|Clone Embryo Farms! |
Nuclear Fusion, Stonehenge,
China Discovered America?
Dodo's Claw, Jupiter & More!
|TV Ads Warn of X-Files-like Clone 'Embryo Farms' |
By Rick Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Washington DC March 5, 2002 (Washington Post) - Adding fuel to an already heated debate, opponents of human embryo cloning are broadcasting provocative radio and television ads claiming that U.S. scientists plan to establish horrific "human embryo farms."
The ads are the latest installment in an increasingly vitriolic battle over several cloning bills now before the Senate. All the bills would ban the creation of cloned babies. But one, introduced by Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), would additionally outlaw studies on cloned human embryos -- a line of research that scientists believe may lead to new cures but which opponents believe is unethical.
Anticipating a vote within the next month, proponents of the research are gearing up with a publicity campaign of their own, with the backing of several big Hollywood names.
Christopher Reeve of "Superman" fame, paralyzed in an equestrian accident, is emerging as a leading advocate for embryo cell research, which scientists say could lead to new treatments for spinal injuries. Also getting involved are Jerry Zucker, the Hollywood director of "Ghost," and his wife Janet, with whom he produced "Rat Race"; Doug Wick, whose Red Wagon Entertainment recently produced the Oscar-sweeping "Gladiator"; and Lucy Fisher, his wife and the former vice chairman of Sony Pictures who oversaw the box office hits "Men in Black" and "Jerry Maguire."
The four have children with juvenile diabetes, a disease for which stem cells show therapeutic promise. They will introduce their campaign in advance of a Senate hearing on cloning today.
The unusual public relations battle took on an air of added immediacy last week as Britain finalized a national policy allowing research on cloned and other human embryos and grant money began to flow. With embryo research poised to expand there, British officials spoke openly of the opportunity to draw American talent in "a reverse brain drain" and perhaps overtake the United States in the hot new field of regenerative medicine.
At issue is research on embryonic stem cells, which scientists hope to model into a host of cures. Some experts suspect that stem cells derived from cloned human embryos will prove especially useful. Opponents say stem cells from adults or from conventionally produced embryos may prove just as versatile without breaching any new ethical frontiers.
Last fall the House passed a broad ban like Brownback's, and Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) promised a floor vote by this month. Although the Senate is behind schedule, a cloning vote could come up by early April, aides say. So both sides are racing to influence undecided senators and the public.
The National Right to Life Committee kicked things off on Feb. 25 with a radio advertising campaign in seven Utah cities asking citizens to urge Sen. Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) to "say no to embryo hatcheries."
"Some biotechnology corporations are working on a nightmare project," the ad says. "They plan to mass-produce human embryos, then kill them in experimentation. They plan to start human embryo farms."
Hatch is in the spotlight because he broke ranks with other conservatives on stem cells last year. Although he opposes abortion, he supported research on spare embryos slated for destruction at fertility clinics -- research that President Bush ultimately allowed, with severe limitations.
The new debate focuses on whether scientists should be allowed to make cloned human embryos for experiments, raising at least two ethical issues not in play in last year's stem cell debate: It calls for the creation of embryos explicitly for research, as opposed to relying on those already created for reproductive purposes. And it involves not just embryos, but cloned embryos. That raises the possibility, however remote, that someone might transfer one to a woman's womb and help her give birth to the world's first cloned baby.
John D. Gearhart, a stem cell researcher at Johns Hopkins University, ridiculed the "embryo farm" ads.
"It's so far from reality," Gearhart said. In fact, he said, scientists' major goal is to cultivate cells, or "cell lines," from embryos, and then grow those cells and use them as cures. Our intent, once we get these lines going, is never to touch another embryo," he said.
Other scientists have said they do hope to produce multiple clones. But they question whether the term "embryo" applies to cells created without sperm and they object to the word "farm," with its connotation of vast acreage.
A separate ad campaign is putting pressure on Daschle and the Democratic senators from Georgia, Max Cleland and Zell Miller. The nine-day series of 30-second television ads started airing in those two states Feb. 26 and will move to other key states in weeks to come. The series was created for Stop Human Cloning, a group chaired by conservative activist William Kristol.
"With these ads we're taking the debate to the American people," Kristol said, "and we're confident that they will urge their senators to close this door leading to the horrors of the Brave New World."
The TV spot starts with a male doctor in surgical scrubs. "Many doctors and scientists oppose cloning," he says.
"Because the therapeutic value is very dubious," a woman in a white lab coat adds.
"And cloning an embryo creates a human life," a white-collared minister continues.
"That should not be destroyed for experiments," a male doctor concludes.
The ad then encourages viewers to call their senators, whose names are flashed on the screen with the words "still undecided."
The ad's use of physician images has angered some. "Most medical groups that have taken a stand on this have been supportive of this research," including the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) and the Association of American Medical Colleges, said ASRM spokesman Sean Tipton.
Adding to the pressure on Daschle, both houses of the South Dakota state legislature in late February passed a resolution urging Congress to pass Brownback's bill. South Dakota state law defines even "single-celled human embryos" as members of the human species.
Meanwhile, supporters of embryo cloning are organizing a multifaceted lobbying effort of their own.
Adding their entertainment industry influence to an established coalition of patient groups and biotechnology interests, Wick, Fisher and the Zuckers have turned their special interest in diabetes into the National Stem Cell Research Coalition.
"A lot of people lose their life to this disease," said Zucker, whose diabetic daughter, Katie, turns 14 next week. "Katie said to us, 'They call themselves the right-to-life people, but don't I have a right to my life?' "
The group intends to contact lawmakers, conduct fundraisers like the "Rat Race" screening it held last year that raised $400,000 for research, and perhaps produce a documentary that will educate the public about the potential benefits of embryonic stem cell research.
"We think if people understood what they were talking about, they'd also be in support of this research," Janet Zucker said.
Reeve, too, has been speaking up more as Congress gets closer to making its move. "I disagree with the idea that cloning research will lead us down the slippery slope to reproductive cloning," he said.
Reeve also warned against the United States falling behind in medicine as a result of the Brownback bill, which would outlaw not only domestic embryo clone research but also the importation of treatments developed by such research overseas.
"I would go to the U.K. or anywhere in the world for a safe and effective therapy that would lead to recovery," Reeve said. "We are in danger of falling behind when we should be the leaders of science as we always have been."
|The Battle of Yucca Mountain |
By Valerie Taliman
Indian Country Today Correspondent
NEWE SOGOBIA, Nevada March 04, 2002 (ICT) - The 20-year battle to stop the U.S. government from burying 70,000 metric tons of radioactive waste on Western Shoshone homelands suffered a serious setback Feb. 15 when President Bush designated Yucca Mountain as the site for building the nation’s first high-level nuclear waste dump.
In a letter to Congress, Bush said his recommendation was "the culmination of two decades of intense scientific scrutiny" and that construction of an underground repository "is necessary to protect public safety, health and the nation’s security" because it would isolate highly radioactive materials at one remote location.
The president’s decision was widely criticized by tribes, environmental groups and state officials from Nevada, Utah and California who have vowed to fight the dump because of the danger it presents to public health, groundwater and the environment. The waste must be contained for 10,000 years, an unprecedented engineering task.
The site is also involved in a controversy between the Western Shoshone tribe and the federal government over title to the land. The tribe still claims the land under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley.
"President Bush has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to the avalanche of evidence that Yucca Mountain will not safely store radioactive waste for the long-term," said Scott Denman of the Washington, D.C.-based Safe Energy Communication Council.
"The government’s own contractor, the State of Nevada and the American people have all spoken out against this site. The thousands of shipments that will be needed to transport the waste to Yucca Mountain will put 50 million people at risk who live along the transportation routes."
Chief Raymond Yowell of the Western Shoshone National Council said $4 billion of taxpayers’ money spent on scientific studies have proven the site is flawed and unsafe, but the nuclear industry is desperately trying to get it approved because they have run out of storage space for existing radioactive waste.
"Yucca Mountain was chosen for political reasons, not scientific ones," he said. "It’s in an active earthquake zone. It sits on top of a major aquifer that provides water to Death Valley and the Armagosa Valley farming community. Water flows through the mountain and can seep into the chambers where nuclear waste will be stored and corrode the containers. If there’s any seepage, it will contaminate the groundwater forever.
