Dipper Planets,
Speeds of Light,

Zeppelin NT
and Iggy Pop
Jupiter-Sized Planet Found In Big Dipper

Berkeley CA August 15, 2001 (UC Berkeley Press Release) - With the help of improved measurement techniques, planet hunters at the University of California, Berkeley, have been able to detect a Jupiter-sized planet orbiting a nearby star at a distance comparable to Jupiter in our own solar system.

Planets this size and distance from their star produce slight long-period wobbles in the motion of the star that until now have been impossible to detect.

The UC Berkeley astronomers found the planet, which is at least three-quarters the size of Jupiter, orbiting the star 47 Ursae Majoris (47 UMa) in the Big Dipper - Ursa Major or the Big Bear - a star known already to have one orbiting planet 2.5 times bigger than Jupiter. Both planets are in nearly circular orbits that in our solar system would be located beyond Mars but within the orbit of Jupiter.

"For the first time we have detected two planets in nearly circular orbits around the same star," said Debra Fischer, an assistant research astronomer working with UC Berkeley astronomy professor Geoffrey Marcy and researcher Paul Butler of the Carnegie Institution of Washington. "Most of the 70 planets people have found to date are in bizarre solar systems, with short periods and eccentric orbits close to the star.

"As our sensitivity improves we are finally seeing planets with longer orbital period, planetary systems that look more like our solar system."

The star 47 UMa is one of the 100 stars that Marcy and Butler first targeted in 1987 when they began collecting data on stellar wobbles in search of evidence for planets. The 13 years' worth of data were obtained at Lick Observatory with the 3-meter Shane and 0.6-meter Coude Auxillary telescopes hooked to the high-resolution Hamilton spectrograph - all shared with other astronomers.

Fischer said that the UC Berkeley team's success in finding extrasolar planets highlights the need for a telescope dedicated to planet searches, available to do the nightly monitoring necessary to plot the motion of bright, nearby stars and detect distant companions.

"We hope to raise $5 million to purchase a dedicated two-meter telescope that will give us the same or better efficiency, when coupled to the Hamilton spectrograph, as the three-meter telescope we use today," Fischer said. The telescope would be constructed on Mt. Hamilton as part of Lick Observatory.

"Our technique has the precision to detect tiny wobbles in stars and this discovery demonstrates our ability to keep a steady hold on that exquisite precision over many years. With a dedicated telescope we could begin to detect much lower mass planets - perhaps as low as 20 Earth masses - and Jupiter-sized planets in Jupiter-sized orbits."

Fischer, Marcy, Butler and their colleagues describe the new planet in a paper recently accepted for publication in Astrophysical Journal. Their team included Gregory Laughlin, a theoretician based at NASA Ames Research Center, and Steve Vogt, professor of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.

"When we discovered the first planet around 47 Ursae Majoris five years ago, I never dreamed that we would find yet another planet orbiting the same star," said Marcy. "Every new planetary system reveals some new quirk that we didn't expect. We've found planets in small orbits and wacky eccentric orbits. With 47 Ursae Majoris, it's heartwarming to find a planetary system that finally reminds us of our solar system."

"The discovery of planets in circular orbits is exciting because they are so rare," Butler added. " Of the published planets with orbital periods longer than a month, only HD 27442 and this system are in circular orbits. From this we can make a preliminary guess that about five percent of planetary systems are in circular orbits."

The star 47 UMa is a yellow G0V star very similar to the Sun, probably about seven billion years old and located about 51 light years from Earth. Fischer noted that the so-called habitable zone around the star -a region approximately equivalent to that between the orbits of Venus and Mars in our solar system, an area that includes Earth - is devoid of large gaseous planets. This means it potentially could harbor an Earth-sized rock we can't yet see, and won't be able to see until NASA launches the next generation of planet hunting missions from space.

Based on dynamical computer simulations by Laughlin, Fischer cautioned that " it could be difficult for an Earth-mass terrestrial planet to form in a stable orbit within that habitable zone" because of the proximity of the two outer gas giants.

