told the Journal. Cartoons featuring stereotyped American Indians were taken out of circulation about five years ago.

Family Complains About Dead Passenger
HOUSTON April 25, 2001 (Reuters) - A Canadian family has complained to Continental Airlines that they sat next to a critically ill passenger who frothed at the mouth and died during their flight, but the airline said it was only performing a humanitarian mission.

The man, who was not named, died in January while on a five-hour-long flight from Majuro in the Marshall Islands to Honolulu to seek medical treatment, said airline spokesman Dave Messing.

"We are the only airline serving the mid-Pacific islands and we have a decades-long tradition of providing a vital lifeline to Hawaii for islanders who need either routine or emergency medical treatment," he said Tuesday. "Dozens if not hundreds of lives have been saved."

Messing said the airline tries to give ill passengers their privacy, but could not in this case because the Boeing 737 flight was virtually full.

Donna Beaulieu, her daughter and son-in-law, on their way home to Campbell River, British Columbia after vacationing in Bali, looked on in horror when the dying man was wheeled on to the plane and into the seat next to them. He was unconscious and hooked up to IV's and oxygen.

"We looked at each other and said 'This guy isn't going to make it,'" she told the Houston Chronicle.

She said he stopped breathing several times, but was roused by flight attendants and stayed alive until finally he frothed at the mouth and died.
Airlines Lobby Against Passenger Bills
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON May 3, 2001 (AP) - The airline industry, facing increased criticism for flight delays and poor customer service, are bringing in high-powered lobbyists to thwart legislation aimed at telling the airlines how to treat its passengers.

Eight airlines have added outside consultants to resist bills circulating on Capitol Hill, and their trade group itself has sought outside help. Firms headed by former Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour and former Democratic National Committee chairman Charles Manatt are among those recently registering to lobby for the airlines. The industry spent $16.4 million to lobby last year, a 19 percent increase over the $13.8 million it spent in 1999.

"With each new Congress, each individual trade association and each individual company reassesses its needs and responds accordingly," said Michael Wascom, a spokesman for the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the major airlines.

The new lobbyists are coming on board at a time when legislation is about to reach the Senate floor. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., said the Senate likely would vote later this month on legislation requiring airlines to disclose on-time performance of flights when customers buy tickets or make reservations and to establish a timetable for reducing the number of flights delayed at least 30 minutes.

"I wish they had used their resources to improve their services," said Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., a frequent critic of the industry. "The airlines, while I recognize they're not the sole source of the problems in the industry, have taken a rather callous approach. This is an industry that has not reacted well to deregulation."

Sweeney and Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., introduced legislation Thursday requiring airlines to provide food, water and restrooms to passengers aboard a delayed plane. They also would have to allow passengers to leave planes still on the ground more than an hour after their scheduled takeoff unless they will leave within 30 minutes.

"It guarantees passengers will be treated fairly," said Dingell, who became a critic of airline service after a January 1999 blizzard left thousands of passengers stranded on Detroit Metropolitan Airport runways for up to eight hours as planes were unable to take off or pull into a gate.

"When your issue is about to hit center stage, that's when you dig deep into your pockets and hire the best lobbyists you can find," said Larry Makinson, a senior fellow at the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan research group that studies campaign finance. "It sounds like the entire industry is doing that right now."

The airlines staved off legislation in 1999 by agreeing to voluntary standards for consumer service. They are fighting the current round of bills by pointing to their progress in meeting those standards.

"Overall, we found the airlines were making progress toward meeting their customer service commitment and that the commitment has been a plus for air travelers," the Transportation Department inspector general reported in February.

But the inspector general also noted that more than one of every four flights last year was delayed or canceled. And an annual study of airline quality by two university professors found more complaints from passengers about service and more checked baggage mishandled.

Airline officials maintain that the real problem is too few runways and air traffic system unable to keep up with the growing demand for flights.

"If you enact this bill tomorrow, we will still have delays and cancellations because the system hasn't kept up," Wascom said.

Last week, the chief executives of 14 airlines made that argument in a letter to Lott opposing the Senate bill.

"Unfortunately, what this one-size fits all regulatory approach will ultimately do is increase the cost of flying for everyone, while our delay problem continues to grow," the airline executives wrote. "The bottom line is that our nation's air traffic and airport systems have simply not kept up with the number of people flying today..."