"But it’s also an issue of whose land it is on," he added. "The U.S. doesn’t have title to the land they’re trying to build the dump on. They don’t own it. It was never legally or lawfully taken from the Western Shoshone people and under the 1863 Treaty of Ruby Valley, it is still our land. We’ve been trying to negotiate a settlement with the federal government for years, but we’ve never been able to achieve a solution. We still believe negotiations are necessary."
Yowell said he is very concerned about the health of his people who were repeatedly subjected to radiation from more than 900 atmospheric and underground atomic bombs tested for nearly 50 years on land the U.S. confiscated to create the Nevada Test Site, an area larger than the state of Rhode Island.
"We were exposed to radiation from those tests," he added. "It affected our people, the land, our traditional foods and medicines. Many of those underground tests contaminated the water, the blood of our Mother Earth. A lot of our people are suffering from cancer now. Yucca Mountain will only further contaminate us."
If Congress approves Bush’s decision, some 28,000 highway and 10,000 rail shipments of nuclear waste will be shipped through 44 states and dozens of Indian reservations over a 30-year period, according to Department of Energy estimates. The waste would be shipped in steel casks that so far have not passed tests proving they could withstand the level of heat from fires such as those that engulfed the World Trade Center towers, according to a recent report commissioned by Nevada’s Agency for Nuclear Projects.
Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., who is leading the charge in Congress to vote the plan down, said, "The President has created 100,000 targets of opportunity for terrorists who have proven their capability of hitting targets far less vulnerable than a truck on an open highway."
Nevada Gov. Kenny Guinn has promised to veto Bush’s decision, but Congress could override Nevada’s objection. "I can veto the President’s decision," Guinn said, "and then within 90 days it has to go to both the Senate and the House, and they have to overrule with at least a simple majority veto."
Yucca Mountain is a six-mile long volcanic ridge located 80 miles northwest of Las Vegas. It was selected from nine possible sites in the 1980s to be studied for its suitability to safely store radioactive waste in an underground repository for 10,000 years.
The proposed waste-handling facility would cover 150 acres above ground and house a maze of underground storage tunnels up to 115 miles long. According to current DOE plans, the first shipments of waste -- including spent fuel rods from cores of nuclear reactors and plutonium by-products -- would begin in 2010.
Ninety percent of the 107 commercial nuclear power plants generating radioactive waste are located east of the Mississippi River and opponents say the waste should be kept on those sites in dry storage casks instead of risking thousands of shipments to the West.
A fresh wave of controversy surrounds the designation of Yucca Mountain. Four independent authorities argue that Bush’s decision is premature and unsound.
A lengthy report issued by the Government Accounting Office in December urged Bush to postpone a decision on Yucca Mountain, citing "remaining uncertainties" about 293 items that needed further scientific study. The report also noted that Bechtel SAIC, a contractor working to resolve hundreds of technical problems at the site, told DOE it could not complete scientific research to determine the site’s suitability until 2006. It also raised concerns about the effects of volcanic activity there.
Bush’s presidential campaign received nearly $300,000 from the nuclear power industry according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Wenona Hauter of Public Citizen charged that the contributions may have influenced Bush to put politics first and turn his back on a campaign promise he made to base his decision on "the best science."
"The driving force behind the Yucca Mountain project has never been sound science, but nuclear industry profits," Hauter said. "This administration’s energy policies already have been discredited by the secretive influence of energy industry tycoons. Congress should reject the bought-and-paid-for nuclear waste policy of the Bush administration, protect the integrity of government processes -- as well as public health and safety -- and oppose the Yucca Mountain site."
A delegation of Indian leaders from several tribes in the West will be joining other public officials in Washington, D.C. in mid-March to lobby Congress about their opposition to the Yucca Mountain project.
The Yucca Mountain Project office at the Department of Energy did not return calls by press time.
|It Might Be Nuclear Fusion! |
By PAUL RECER
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON March 5, 2002 (AP) - A phenomenon that may be nuclear fusion was created in a laboratory bottle by researchers who zapped tiny dissolved bubbles with sound waves, which triggered a flash of light and a brief surge of superhigh temperatures.
Using a device described as the size of three stacked coffee cups, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute say the phenomenon was like nuclear fusion in a bottle. Some scientists disputed the claim.
The study appears this week in the journal Science and was released for publication by the journal on Monday.
Researchers at Oak Ridge said the experiment, which they called "bubble fusion," created two signs of nuclear fusion: a burst of subatomic particles called neutrons and the production of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen.
In an unusual additional review, however, two other Oak Ridge researchers said the experiment's results were not accurate. This additional report was posted on the Internet by Science, along with a response by the original authors.
Harnessing nuclear fusion, the power that lights the sun, has long been a goal of researchers who view it as the ultimate energy source. Most researchers have concentrated on huge machines that mimic the sun by compressing hydrogen plasma and heating it to millions of degrees to force atoms to fuse. This reaction gives off heat and an isotope of helium, along with some subatomic particles.
In the experiment reported in Science, researchers used the simple equipment to create and analyze a brief flash and burst of heat that may be fusion.
R. P. Taleyarkhan of Oak Ridge, the first author of the study, said in Science that the experiment is true "tabletop physics," using an apparatus "the size of three coffee cups stacked on top of the other."
Richard Lahey Jr., a Rensselaer professor and a co-author of the study, said in a statement it was not clear whether the technique could be used as an energy source.
In the study, researchers used a beaker of a chemical called deuterated acetone. Normal acetone is a colorless, volatile liquid often used as a paint remover or chemical solvent. In deuterated acetone, the chemical's normal hydrogen atoms have been replaced with deuterium, a hydrogen isotope that is heavier than ordinary hydrogen and is capable of fusion reactions. When combined with oxygen, deuterium is sometimes called "heavy water."
The researchers introduced tiny bubbles, no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence, into the beaker. They then zapped the bubbles with sound waves. The bubbles rapidly expanded and then collapsed. It's believed that the bubble collapse causes a momentary shock wave that creates high pressures, high temperatures and a flash of light, called sonoluminescence.
F.D. Becchetti, a physicist at the University of Michigan, said in Science that the study by Taleyarkhan needs to be confirmed by other researchers.
"If the results are confirmed, this new compact apparatus will be a unique tool for studying nuclear fusion reactions," said Becchetti. He said the experiments appear to have been carefully done and analyzed by reviewers. "The results are credible until proven otherwise," said Becchetti.
In a repeat of the experiment, using slightly different equipment, D. Shapira and M.J. Saltmarsh of Oak Ridge claimed that the neutron emission they detected was too small to explain the tritium production reported by Taleyarkhan. In a response, Taleyarkhan and his colleagues said Shapira and Saltmarsh misinterpreted their own results and that the level of neutron emission they detected was consistent with the original experiment.
The announcement of the Taleyarkhan tabletop fusion experiment is in sharp contrast to one that University of Utah researchers announced at a news conference in 1989. Unlike the Utah experiment, which was rejected by many other physicists, Taleyarkhan's experiment was reviewed by a committee of experts, selected by Science, before the study was accepted for publication.
|Cold War Nuclear Fallout Killed Thousands |
ATLANTA March 1, 2002 (AP) — Radioactive fallout from Cold War nuclear testing exposed virtually everyone in the United States, and contributed to about 11,000 cancer deaths, an unpublished study by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concludes.
The radioactive exposure also contributed to a minimum of 22,000 U.S. cancer cases overall, according to a progress report the CDC provided Congress last year. The report first came to light in USA Today on Thursday.
The study is the first to consider the health effects of nuclear detonations — including those performed by foreign countries — between 1951 and 1962, when above-ground testing was banned. It is also the first to consider forms of radioactive fallout other than iodine-131, the most serious public health threat posed by atmospheric nuclear tests.
A 1997 assessment by the National Cancer Institute found that 11,300 to 212,000 thyroid cancers could have been caused by iodine-131 produced in nuclear explosions at the Nevada Test Site. The new CDC research does not challenge that result, and suggests iodine-131 fallout is responsible for almost all ill health effects from nuclear testing.