The inner planet circling 47 UMa was first discovered in 1996 by Marcy and Butler using their new and precise technique for measuring Doppler-shifted light from stars. Regular changes in the Doppler shift, they thought, signaled the presence of a planet periodically pulling the star toward or away from Earth.

Fischer was able to see the periodic wobble from a second planet, smaller and farther from the star, because of improved precision - down to 3 meters per second - in measuring motion along the line of sight to the star.

"Among the published planets, only the outer planet in this system and HD 16141 have Doppler amplitudes smaller than Jupiter on the Sun," which induces a wobble of 11 meters per second, said Butler. "Our long range goal remains the detection of true Jupiter analogs - bona fide solar system analogs - to allow us to compare our solar system to other planetary systems."

In addition, 13 years of data from the star allowed Fischer to tease out a wobble with a 7.1-year period, the time it takes the newly discovered outer planet to orbit the star. The inner, larger planet orbits in 2.99 years.

The two-planet system bears an intriguing resemblance to our own. The new measurements by Fischer and her colleagues peg the mass of the inner planet at 2.5 times that of Jupiter, at least, while the newly discovered outer planet has a mass at least 3/4 that of Jupiter, yielding a mass ratio of 3.3. The mass ratio of Jupiter to Saturn is also 3.3.

The average distance from the star to the inner planet is 2.09 times the average distance of the Earth from the Sun, a unit of measure called an astronomical unit or AU. The outer planet is 3.73 AU from the central star. For comparison, Jupiter and Saturn are at distances of 5.203 and 9.555 AU, respectively.

The research was funded by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the National Science Foundation, with equipment grants from Sun Microsystems.

Newly Found Solar System Similar to Our Own

By Shankar Vedantam
Washington Post Staff Writer

Berkeley CA August 15, 2001 (Washington Post) - Astronomers have discovered two planets in nearly circular orbits around a star – the first such finding in the known universe apart from our own solar system.

The star – which is about 45 years away if you hopped a ride on a beam of light – is also known to be similar to the sun in chemical composition. Researchers knew the star had a large gaseous planet in a roughly circular orbit. Today, they announced a second planet had been found orbiting the star with a similarly circular path, opening up the possibility that smaller Earth-like planets may populate the inner orbits of the star.

"Of all the solar systems that have been found, this is the one that looks the most like our own," said Debra Fischer, an astronomer at the University of California at Berkeley. "Hands down. Nothing else is even close."

More than 70 planets have been discovered around stars other than our own, but most have orbits that are steeply elliptical. Such orbits, which tend to freeze and heat the planet to extremes of temperature, are thought to be poor candidates for the presence of extra-terrestrial life.

In the latest discovery, the planets around the star – dubbed 47 Ursae Majoris in the Big Dipper – are large, gaseous, Jupiter-like planets. If they had been circling the sun, their path would have been roughly between those of Mars and Jupiter.

"For the first time, we have a star with two gas giant planets that are far away from the star and we know there isn't a gas giant planet in the inner regions of the star," said Fischer. "From our perspective, this space is empty. But when you ask, 'What can you hide in this space?' you could hide Earth. This is the only star that has a big empty zone in the habitable region around a star the place where water could exist."

Activists Plead Innocent In Missile Protest Case

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES August 13, 2001 (AP) - A group of activists who, according to prosecutors, briefly delayed a U.S. missile defense test pleaded innocent to felony conspiracy charges on Monday.

The 15 activists - from Australia, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, India, Sweden and the United States - were arrested July 14 after they allegedly rowed rafts into an area closed for the launch of a mock nuclear warhead from Vandenberg Air Force Base. Two swam ashore.

A British still photographer and a Spanish videographer were also arrested and pleaded innocent Monday. Both have said they are free-lance journalists and were not group members.

The activists say they were protesting the test of "hit-to-kill" technology the Bush administration hopes will become a key element in a wider missile defense network.

After a two-minute delay caused by demonstrators, the unarmed Minuteman II missile was launched over the Pacific and successfully destroyed 144 miles above the ocean by the interceptor missile.

All 17 defendants were charged with conspiracy in a federal grand jury indictment. Fourteen were charged with disobeying the order of a Coast Guard officer, also a felony, and 16 were charged with trespassing.