The letter also included steps the industry was taking to improve customer service, including making the voluntary service commitments a part of the legal contract with passengers, and setting up a task force to develop ways of providing timely and accurate information about delays and cancellations to passengers.
Scientists Find Big Bang Evidence
WASHINGTON April 30, 2001 (AP) — Key elements of theories about how the universe expanded and developed after the Big Bang have been confirmed by data from high-flying balloons and from instruments operating in Antarctica, scientists say.

The instruments, looking deep into the universe, were able to detect minute ripples and distortions in energy patterns within the cosmic microwave background, a faint glow left over from the immense heat of the Big Bang.

Readings from the Degree Angular Scale Interferometer at the Center for Astrophysical Research in Antarctica show tiny distortions in the distribution of matter and variations in temperature just moments after the Big Bang.

A concept, called the inflation theory, holds that these irregularities, enlarging over time, led to the formation of all the big structures in the universe — galaxies, stars and planets.

The new findings, said John Carlstrom, an astronomy professor at the University of Chicago and head of the DASI team, lend strong support to the inflation theory.

"It's always been theoretically compelling,'' said Carlstrom. "Now it's on very solid experimental ground.''

Carlstrom and his team presented the research Sunday at the spring meeting of the American Physical Society.

The DASI experiment could detect ripples of temperature differences at a time when the universe was about 400,000 years old. The universe is thought to be about 14 billion years old. The inflation theory predicts that the temperature differences would show up as three peaks that become progressively fainter with time. Carlstrom said DASI detected two peaks and suggestions of a third.

Researchers believe the data also support the idea that ordinary matter, of which planets, stars and even people are made, accounts for only about 4.5 percent of the universe's total mass. The rest of the energy in the universe is attributed to cold dark matter, which cannot be easily detected, and to a force called "dark energy,'' which is thought to be causing galaxies to separate at a faster and faster rate.

Other experimenters, using instruments boosted up to 120,000 feet by balloons detected variations to within 100 millionths of a degree in the cosmic microwave background radiation temperature.

The data, from a project called Balloon Observations of Millimetric Extragalactic Radiation and Geophysics, were gathered in 1998. The data provide more detail for cosmic microwave background temperature data first obtained by a satellite in 1991.

Data from the experiments support the notion that the universe is flat and not curved, an idea that would affect the path taken by light streaking across time and space.

Russia Eyes Antarctica For Oil and Gas

May 2, 2001 (ENVIRONMENT NEWS SERVICE) — A Russian prospecting vessel is reported to have just collected data on oil and gas reserves in Antarctica, a global nature reserve where minerals exploitation is forbidden. The polar geological prospecting ship Akademik Aleksandr Karpinskiy was working in the Cosmonauts Sea region of eastern Antarctica, according to a Russian Public TV report monitored by the BBC.

“According to preliminary data, the information collected will make it possible to predict the presence of oil and gas reserves in the region,” the report said.

It quoted Valeriy Masulov, head of a geological prospecting institute, as saying the area, near Japan’s Syowa Base, had been subject to a two year research program, which ended with the vessel’s return to St Petersburg late last month.

“The Sea of Cosmonauts is one of the peripheral seas where we expect the presence of a thick sedimentary mantle, well, and therefore good prospects for predicting oil and gas bearing strata,” Masulov is quoted as saying.

The April 28 report came two months after another television report on February 13, in which Russian Center TV described Russia’s presence on the sixth continent as a matter of economic expediency.

That report quoted Russian Antarctic Expeditions head Valeriy Lukin as warning, “It is possible that only countries possessing the right technology and equipment will receive the opportunity to develop the natural resources of the Antarctic.”

It also claimed that deposits of diamonds in the Antarctic had turned out to be as big as those in South Africa and Yakutia, in Russia’s Far East. But Russia’s expeditions were said to lack resources to buy new vehicles.

The Antarctic is one of the last pristine environments left on Earth. Much of its scientific value derives directly from the lack of locally generated pollution, and more than 40 nations have joined together in an agreement to preserve this situation.

Under the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty, which came into force in December 1997, minerals exploitation of any kind in Antarctica is banned, and the ban cannot be revisited for 50 years.

Article 7 of the protocol reads, “Any activity relating to mineral resources, other than scientific research, shall be prohibited.”

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