The CDC report does conclude, however, that nuclear testing has been responsible for about 550 leukemia deaths since 1951.
The number of cancer cases attributable to nuclear testing is small, relative to other causes. For example, among the 3.8 million Americans born in 1951, who would have been exposed to the highest fallout levels in their most vulnerable early years, testing is expected to account for an estimated 1,000 additional cancer deaths. Smoking, in comparison, is expected to account for about 250,000 cancer deaths in the same group.
|O'Neill Denies US Recession |
KUWAIT CITY March 5, 2002 (Reuters) - U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said on Tuesday that the world's biggest economy was on solid ground and had not suffered a recession in 2001.
O'Neill, touring the Middle East for talks on economic and security, told reporters that contrary to a declaration by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), which dates U.S. business cycles, a recession had not set in last year.
"It seems quite clear now that our economy never suffered a recession," O'Neill told a news conference.
The U.S. Treasury chief noted that, while gross domestic product contracted during the third quarter last year, latest government statistics show expansion resumed in the fourth quarter. That means a popular definition of recession as being at least six months of declining output was not met.
Last November the NBER's business cycle dating committee said the U.S. economy had entered a recession in March 2001 after a 10-year expansion.
The NBER defines a recession as "a significant decline in activity spread across the economy, lasting more than a few months, visible in industrial production, employment, real income, and wholesale-retail trade," according to the group's web site: www.nber.org.
O'Neill said "economic fundamentals are moving back into place" in the United States and predicted growth rates will gradually increase this year to reach an annual rate of three to 3.5 percent a year by year-end.
He added that 2003 should see "substantial growth for the U.S. economy" but did not predict a growth rate.
|Bats Inspire New Cane for the Blind |
By Laura MacInnis
LONDON March 1, 2002 (Reuters) - British scientists said on Thursday they had created a cane inspired by bats to help blind and partially sighted people find their stride.
Bats maneuver easily by bouncing high-pitched sounds off nearby objects in a process called "echolocation."
Researchers at Britain's Leeds University used this as the model for their so-called "Batcane," which emits sonar waves inaudible to the human ear to help users detect obstacles ahead, around, or even above them. Any nearby object triggers a vibration in one of four pads in the cane's plastic handle. As the object gets nearer, the vibration speeds up.
"They will be warned of objects that are just beyond the reach of the conventional white cane," said Andrew Diston of Cambridge Consultants Ltd., which has developed the cane in conjunction with Sound Foresight Ltd.
Diston said the Batcane would help visually impaired people create a "mind map" of their environment and so encourage independent mobility, particularly in cities.
"There are large numbers of blind people who, as their sight degrades, are confined more and more to their homes," he said. "This will enable people to venture outside, and could generally improve their quality of life."
The Batcane is expected to hit the market in late 2002.
Diston said user trials were underway in Britain, the United States, Canada and Germany, with prototypes to be tested by groups such as Guide Dogs for the Blind and the American Council for the Blind.
The Batcane would be marketed for both blind and visually-impaired people. "Obviously it won't suit everyone but there's a big market out there," he added.
There are 1.4 million people registered as blind in Britain alone, according to Guide Dogs for the Blind.
|Tillie Forgives Fleeing Motorist |
|FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. February 28, 2002 (Reuters) - A 22-year-old motorist apologized in a Florida courtroom on Wednesday to the 85-year-old woman he ran off the road and left stranded in her crumpled car dangling from a tree in a swamp for three days. |
"I want to tell you from the bottom of my heart that I'm truly sorry for the ordeal you went through. I feel very remorseful," Scott Campbell told Tillie Tooter in a state court in Fort Lauderdale.
The apology was part of a plea agreement that will keep Campbell out of jail if he completes five years of probation and pays Tooter's medical costs. He pleaded guilty to leaving the scene of an accident and filing a false police report.
The deal required him publicly to acknowledge that he hit Tooter's Toyota Tercel from behind in August 2000, knocking it off Interstate Highway 595 and over a concrete embankment. The car plunged into a thick mangrove swamp, where the foliage cushioned the impact but hid the car. It went unnoticed until a teen-ager spotted it dangling in the trees while picking up trash along the highway three days later. Rescuers had to cut away the trees and the car's roof to free Tooter, who was then 83.
Trapped inside, she survived by collecting rain water in a steering wheel cover and wringing the dew from her socks but had only a cough drop and a mint to eat.
"I feel deeply sorry for your mother," Tooter told Campbell in the courtroom.
She said she bore him no ill will and hoped he would lead a good life. But recalling the ordeal, she told him, "I will pay for this the rest of my life." Tooter suffered no broken bones but needs a walker to get around as a result of her injuries.
Campbell agreed to plead guilty on Tuesday after jury selection began in his trial. All but a few potential jurors said they remembered the widely publicized incident. If Campbell had been convicted at trial, he would have faced up to five years in prison. He had stopped his black Camaro about a mile (1.6 km) from the crash scene and told a highway patrolman that he had fallen asleep and hit either some road debris or the highway barrier.
The accident occurred shortly after 3 a.m. as Tooter was driving to the airport to pick up her granddaughter.
|Antler Could Help Solve Stonehenge Mystery |
By Maev Kennedy
Arts and Heritage Correspondent
London March 5, 2002 (Guardian UK) - In the archaeology glamour stakes, the discovery made in a small room at the Society of Antiquaries in London does not quite compare with the treasures of Tutenkhamen's tomb.
However, to archaeologists, the three chunky pieces of broken deer antler are better than gold: they are long lost treasure. They were excavated 80 years ago at Stonehenge, and may answer one of the great questions about the monument: the date of the outer circle, made of bus-sized Sarsen stones.
Building Stonehenge took thousands of years. The Sarsen circle is believed to have been created centuries after the inner circle of smaller bluestones from the Preseli hills in Wales. Of the 30 standing Sarsens, only one is of an uncertain date.
The antler picks can be tested by carbon dating. The exact site where they were excavated was recorded, at the base of two of the giant stones. One was below the standing stone and must, therefore, be contemporary with its erection.
The antlers were excavated from the site in the 1920s by William Hawley, who was funded by the Society of Antiquaries, one of the oldest and most distinguished archaeological societies in the world.
Although they were carefully recorded, carbon 14 testing did not exist, and their only importance was as evidence of the simple tools with which prehistoric man achieved such spectacular effects. Since carbon dating became an invaluable archaeological tool, scientists have been hunting for securely datable material from Stonehenge: all the time Hawley's bits of antler were in a glass case at the society labelled "Stonehenge" in faded black ink.
"This is an opportunity to answer a question archaeologists have been asking for centuries," said Geoff Wainwright, former chief archaeologist at English Heritage and a leading figure in Stonehenge research. Mr Wainwright predicts they will show a date of around 2400 BC.
Mike Pitts, an independent archaeologist who is an authority on the dating of Stonehenge, said: "If they can be solidly linked to the erection of those stones and securely dated, this is a discovery of major importance."
|Genre News: Majel Roddenberry, Star Trek, Buffy, Roswell, Wolf Lake, River Phoenix, Bob and Dolores Hope |
Roddenberry Reopens Online Store
Hollywood March 4, 2002 (eXoNews) - Just a few weeks after the relaunch of William Shatner's website rocked the genre newswires, Majel Roddenberry and her son Eugene Jr. have announced the reopening of www.roddenberry.com
For those of you who don't know, Gene Roddenberry, creator of Star Trek, had the foresight to keep control of a portion of the Star Trek merchandising empire out of Paramount hands.
His wife, Majel Barrett Roddenberry still rules and if you check out the web site store at http://store.roddenberry.com, you'll see that ain't just whistling Row, Row, Row Your Boat.
As an actress, Majel was a member of the original ST crew, the real voice of all generations of the Star Trek LCARS computer, mom to Councelor Troy of STTNG (she also appeared on DS9 in the same role), and she was a cast member of Earth Final Conflict before it fell into the hands of the ho-hum Talons.
Majel is also the Executive Producer of the new genre favorite Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda and still commands Executive Producer credit along with her son on the rather unfortunately un-Roddenberryed EFC. When you think about it, she really is just about the most successful alumnae of the Star Trek universe!