The conspiracy charges carry a maximum five-year prison sentence; charges of violating the Coast Guard officer's order carry a maximum six-year sentence; and the trespassing charges carry a maximum six-month term. Trial was set for Sept. 25.

Attorney Katya Komisaruk, who represented two of the defendants, said anti-missile protests at the base had never before led to felony charges.

But U.S. Attorney spokesman Thom Mrozek said the protesters' actions were significantly different from most protests at the base, which sprawls across 98,400 acres on the coast 130 miles north of Los Angeles.

"Most of them line up at the front gate ... and take a symbolic step onto Air Force property," Mrozek said. "Here, you've got people in boats, some of them are swimming, ignoring several warnings from Coast Guard officers ... it's a whole different set of circumstances."

Bush No Star In Europe

Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON August 16, 2001 (AP) — A majority of Europeans don't approve of President Bush's handling of foreign affairs, think he makes decisions based entirely on U.S. interests and feel he knows less about Europe than his predecessors, according to a new poll.

When it comes to domestic politics, the disapproval of Europeans may not be such a bad thing, said one conservative analyst.

"In the long run, it's an asset domestically because it shows the president is willing to stand up for American interests,'' said Marshall Wittman of the Hudson Institute. "It probably shows that Europeans suffer from Texaphobia.''

Europeans may assume a leader from Texas is not sophisticated in international matters, he said.

European approval of Bush's foreign affairs efforts runs anywhere from 40 to 60 percentage points below their assessment of the job done by former President Clinton.

The people who said they didn't yet know how they felt about Bush's policies ranged from a fourth to a third in the four countries in the poll by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press.

"I don't think it's an irreversible situation,'' said Andrew Kohut, director of the Pew Research Center, noting the high number of Europeans who haven't yet made up their minds. "Most of the people in these countries don't see a broader rift developing between the United States and Europe.''

The survey was done in partnership with the International Herald Tribune and in association with the Council on Foreign Relations.

White House spokesman Sean McCormack took exception with the sentiment reflected in the survey results, saying Bush has reached out to redefine the post-Cold War relationship with Russia and is committed to cooperation with U.S. allies on global warming — just not within the framework of the Kyoto treaty, which Bush rejects.

"Certainly there are many more things that unite the United States and Europe than divide us,'' McCormack said. As for the divisions, "these are things we're talking about and we're consulting actively about.''

More than four in five disapproved of Bush's positions on the Kyoto treaty; two-thirds or more disapproved of his stand on missile defense. A majority approved of his support of free trade and his decision to keep U.S. troops in Kosovo and Bosnia.

More than seven in 10 in Germany, France, Great Britain and Italy said the president's international policy decisions are based on U.S interests, the poll indicated. Almost three-fourths of the Europeans polled felt that Bush understands Europe less than other presidents.

Approval of Bush's international policies ranged from one in six in France to three in 10 in Italy. Approval of Clinton's handling of international issues ranged from two-thirds in France and Great Britain to almost nine in 10 in Germany.

"I found it surprising — the extent of public opposition to some of the main Bush administration foreign policy initiatives,'' said Leslie Gelb, president of the Council on Foreign Relations.

The poll's finding that two-thirds or more of Europeans disapprove of deployment of a new missile defense system that requires withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty could be the thorniest issue for Bush, said Morton Halperin, a senior fellow on the Council of Foreign Relations. The opposition could make it tougher for European governments to yield to administration pressure to go along with the missile defense system if it involves terminating the ABM treaty, Halperin wrote in an analysis of the survey.

The report was based on roughly 1,000 telephone interviews apiece in Great Britain, France, Italy and Germany as well as a separate poll of 1,227 people in the United States. The poll, taken in early August, has an error margin of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

The European reservations about Bush probably "reinforce the liberal opposition to Bush in this country,'' said Wittman.

"But unless there is a threat to peace internationally,'' Wittman said, the European reservations about Bush "probably make no difference.''


On the Net:

Pew Research Center: http://www.people-press.org

Thirteen Pandas Pregnant

BEIJING August 13, 2001 (AP) - Thirteen giant pandas at breeding centers in China's southwest are pregnant and are expected to give birth in a few months, according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

Some pandas could be carrying twins, so as many as 20 babies could be born, said Zhang Anju, director of the Giant Panda Breeding Technology Committee of China.

"This is wonderful news," Zhang was quoted as saying Saturday.

The giant panda is one of the world's most endangered species. Fewer than 1,000 are believed to be living in the wild, most in the western Chinese province of Sichuan. Numbers are falling rapidly because of destruction of their habitat, their low birth rate and a diet made up mostly of a single plant - bamboo.

Efforts to increase panda numbers by breeding them in captivity, sometimes using artificial insemination, have had only mixed success.

Nine pregnant pandas at a breeding center in the western city of Chengdu have been moved to a special air-conditioned birth facility, Xinhua said. Four others at the Wolong Nature Reserve in Sichuan also are expected to give birth.

Water Shortage Leads To Bedroom Boycott
Associated Press

ANKARA Turkey August 14, 2001 (AP) - A number of women from a village in southern Turkey have given their husbands an ultimatum: no water, no sex.

For months the women of Sirt have been forced to line up in front of a trickling village fountain for water that they carry home in large containers, a walk that for some that can be miles.

And they have had enough.

"One of the women launched the idea as a joke, but it is serious," Faliha Sari said of the boycott, which began about a month ago. "It's natural ... When we cannot wash ourselves and cannot wash our clothes, we don't want to do other things," she said shyly.

Islam demands that followers bathe after having sex.

Sari, who was interviewed by phone, said most of the women in the village were dealing with the same water problem, but she did not know how many women were refusing sex. Sirt, near the Mediterranean resort of Antalya, has some 600 residents.

Local newspapers said the bedroom boycott in Sirt appeared to have been inspired by a popular Turkish movie. In the 1983 film, women in a village refuse sex to protest having to work the fields while their husbands sipped tea or played backgammon at the village coffee shop.

The sex boycott also recalled "Lysistrata," a play by Greek playwright Aristophanes in which Athenian women, fed up with the Peloponnesian War, barricade themselves in the Acropolis and go on a sex strike to force their husbands to vote for peace with Sparta.

Villagers say the 27-year-old water system breaks down frequently, leaving the village without running water for months. But this time, the women took action. And it appears to be having some impact. In recent days, men have asked the municipality to fix the village's water supply system or give them the parts.

"Our women are right to protest, but we're the ones who are suffering," Milliyet newspaper quoted village leader Ibrahim Sari as saying. Sari could not be reached by telephone. Most of Sirt's villagers are related and have the same surname.

After the boycott began, the men asked visiting local governor Mehmet Capraz for government help to repair the village water-system and even asked Capraz to provide them with the materials so they could fix damaged pipes.

Capraz was not available for comment but an aide, who asked not to be named, confirmed that the villagers asked for help.

For some, the issue had little to do with marital bliss.

"I am 70-year-old and alone - I have no husband to ban from the bedroom," said Fatma Sari, also reached by telephone. "But I can tell you this much, I am fed up with the water situation."
Fake Bison Testicles Focus of Crime Spree

EDMONTON Alberta August 14, 2001 (Reuters) - Police in this Canadian city where the world athletic championships ended last weekend appealed to the public on Tuesday to help them crack a crime spree involving the theft of several replica bison testicles.

Edmonton police charged two men on Tuesday after they were caught red-handed with testicles removed from the life-size replica of a bison, one of several colorfully painted statues placed throughout the western city for the 2001 World Championships in Athletics.

However, 19 other fiberglass bison had their testicles severed between Friday and Monday, and the case remains unsolved, police spokesman Dean Parthenis said.

The two men caught with the imitation genital glands have been charged with one count each of mischief, but are not currently suspects in the vandalism of the other bison, Parthenis said.

"As far as we're concerned, the one case has been solved but the other 19 are unsolved, so whether or not we have another person out there, or a group of people, or copycats, we don't know," he said.

The two suspects were collared in south Edmonton early Friday, after local residents told officers of the vandalism. A few minutes later, the two men, both in their early 20s, were found with the testicles, a fire extinguisher and a cloth. Parthenis said he did not know the significance of the other two items.