Not bad for an actress who once got knocked back to the role of Nurse Chappell from the original Enterprise captain's Number One by nervous, sexist NBC executives.
You are sure to find ST collectibles here you won't see anywhere else. Among other things, roddenberry.com sells official copies of ALL the Star Trek scripts, including the latest from the new franchise baby Enterprise. They also sell Tribbles!
So get out yer credit cards, kids! That's http://www.roddenberry.com. Live long and prosper, Majel and Eugene!
Star Trek Luminaries Gather in March
Hollywood March 6, 2002 (Press Release) - The world's most famous Star Trek convention will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary as Creation Entertainment presents The Grand Slam Convention on March 22-24, 2002 (noon to 6:00 p.m. daily) at the Pasadena Center in Pasadena, California.
Join the 10,000 people expected to attend and see over 70 Star Trek and science fiction celebrities, including William Shatner, Kate Mulgrew, Colm Meaney, Ricardo Montalban, Jonathan Frakes, Gates McFadden, Nana Visitor, Roxann Dawson, George Takei, Marc Alaimo, Andrew Robinson, Jeffrey Combs, Casey Biggs, Majel Roddenberry, and Nichelle Nichols.
Appearing at the Grand Slam for the first time will be Enterprise cast members Connor Trinneer, Linda Park, Dominic Keating, John Billingsley, and Anthony Montgomery. They will be joined by Enterprise Executive Producer Brannon Braga.
As a special treat, fans can witness the first Star Trek convention appearance of Joan Collins, the legendary motion picture and television actress who guest starred in the classic Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever."
Changes Due For Buffy's Caulfield
Hollywood March 5, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Emma Caulfield, whose ex-demon character, Anya, faced marriage on UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer March 5, told the Boston Herald that the pivotal episode "is the catalyst for a very interesting journey for Anya."
But Caulfield remained coy about details, including rumors that a key character will meet his or her demise this season. Series creator "Joss Whedon makes you invaluable, and then he'll kill you," Caulfield told the newspaper. "I told him, just give me a couple months' warning so I don't buy a new house or plan a big trip."
Caulfield added that she views her surprising success in television as a way station on the way to other endeavors.
"I had this awakening there of what I'm supposed to do," Caulfield told the newspaper. "I made peace with the fact that this business is not what I'm supposed to do. It's really a steppingstone for other projects."
Caulfield, who owns two cats, said she wants to "effect great change for the animals of the world." In the meantime, she said, "I'm very much at peace. I'm on a great show, playing a great character, surrounded by great people. I'm so blessed."
In other Joss Whedon news, Variety Variety reports that Rebecca Gayheart (Bess in Earth 2) will play Inara in the cast of Firefly, the SF series Whedon is producing for Fox.
Buffy airs Tuesday nights at 8 p.m. ET/PT.
Official Buffy site - http://www.buffy.com
Sadler Directs Roswell
Hollywood March 2, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - William Sadler, who plays former sheriff Jim Valenti on UPN's teen-alien series Roswell, told SCI FI Wire that he recently stepped behind the camera to direct an upcoming episode that will feature the return of a familiar character.
"I have been asking to direct an episode of Roswell since season one," Sadler said in an interview. "I think they are going to be very happy with what they got. We came in on time and on budget with a good show. I think they're going to wish we had started this in year one. I'd be a seasoned old director by now."
Sadler also offered the spoiler that the episode, "Four Aliens and a Baby," will deal with the return of the fourth alien, Tess, portrayed by Emilie DeRavin.
"I don't want to spoil it for people, but I think it's all right to say that a character whose name starts with T comes back," he said. At the end of last season, Tess left Earth in a family way after seducing fellow alien Max Evans (Jason Behr). Now she is back, and she's not alone.
"Four Aliens and a Baby" will be the 17th episode of Roswell's current season. It may also turn out to be one of the last, given that a fourth year for the seemingly always-on-the-bubble series remains in doubt.
"I know there are rumors flying around about a fourth season," Sadler said. "I heard a rumor a while back about a film--a Roswell movie--but I'm not holding my breath. Everybody seems to be going on with their lives. ... I mean, you always do this in television, because you can never count on [the future]."
For first time director Sadler, the experience was both educational and harrowing at times.
"This episode that I do, we have dogs, we have babies, we have green screen, we have stunts and special effects and huge scenes with all of the actors in them," he said. "There were moments there when I was way over my head and had to turn to the people around me and say, 'You're going to have to help me with this one.'"
Though Sadler welcomed the challenge, he admitted that he would have preferred a less complicated script for his directing debut. "They chose this episode for me. I would have chosen one where two people sit in an apartment and talk for 40 minutes."
Regardless of the show's fate, Sadler said that he would like to continue directing if given the opportunity. "It's fabulous. Once you've faced each and every one of these challenges, there can never be another first time for it. You've done it already. So it's not going to be unfamiliar territory anymore."
After a two-month hiatus, Roswell returns with new episodes on UPN at 9 p.m. ET/PT April 30. "Four Aliens and a Baby" is scheduled to air May 14.
Ultimate Unofficial Roswell site - http://www.crashdown.com
UPN To Air Wolf Lake
Hollywood March 1, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - UPN confirmed that it will air five episodes of the paranormal series Wolf Lake, which sister network CBS canceled last year, starting April 3. The Smackdown network will air the Wolf Lake pilot at 9 p.m. ET/PT on April 3, followed in subsequent weeks by four never-before-seen episodes.
The series, starring Lou Diamond Phillips, takes place in a small Pacific Northwest town where local residents possess the ability to shape-shift from humans to wolves.
[Nobody is saying why they bothered - this show was a lot more turkey than wolf. :o)>Ed.]
A&E Biography Does River Phoenix
Hollywood March 4, 2002 (Zap2It) - Before his death at age 23, River Phoenix had touched audiences with a series of raw, sensitive portrayals that earned him critical praise at international film festivals, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award nomination. He inspired people of his generation to raise their awareness to social and political issues like animal rights and the environment.
In Hollywood circles, his talent and maturity won him strong friendships with professionals decades his senior.
As River's career progressed into his teens, he took on more offbeat roles, in films like My Own Private Idaho and Dogfight. During the filming of My Own Private Idaho, Phoenix got involved with hard drugs, often mixing different kinds, and his career was cut short by an accidental overdose shortly after his 23rd birthday.
Biography will air never-before-seen home movies from the set of My Own Private Idaho and interviews with River that he gave through his career, as well as never-before-heard audio interviews revealing River at his most unguarded. Another side of River is shown in outtakes from his PETA commercials and in rarely seen childhood TV appearance from the early 80s.
Other interviews: directors Rob Reiner and Peter Bogdanovich; co-stars Corey Feldman and Udo Kier; Brazilian singer/composer Milton Nascimento; a member of River's band Aleka's Attic.
The show was produced for A&E by Peter Jones Productions, Inc.
World premiere on A&E, March 12th at 8pm ET
Hopes Donate One Million Dollars to ATAS
By Cynthia Littleton
Hollywood March 4, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - Bob and Dolores Hope have made a $1 million donation to the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation in support of its Archive of American Television project.
The donation from the Hope Charitable Foundation will fund the ongoing work of the archive, which since 1996 has been compiling extensive videotaped interviews with industry pioneers, and the formation of the ATAS Archive Comedy Collection Sponsored by Bob Hope collection.
"This wonderful and very generous donation will keep us going for several mores years," said Tom Sarnoff, chairman of the ATAS Foundation. "We're trying to preserve the history of television through the eyes and the words of the people who created it. This splendid donation from the Hopes is really a shot in the arm."
Academy of Television Arts & Sciences - http://www.emmys.tv
Bob Hope has a great web site at http://www.bobhope.com
|Organic Vegetables May Pose Hidden Dangers |
By LANCE GAY
Scripps Howard News Service
ATLANTA March 3, 2002 (Scripps Howard) - Those leafy vegetables and fresh carrots look so good and nutritious on the supermarket shelves. But appearances are deceptive - produce grown on manure could be harboring unseen pathogens that could make you very sick.
Scientists attending an Institute of Food Technologists meeting here say the trends away from artificial fertilizers and back to organic farming and using manure to grow fruits and vegetables pose a danger. Pathogens such as E. coli, shigella and salmonella that grow in the stomachs of animals can be transferred to leafy greens, strawberries and root vegetables.