"It's a bizarre case," he said. "I mean, the whole scenario surrounding all the other 19 bison -- why anyone would want to walk off with testicles from a replica bison is beyond anyone's comprehension."

Many of the statues, painted in colors representing various countries, were to be sold following the two-week athletic championships, with the proceeds going to charity.

Their value will drop considerably if they are rendered less than anatomically correct, Parthenis said.

Center for Bison Studies - http://www.montana.edu/~wwwcbs

Speed of Light May Have Changed
AP National Writer

Sydney August 15, 2001 (AP) - New observations from the world's biggest telescope indicate that one of nature's supposedly immutable constants has changed over the 15 billion-year history of the universe.

Physicists were shocked at the discovery, but pleasantly so because it suggests that new theories about how the universe works on the subatomic scale may be correct.

"This has fundamental implications for our understanding of physics,'' said John Webb, a professor at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia.

Webb led the research team that made the discovery, which is described in a paper to be published August 27 in Physical Review Letters.

The team found that the fine structure constant — a number that determines the strength of electromagnetic force and thus the speed of light — may have been ever so slightly smaller billions of years ago. If true, then current theories are incorrect because they maintain that light's speed and other fundamental properties do not change in either space or time.

This is actually good news to physicists, because proposed theories can accommodate changes in the fine structure constant over time. Known as string theories, they allow either a 10- or 26-dimensional universe, rather than a 4-D one containing the three spatial dimensions plus time. The extra dimensions would be curled or folded, so they would be impossible to detect in everyday life — or even in any physics experiment yet conducted.

"This would be a clue to help guide how you convert string theories into something relevant,'' said Gordon Kane, a physicist at the University of Michigan. "It's just a very nice piece of information, if it stands up.''

That is a big if, said John Bahcall of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J.

"I'm quite cautious about whether to believe this result,'' Bahcall said.

The physicists used the world's most powerful telescope to peer at some of the most distant objects in the universe. They aimed the Keck telescope atop Hawaii's Mauna Kea at 17 different quasars, which are extremely bright objects probably associated with black holes.

The quasars are so far away — about 12 billion light-years — that light they produced at the dawn of the universe is only now reaching Earth.

During its long journey, the light has passed through clouds of intergalactic gas, where some of it has been absorbed. The patterns of absorption tell scientists something about the gas, and something about the light as well — including its speed and the fine structure constant that determines how fast it goes.

"It's like a car headlight on a foggy night. The headlight shines through the fog ... and you can see the change on the background light because of the presence of the fog,'' Webb said.

The scientists hope to confirm their results using a different telescope, perhaps the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in Chile.
Soy Bean News:

Greenpeace Worried By 'Mystery DNA'

By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent

August 15, 2001 (BBC) - Greenpeace is asking scientists worldwide to help identify a fragment of DNA found in genetically-modified (GM) soya. The presence of the fragment, in Monsanto's Roundup Ready soya, was detected by Belgian scientists. Greenpeace is urging the UK government to order sales of the soya to be suspended.

But Monsanto says "the information provided by Greenpeace has not changed the competent authorities' conclusions of their original risk assessment".

The Belgian team's discovery, made some months ago and reported now in the European Journal of Food Research Technology, refers to "a DNA segment of 534 bp DNA for which no sequence homology could be detected".

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace-UK's chief scientific adviser, said: "No-one knows what this extra gene sequence is, what it will produce in the soyabean, and what its effects will be.

Technology 'imprecise'

"If Monsanto did not even get this most basic information right, what should we then think about the validity of all their safety tests and experiments, which are based upon these data?

"Despite Monsanto's optimistic reassurances, this research presents further evidence that genetic modification is an imprecise technology.

"Given the history of omission and negligence associated with it, regulators should seriously reconsider how they approach approvals of GM plants."

Lindsay Keenan, of Greenpeace International, said: "From a legal point of view, the only adequate reaction regulatory bodies could have is to suspend the GM approval and re-evaluate its environmental and health impact."

Greenpeace says Monsanto's soya represents more than 50% of all GM crops globally. It is grown only in the US, Argentina and Canada, but sold worldwide and used in processed foods like chocolate, baby-food, bread, pizzas, ice-cream, and as animal feed.