Michael Doyle, director of the center for food safety at the University of Georgia, said tests found that from 1.2 percent to 4.4 percent of produce tested positive for salmonella or shigella, which is picked up from the soil, transferred from manure used to fertilize plants, or transferred to the produce from water used in processing.
"We know that produce can contain harmful pathogens," he said.
Doyle and other scientists say they worry that the trend toward organic farming and greater use of manure could result in more outbreaks of food diseases. He said that consumers must take as much care in handling fresh fruits and vegetables as they do with raw meats.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington food safety interest group, said contaminated produce - including sprouts, lettuce, berries and cantaloupe - was responsible for 148 outbreaks of food poisoning in the United States between 1990 and 2001, with 10,504 people made ill. One of the country's worst produce-related outbreaks of food poisoning was in New England in 1996, when 61 people were made sick - 21 of them hospitalized - with a particularly lethal strain of E. coli. The problem was tracked to a California producer who grew salad greens in fields fed by water from an adjacent beef cattle farm.
Paul Mead, of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said some food poisoning outbreaks caused by produce aren't being detected when they occur. Mead said a computer analysis uncovered a previously undetected 1999 outbreak of salmonella poisoning that researchers were able to trace back to mangoes imported from Brazil. Mead said the outbreak was only revealed after investigators searched for the reasons for an unusual spike in reported salmonella cases, and salmonella-contaminated toads were found living in the water the Brazilian farm used to wash the mangoes.
The Centers for Disease Control earlier this year renewed its warning to consumers to fully cook alfalfa sprouts, often served raw in salads and sandwiches, after an outbreak in Arizona, California, Colorado and New Mexico last year sickened 32 people. Researchers traced the problem to sprouts grown in contaminated water.
Barbara Robinson, deputy administrator of the Department of Agriculture's national organic program - the agency developing standards for foods brought to supermarket shelves as "organic" - said organic farming regulations aim to reduce the risk of transfers of pathogens from manure.
Farmers enrolling in the program are prohibited from using raw manure on edible crops within 120 days of harvest, or are required to use manure composted to kill pathogens. The National Organic Program was introduced last year, and is to be fully implemented in October, when labels are to appear on products declaring they are "100 percent organic" or "organic" for products that contain 95 percent organic materials.
"There are very specific restrictions," Robinson said. Farmers have to keep proper documentation of how they are using manure on the soil, and when it was administered.
U.S. livestock produce 1.3 billion tons of manure a year. Environmentalists have long sought to encourage a return to organic gardening as a way of reducing the stockpile. Katherine DiMatteo, executive director of the Organic Trade Association, a group representing organic farmers and processors, said proper handling of manure can reduce pathogens.
"Organic farming has addressed all those things in regulations," she said.
DiMatteo said modern organic farms actually use less manure than traditional farms because they rely on crop rotation, the planting of cover crops, and using composted material to replace artificial fertilizers. Lee-Ann Jaykus, associate professor of food microbiology at North Carolina State University, said the best prevention of food disease is to stop pathogens on the farm.
"But stopping all pathogens at the production level is not possible at this time," she said, urging consumers to use common sense in the kitchen.
|New Evidence in Mountain Meadows Massacre |
By Araminta Wordsworth
National Post, with files from The Daily Telegraph and Salt Lake Tribune
UTAH February 28, 2002 (National Post) - A confession etched on an old sheet of lead could hold the clue to who was responsible for one of the worst massacres in U.S. history.
In 1857, 120 settlers, many of them women and children, on their way to California were gunned down in southwest Utah, allegedly on the orders of Mormon leader Brigham Young, in what became known as the Mountain Meadows Massacre.
The Church of Latter-day Saints felt under pressure at the time as the federal government had sent an army to suppress it.
But until now, there has been no proof that the Church, headquartered in northern Utah, had any contact with militiaman John Lee, Young's adopted son, and the Indians in southern Utah who carried out the massacre.
Now it appears Lee, who was executed 15 years later for his part in the killings, has finally managed to set the record straight.
The lead sheet is the first evidence of the Church's direct connection with the massacre. It was discovered rolled up like a scroll under several inches of dirt and rat droppings during restoration work on Lee's Ferry Fort, where his militia forces were based.
The artifact is signed by Lee, who had 19 wives and 64 children, and claims to be written "by my own hand," 15 years after the events it describes. Filled with misspellings, grammatical errors and halted sentences, it says: "I do not fear athorty for the time is closing and am willing to take the blame for Fancher."
The wagon convoy was known as the Fancher party after its leader Alexander Fancher. It continues: "Col Dane-Maj Higby and me -- on orders from Pres Young thro Geo Smith took part -- I trust in God -- I have no fear -- Death hold no terror."
The U.S. National Park Service notified Mormon officials on Monday of the discovery.
"The National Park Service is taking the right approach in seeking to learn whether the object is authentic," said Glen Leonard, director of the church's Museum of Church History and Art in Salt Lake City.
Park Service officials had not publicized the Jan. 22 discovery, hoping they could quickly decide whether it was authentic.
"We have taken this down to Tucson to the Western Archaeology and Conservation Center and they were unable to determine when the lead sheeting was made," said Kitty Roberts of the Park Service. "We are taking it one step at a time, to determine if we can date the lead sheeting and then we can progress to determine whether or not it is authentic."
The Mormon Church has always maintained the militia acted alone, despite persistent claims that documents incriminating Church leaders were burned at the end of the 19th century. Schoolbooks in Utah do not mention the incident and it has been airbrushed out of the religion's official history.
Lee was executed by firing squad at Mountain Meadows on March 23, 1877, after his second trial and conviction for murdering adult members of the Fancher party. At the time of his death, he claimed he was being "treacherously betrayed and sacrificed" for the killings by Young and other Mormon officials.
"If this [plate] is legitimate it's profoundly significant," said journalist Sally Denton of Santa Fe, N.M., who saw the plate while doing research for her forthcoming book, American Massacre. "By far the most important question all along was the relationship between the fanatics in the south and the Church hierarchy."
Scott Fancher, the Arkansas lawyer who is president of the Mountain Meadows Monument Foundation, said the discovery was a significant step in forcing the Church to face up to the reality of its past behaviour. He believes Young approved the massacre to show the federal authorities only he could control the Paiute Indians who supposedly took part in the attack.
"The only thing that surprises me is that it's taken this long to find the letter, not the admission of guilt or that Lee pointed the blame at Young," Mr. Fancher said.
In Salt Lake City, Mormon leaders insisted further checks had to be conducted on the authenticity of the note before it could be accepted as a historical document. Dale Bills, a spokesman for the Church, still insisted Young did not order the killings although "some members of the faith acted independently at Mountain Meadows."
On the web: Mormonism Unveiled; or The Life and Confessions of The Late Mormon Bishop John D. Lee; (Written by Himself) -- 1877 Edition - Chapter XVIII--Last Confession and Statement of John D. Lee--pages 213-248 The Mountain Meadows Massacre - http://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/lee_mm.htm
|Did China Beat Columbus to America? |
By Elizabeth Grice
London March 3, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - History books in 23 countries may need to be rewritten in the light of new evidence that Chinese explorers had discovered most parts of the world by the mid-15th century.
Next week, an amateur historian will expound his theory - backed up by charts, ancient artifacts and anthropological research - that when Columbus discovered America in 1492, he was 72 years too late. And so were other explorers, such as Cook, Magellan and Da Gama, whose heroic voyages took them to Australia, South America and India.
Instead, according to Gavin Menzies, a former submarine commanding officer who has spent 14 years charting the movements of a Chinese expeditionary fleet between 1421 and 1423, the eunuch admiral, Zheng He, was there first. According to Menzies, it was Zheng He, in his colossal multi-masted ships stuffed with treasure, silks and porcelain, who made the first circumnavigation of the world, beating the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan by a century.
Menzies will present his findings at the Royal Geographical Society on March 15 before an invited audience of more than 200 diplomats, academics, naval officers and publishers. Their initial reaction, based on an outline of his thesis, ranges from excitement to skepticism.
But if the number of acceptances - 85 per cent - is anything to go by, he will not be ignored.
He originally intended to write a book about the significance of the year 1421 around the world. While researching it in Venice, he was shown a planisphere, dated 1459, which included southern Africa and the Cape of Good Hope. Yet the Cape was not "discovered" as a sea route by Vasco da Gama until 1497. On the planisphere was a note in medieval Phoenician about a voyage round the Cape to the Cape Verde Islands in 1420 - and a picture of a Chinese junk.
Menzies felt he was on to something.
Using Chinese star charts and maps that pre-date the expeditions of Cook, Magellan, de Gama and Columbus, he has reconstructed what he believes is the epic voyage of Zheng He. He says his knowledge of astro-navigation helped him to work out that the Chinese, using the brilliant star Canopus to chart their course, had sailed close to the South Pole. He determined their latitude and went on to find literary and archaeological evidence to show that the Chinese had effectively circumnavigated the world.
Menzies, 64, admits that his greatest fear was being ridiculed.
He said: "When I started, I was terrified people would think I was a crank. But although my claim is complicated and stands history on its head, I am confident of my ground. What nobody has explained is why the European explorers had maps. Who drew the maps? There are millions of square miles of ocean. It required huge fleets to chart them. If you say it wasn't the Chinese, with the biggest fleets and ships in the world, then who was it?"
Admiral Sir John Woodward, who served on submarines with Menzies in the 1960s and will be at his lecture, describes him as a brilliant maverick. "I was his teacher on a commanding officers' qualifying course and he was the cleverest, sharpest and best I had seen. He is not some mad eccentric but a rational man, good at analysis - and he certainly knows all about charts," Admiral Woodward said.
Chinese ocean-going supremacy in the first half of the 15th century is not in question. The expeditionary junks were three times the size of Nelson's Victory and dwarfed the 16th century ocean-going European caravels. Under his patron, the Yong-le Emperor Zhui Di, Zheng He made seven great voyages to bring foreigners into China's tribute system.
When he returned in October 1423, China was in political and economic chaos. The treasure fleet, now considered frivolous, was mothballed, admirals pensioned off and shipyards closed. Although most of the records of Zheng He's voyage were expunged, a few maps and star charts survived.
Menzies believes they were taken to Venice by a merchant traveler, Nicolo da Conti, who had joined one of the Chinese junks in India. In his travel book published in 1434, da Conti claims to have sailed to China via Australia - 350 years before Captain Cook. Menzies argues that, on his way through Venice in 1428, the King of Portugal's eldest son obtained the salvaged maps and incorporated them into a map of the world.
The most controversial part of his theory is that copies of parts of this mappa mundi were used by da Gama, Magellan and Cook. Some of these still survive in museums: Patagonia (1513), North America (1507), Africa (1502) and Asia and Australia (1542).
The letters and logs of the European explorers - including Columbus - certainly acknowledge that they had maps, says Menzies. "They knew where they were going before they set out."
Using his knowledge of winds and tides, Menzies has located what he believes are nine Chinese leviathans wrecked in the Caribbean in December 1421. Pictures of the hull ballast on the seabed show stones identical in shape and size to those found in a Chinese treasure ship recently excavated in the Philippines. Menzies declines to name the uninhabited island because he believes some of the ships may still contain treasure and he wants to investigate them.
Gillian Hutchinson, curator of the history of cartography at the National Maritime Museum, is not persuaded that there is a provable link between the Chinese maps and those the Europeans used.
She says: "It is possible that Chinese geographical knowledge had reached Europe before the Age of Discovery. But Mr Menzies is absolutely certain of it, and that makes it difficult to separate evidence from wishful thinking."
Diplomats of the countries whose early history may be affected by his thesis are reacting with a surprising degree of warmth. Gregory Baughen, first secretary at the New Zealand High Commission, says: "It sounds exciting. We're all ears. Chinese artefacts have been found around the coast for some time."
Luis de Sousa, press councillor at the Portuguese Embassy, says: "Magellan is in all the books and his descendants carry his name with -+pride. But if the Chinese circumnavigated the world first, which is quite possible, then let's give them their 15 minutes of limelight."
|Asian Origin of First Americans Challenged |
By JOHN FAUBER
Journal Sentinel staff
Milwaukee March 4, 2002 (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel) - A contentious theory that the first Americans came here from Europe - not Asia - is challenging a century-old consensus among archaeologists, and a dig in Kenosha County is part of the evidence.
The two leading proponents of the Europe theory admit that many scientists reject their contention, instead holding fast to the long-established belief that the first Americans arrived from Siberia via a now-submerged land bridge across the Bering Sea to Alaska.
The first of the Europe-to-North America treks probably took place at the height of the last Ice Age more than 18,000 years ago, said Dennis Stanford, curator of archaeology at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and Milwaukee native Bruce Bradley, an independent archaeological consultant and research associate of the Carnegie Museum.
Stanford and Bradley contend that if the original migration came from Europe, it would be logical to find more older sites in the eastern United States, as has been the case in recent years. The Kenosha County digs show that woolly mammoths were butchered by humans here more than 13,000 years ago - at least 2,000 years older than what was once thought to be the oldest site in the U.S.
Stanford and Bradley also point to recent DNA analysis involving a particular genetic marker known as haplogroup X. The marker is found in a minority of American Indians, including some in the Great Lakes region, and Europeans, but is not found in Asians, suggesting an ancestral link between Europe and North America. The two plan to publish a book laying out their findings in about a year, they said. They believe evidence in the book will win converts to their theory.
"There are several competing theories," said Milwaukee archaeologist David Overstreet. "All I know is people were here (in southeastern Wisconsin) several thousands of years earlier than previously thought."
Overstreet, director of the Marquette University-affiliated Center for Archaeological Research, has analyzed several southeastern Wisconsin sites where piles of bones of mammoths that had been butchered by people date back as far as 13,500 years ago.
The Kenosha County sites are among several eastern U.S. Ice Age sites that have fueled the growing controversy over whether North America's first people came from the Iberian Peninsula of Europe or from Asia.
"Whatever their source, Paleoindians appear to have reached the mid-continent by 13,500 (years ago) and successfully exploited the Pleistocene biomass (animals and plants) there for at least a millennium," Overstreet writes in a paper soon to be published in the international journal Geoarchaeology.
It was a time when the inhabitants of the Northern Hemisphere lived in an icy environment of vast glaciers, boreal forests, mastodons, saber-toothed tigers and 1,000-pound cave bears. In the more-accepted Asia theory, people migrated across a land bridge over the Bering Sea and down an ice-free corridor to the American Southwest, where they established a culture known as Clovis.
However, while artifacts unearthed near Clovis, N.M., date to more than 11,000 years ago, several sites in the eastern U.S., including the Kenosha County sites, date to between 13,000 and 19,000 years, long before Clovis.
"In the last half-dozen years, all this stuff is popping up in the eastern U.S.," Overstreet said. "There is no question that somebody was in this area (southeastern Wisconsin) mucking around with mammoths 12,000 to 13,000 years ago. The question is, where did they come from?"
In separate interviews, Stanford and Bradley offered some of the strongest arguments. With much of the world's water having been evaporated and converted to ice, sea levels during the last Ice Age were as much as 400 feet below today's levels.
An expanded coastal region probably extended from the Iberian Peninsula in southwestern France and northern Spain to the southern tip of Ireland. In addition, the Grand Banks, a series of submerged plateaus extending several hundred miles off the coast of Newfoundland, probably were above water.
The geological conditions meant the prehistoric travelers would have needed to pull off only a 1,500-mile Atlantic Ocean crossing along sheltered ice sheets teeming with easily hunted marine mammals and fish, Bradley and Stanford said.
Stanford noted that 50,000 years ago or more, humans had become skilled enough at open sea travel that they were able to arrive on the continent of Australia. They most likely used small, animal-skin boats, taking advantage of favorable sea currents.
"There would have been huge reserves of food," Bradley said.
The food, which probably included fish, seals, walruses and the now-extinct great auk, actually may have been the motivation for their wanderlust. Overstreet added that the European glacier may have been cutting off hunting areas, forcing those inhabitants to find new food sources.
"They certainly were on the move," he said. "These people were capable of making that trip if they needed to."
While Overstreet said he still has not completely accepted the new theory, others flatly reject it.
"It is a highly improbable theory," said James Stoltman, a professor emeritus of North American archaeology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Stoltman said he did not think Stanford and Bradley presented credible evidence to support their hypothesis.
Stanford and Bradley also point to the similarity between the bifaced stone spear points found in the U.S. and the Solutrean area off the north coast of Spain and dating to between 16,500 and 22,000 years ago. However, while Solutrean and Clovis points are both bifaced, there are major differences, said Thomas Pleger, who teaches Great Lakes archaeology at UW-Fox Valley. Pleger said there just is no credible evidence to support a theory of an Ice Age migration from Europe.
"It is a completely crazy and unsupported hypothesis," said Lawrence Guy Straus, a professor in the anthropology department at the University of New Mexico and an expert on the Upper Paleolithic period in Western Europe. He also serves as editor of the Journal of Anthropological Research.
Straus said there are major differences between bone and stone technology used by Solutrean people and the Clovis culture of North America. In addition, he said most of the British Isles, the supposed jumping-off point for the migration, was covered with ice between 13,000 and 27,000 years ago. There also is no evidence that the Solutrean people had acquired skills, such as navigation, deep-sea fishing and marine mammal hunting, that would have been needed to pull off such a migration, he said.
Straus also said the Stanford/Bradley theory has angered some American Indian groups whose ancestry has been tied to Asia, not Europe.
"It is basically saying they weren't here first," Straus said.
However, at the same time traditional religious beliefs of many American Indians fail to acknowledge any migration from another part of the world, said John Norder, an assistant professor of anthropology who specializes in American Indian matters. Norder, who also is a member of the Dakota Sioux, said a common religious belief among many American Indians is that their ancestors' land was either created for them or that they came to it from an underworld.
Recently, some American Indians have incorporated the idea of their ancestors crossing a Bering Sea land bridge, he said. In the meantime, the theory of Stone Age Europeans discovering America dominates the debate.
"People discuss it as being crazy and wish it would go away," said Straus. "I'm amazed at the amount of attention."
|Bronze Age Star Chart Found |
|Sachsen-Anhalt Germany March 1, 2002 (Ananova) - German archaeologists claim to have found a Bronze Age star chart. The bowl is thought to be around 3,600 years old and depicts the sun, the moon, a star formation and a ship. If genuine it suggests astronomy may have been practised hundreds of years earlier than thought. |
The bronze bowl is 16 inches in diameter and weighs almost 4.5 pounds but is now in the hands of a private collector. It was found, together with a bronze sword and bracelets, by two men in Sangerhausen, Sachsen-Anhalt, according to Germany's Express newspaper.
Harald Meller, a local government archaeologist, said: "It shows a journey through the skies. A depiction, that was well known in ancient Egypt, but not thought to be so in central Europe."
The finders, who are alleged to have sold the treasure for around £9,000, have been arrested in connection with fencing charges. Since then it has been sold on again - this time to a private collector for £215,000. German laws on the ownership of this kind of discovery are unclear and negotiations are now under way between the collector and office for archaeology in Sachsen-Anhalt.
Meller, who is said to be furious that the bowl was sold, said: "If the slab is genuine, it could well be the most important find in European cultural history."
|The Dodo's Claw |
|Dead Dodo Shows Signs of Life |
LONDON March 01, 2002 (Reuters) - Scientists at Oxford University said on Friday they had extracted DNA from a dodo, the famous flightless bird hunted to extinction on its native Indian Ocean island of Mauritius in the 17th century.
"The DNA survives," Dr. Alan Cooper of the university's Department of Zoology told BBC news. "It's very damaged and broken down into tiny pieces but little fragments remain."
Cooper took the DNA from the head, leg and foot remains of a dodo donated to the university's Natural History Museum in 1683 -- just two years after the last dodo sighting. Oxford's specimen, known as the "Alice in Wonderland" dodo because it is thought to have inspired Lewis Carroll's "Dodo" character, is the world's largest remains of the bird, which has achieved a near-mythological status.
Zoologist Malgosia Nowak-Kemp, keeper of Oxford's dodo remains, said the bird was the world's most recognized symbol of extinction, prompting the phrase "as dead as a dodo."
"It's a tragic figure," Nowak-Kemp told Reuters, referring to the bird's limited mobility. "It couldn't run, couldn't walk, couldn't defend itself from the pigs and rats introduced by the Dutch sailors...it's become like a child we should have protected."
The research aimed to uncover the dodo's family tree and discover its living relatives. The closest were a kind of pigeon from New Guinea and the Nicobar Islands in the Indian Ocean. But the DNA discovery, first published in Science magazine, is not enough to bring the bird back to life -- or pave the way for a Jurassic Park-type reincarnation.
"They had some difficulty in the sequencing because it is so fragmented," Nowak-Kemp said. "But...you can never say never."
DNA Yields Dodo Family Secrets
Oxford, UK February 28, 2002 (BBC) - Dead it may be, but the dodo's DNA still has a story to tell.
Researchers at the University of Oxford, UK, have taken samples from a preserved specimen in an attempt to uncover the extinct bird's family tree.
The Oxford team worked with the Natural History Museum to collect and analyze genetic material from a preserved dodo, from the similarly extinct solitaire bird, and from another 35 kinds of living pigeon and dove.
Their analysis shows the dodo and the solitaire to be close relatives, with their nearest living relative the Nicobar pigeon Caloenas nicobarica from the Nicobar Islands and nearby south-east Asia. Almost as closely related are the crowned pigeons of New Guinea.
The dodo was a flightless bird, bigger than a turkey, living on Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. By 1681, it was extinct. The solitaire, which looked a bit like a white dodo, went the same way by the end of the following century.
All that remains of the dodo is a head and foot at Oxford, a foot in the British Museum in London, a head in Copenhagen, and a variety of bones strewn across museums in Europe, the US and Mauritius. The fragments at Oxford are unique in that they have some soft tissue left, but in the end the researchers looked inside a claw bone to extract short pieces of the bird's DNA.
By comparing these pieces with the DNA of living birds, the scientists were able to deduce when the dodo evolved away from its relatives into a separate entity. They think that it separated from the solitaire about 25 million years ago, long before Mauritius became an island.
The dodo went on to develop its distinctive appearance and features as a result of its geographical isolation, they believe. The dodo's odd shape has been the reason for the historical confusion about its origins.
"It's very important that we get DNA from these birds because they've changed so dramatically on the islands that it's very difficult to work out what their evolutionary history is," said Dr Cooper. "The dodo and solitaire have been linked variously with birds of prey, parrots, pigeons of course and even the ostrich and emu," he added.
Details of the research appear in the journal Science.
|Giant Bags of River Water for Southern CA? |
|By Michelle Locke |
ALBION, Calif. March 01, 2002 (AP) — People who live near the muddy banks of the Albion River laughed when they first heard about a plan to pump some of its water into colossal bags and tow them down the coast to thirsty Southern California. Then they got mad.
"Most people around here said, 'Oh my God. This is going to destroy the river,'" said Rachel Binah, who runs a bed and breakfast on the rugged Northern California coast.
Alaska businessman Ric Davidge calls his proposal an innovative, environmentally friendly way of salvaging much-needed fresh water that would otherwise be lost at sea. "We're taking a small amount of the water that empties into the ocean. There's no effect on water flow," he said.
Davidge, a former aide to Reagan administration Interior Secretary James Watt, proposes to draw up to 6.5 billion gallons of water a year from the Albion and the nearby Gualala River during the rainy season with the idea of supplying at least 40,000 households in San Diego. His application was filed with the state months ago, but word of the project did not start circulating locally until January.
In Albion, a community of around 500 people about 150 miles north of San Francisco, townspeople quickly formed Forget Lifting Our Water (FLOW). Mendocino County supervisors passed a resolution opposing the project. Gualala residents came up with their own nom de protest, Save Our Rivers and Estuaries (SORE).
Opponents complain that Davidge's plans to sink pipes into the riverbeds would disturb wildlife, including coho salmon and steelhead trout. They say the bagging and towing operation would be unsightly. "People don't come here to look at a big tugboat and listen to pumps all day," said Ursula Jones of SORE. Opponents also argue that the rivers need all available water to flush out sediment deposited by erosion and logging upstream.
Albion activist Bill Heil calls the river in winter "Chocolate Albion" because of its muddy brown cast. He said he doubts the water Davidge would get would be palatable. Davidge has said filters could take care of that. "We've been fighting for the Albion for years, but it's been timber, it's been logging that we've been fighting," Heil said. "For somebody to want to come and take our chocolate water away — it just seems like beyond the beyond."
A public hearing before the State Water Resources Control Board is expected some time this spring.
San Diego water department spokesman Kurt Kidman said Davidge would have to make peace with North Coast residents; San Diego does not want to fight with Northern California. In San Diego, which imported almost 100 percent of its water last year, all sorts of ideas have been floated to local officials, including laying a pipeline from Alaska and towing an iceberg down the Pacific.
Davidge, who plans to meet with North Coast residents to discuss his plan, said that he understands the worries but that they are unfounded. Davidge is proposing to bury a pipe in the riverbeds with an opening above the point of saltwater intrusion. This means it would be some distance inland from the river mouth. The pipe would be connected to inflatable polyfiber containers, which would be attached to tugboats. The containers would float below the water line and would not be visible. The bag, as Davidge calls it, or bladder, as locals refer to it, is about 100 feet wide and nearly three football fields long.
A similar operation is already being done in Turkey by a partner of Davidge's Anchorage-based Alaska Water Exports company. Davidge said installation would be timed not to disturb wildlife and would not impede river flow because it would act like a straw in a glass, with water passing through but not being taken out until it met the sea.
|New Mysteries on Jupiter |
Jupiter's Invisible Whirling Bubble
Pasadena February 28, 2002 (NASA/JPL) - Scientists simultaneously using a combination of NASA spacecraft have seen into the workings of an invisible whirling bubble of charged particles surrounding Jupiter.
That bubble, Jupiter's magnetosphere, is the biggest object with distinct boundaries within our solar system, more than 100 times wider than Jupiter itself. It contracts in response to shock waves from the Sun, according to one report appearing in the journal Nature tomorrow. In all, seven reports appearing together will detail various results from a concerted research campaign that took advantage of the Saturn- bound Cassini spacecraft's flyby of Jupiter 14 months ago.
The campaign found extremely energetic electrons traveling near the speed of light close to Jupiter, as well as a vast nebula of neutral atoms, and triggers for glowing auroras near Jupiter's north and south poles.
"We're seeing results from a remarkable opportunity," said Dr. Scott Bolton, a physicist at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., and a co-author of three of the reports.
"We had one spacecraft, Galileo, inside the magnetosphere monitoring what was happening there at the same time another spacecraft, Cassini, was outside the magnetosphere monitoring the solar wind just upstream," Bolton said. The solar wind is particles from the Sun flowing outward through the solar system. Jupiter's magnetosphere, like Earth's, deflects the solar wind but gets pushed around by its gusts.
On Jan. 10, 2001, when Cassini and Galileo were more than 20 times farther from each other than Earth is from the Moon, each spacecraft encountered the boundary of Jupiter's magnetosphere while the bubble was contracting in response to an increase in solar-wind pressure.
"This is the first two-point measurement of the Jovian system actually responding to the solar wind," said Dr. William Kurth, physicist at the University of Iowa, Iowa City, and lead author of the Nature report on these results. "The combined observations of Galileo and Cassini help show us the relative importance of the influence of the solar wind and the factors affecting the magnetosphere from within -- primarily the energy from Jupiter's rotation and the supply of material from volcanoes on the moon Io." The Jupiter observations strengthen confidence in our understanding about Earth's protective magnetosphere.
Shock waves from outbursts on the Sun, carried outward on the solar wind and detected by Cassini, also stimulated radio emissions from deep within Jupiter's magnetosphere and brightened auroras at Jupiter's poles, Dr. Donald Gurnett of the University of Iowa reports. Those effects suggest that electron density and electric currents in the magnetosphere increase when it is compacted by the shock wave.
Besides Galileo, which has been orbiting Jupiter since 1995, and Cassini, scientists used two Earth orbiters -- the Hubble Space Telescope and Chandra X-ray Observatory ñ plus radio telescopes in New Mexico and Arizona to examine Jupiter's surroundings while Cassini was there.
Hubble images show patches of Jupiter's aurora stimulated by an event Galileo detected within the magnetosphere, reports Dr. Barry Mauk of Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory, Laurel, Md. The event is a surge of charged particles toward the planet, apparently analogous to similar aurora-triggering surges that release pent-up energy in Earth's magnetosphere. Some other features in Jupiter's aurora are "footprints" of currents flowing through the magnetosphere from three of the planet's large moons, reports Dr. John Clarke of Boston University. Dr. Randall Gladstone of the Southwest Research Institute, San Antonio, Texas, describes a 45-minute rhythm in auroras at X-ray wavelengths, likely linked to a still-unidentified stimulus in the outer portion of the magnetosphere.
Cassini carries a type of magnetosphere-imaging instrument no previous interplanetary spacecraft has had. The instrument not only showed some structural detail of Jupiter's magnetosphere, it also detected a cloud of neutral atoms stretching away from the planet as a "hot neutral wind," reports Dr. Stamatios Krimigis of Hopkins' Applied Physics Laboratory. The magnetic field holds charged particles in, but neutral ones escape to create a nebula of particles that extends beyond the magnetosphere.
High-energy electrons in radiation belts close to Jupiter emit radio waves that have been monitored from Earth for years. JPL's Bolton and other scientists used Cassini while it was near Jupiter to map details never seen before in those belts.
About 2,300 students at high schools and middle schools across the country participated in a program of radio- telescope observations that aided interpretation of those Cassini observations.
Jupiter's Mysterious X-Rays
San Antonio February 28, 2002 (NASA) - A pulsating hot spot of X-rays has been discovered in the polar regions of Jupiter's upper atmosphere by NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Previous theories cannot explain either the pulsations or the location of the hot spot, prompting scientists to search for a new process to produce Jupiter's X-rays.
"The location of the X-ray hot spot effectively retires the existing explanation for Jupiter's X-ray emission, leaving us very unsure of its origin," said Randy Gladstone of the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio and lead author of a paper on the results in the Feb. 28, 2002, issue of the journal Nature. "The source of ions that produce the X-rays must be a lot farther away from Jupiter than previously believed."
Chandra observed Jupiter for 10 hours on Dec. 18, 2000, when NASA's Cassini spacecraft was flying by Jupiter on its way to Saturn. The X-ray observations revealed that most of the auroral X-rays come from a pulsating hot spot that appears at a fixed location near the north magnetic pole of Jupiter.
Bright infrared and ultraviolet emissions have also been detected from this region in the past. The X-rays were observed to pulsate with a period of 45 minutes, similar to the period of high-latitude radio pulsations detected by NASA's Galileo and Cassini spacecraft.
An aurora of X-ray light near Jupiter's polar regions had been detected by previous satellites. However, scientists were unable to determine the exact location of the X-rays. The accepted theory holds that the X-rays are produced by energetic oxygen and sulfur ions that became excited as they ran into hydrogen and helium in Jupiter's atmosphere. Oxygen and sulfur ions (originally from Jupiter's moon Io) are energized while circulating around Jupiter's enormous magnetosphere. And some -- the purported X-ray producers -- get dumped into Jupiter's atmosphere when they return to the region of Io's orbit.
Chandra's ability to accurately determine the location of the X-rays proved this model incorrect, as ions from regions of Jupiter's magnetic field near Io cannot reach the high Jovian latitudes where most of the X-rays were observed.
This result has its own problems. At the large distances required for the source of the ions --at least 30 times the radius of Jupiter -- spacecraft measurements have shown that there are not nearly enough energetic oxygen and sulfur ions to account for the observed X-ray emission.
One possibility is that heavy ions among the particles flowing out from the Sun as the solar wind are captured in the outer regions of Jupiter's magnetic field, then accelerated and directed toward its magnetic pole. Once captured, the ions would bounce back and forth in the magnetic field from pole to pole in an oscillating motion that might explain the pulsations.