Monsanto says it has previously shown that "any deletion, rearrangement or modification of the DNA referred to by Greenpeace occurred at the time of the original insertion event".

Not New

Tony Combes of Monsanto told BBC News Online: "It would have been a constituent of the Roundup Ready soyabeans used in all the safety assessment studies. So this clearer data is not new and has in fact been conveyed to all European Union competent authorities. There is no discrepancy. The sequence information provided originally has not changed; it's just that now we know more detail about it."

Mr Combes said studies supported the conclusion that there were no unexpected effects from the insertion or transformation process, and that Roundup Ready soya was comparable to conventional beans except for the one trait which gave it its name.

The Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment, which advises the UK government, said last January it was satisfied with Monsanto's revised risk assessment submitted in response to the Belgian data.

Monsanto's revised assessment, the committee concluded, "did not alter the conclusions of the original assessment . . . the presence of the DNA does not appear to have any deleterious effects with respect to environmental safety".

A spokesman for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) told BBC News Online the Belgian data "are not new and change nothing".

'Technical' Concerns

The Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes, which reports to the Food Standards Agency, asked Monsanto in January for data showing the DNA fragment was "silent" and did not result in the production of a novel protein.

Tony Combes told BBC News Online: "We're doing the experiments to provide the data the committee wants, and they should be complete very soon.

"But its concerns are nothing to do with safety. They're all technical."

PDF file of Greenpeace appeal - http://www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/highlights/gmo/RRsoylettDNA.PDF

No Reason To Fear Soybean DNA?

Associated Press

LONDON August 16, 2001 (AP) - A scientist's discovery that the DNA pattern in genetically engineered soybeans differs from normal soybeans is not a cause for concern, he said Thursday.

Marc de Loose rejected calls by the environmental group Greenpeace to suspend safety approval of the product, Monsanto Co.'s Roundup Ready soybeans, the world's most widely grown genetically modified crop.

"I have no scientific data that we have to be afraid of," said de Loose, a plant geneticist at the Center for Agricultural Research in Melle, Belgium.

Greenpeace contends the DNA could be from another organism that inadvertently got into the mix during the engineering process. One of the group's scientists, Janet Cotter, appealed to researchers for help identifying the DNA and its possible consequences in a letter on the Internet on Wednesday.

"That's not the correct interpretation," said De Loose, who is also a food safety adviser to the Belgian government.

He said the discrepancy was simply a case of technology now allowing scientists to examine DNA in more detail than previously. The product has not changed, he said.

Cotter said the concern over the newly described genetic pattern is that it might affect the functioning of other important genes in the soybean and might have altered its composition.

"That's just ridiculous," said Janet Bainbridge, director of the School of Science and Technology at Teeside University in England. "We do know the downstream effect. That's why we have the regulatory process. We know far, far more about GM DNA than we do the non-GM crops."

The Monsanto soybean contains a gene that makes it immune to herbicides. Last year, as part of a routine check, De Loose examined the DNA sequence of the bean at the site where the gene was inserted.

It did not match the genetic makeup of the herbicide-resistant bean as outlined by the company in 1994 when it submitted the product for Belgian approval.

De Loose's findings were published Wednesday in the journal European Food Research and Technology.

"They are not abnormal, they are just there. They were not discovered by Monsanto at that time, but that's not strange because the methods we have available now allow a more detailed analysis," De Loose said. The new technique is about nine times more sensitive than the old.

Bainbridge said rearrangements are normal in the DNA sequence of a plant as it accommodates a new gene.

Conventional crop breeding creates as much as, if not more, DNA shuffling than genetic modification, said Bainbridge, who is chairwoman of the advisory committee on novel foods and processes for Britain's Food Standards Agency.

De Loose's findings were examined by food safety experts in Belgium and Britain more than a year ago and neither country changed its mind.

Britain's Food Standards Agency determined that because the scrambled DNA has been in the engineered beans all along, results of the original safety tests were still valid.

Belgian authorities also determined there was no harmful effect.

The Butler Did It? - Princess Diana's Butler Accused of Theft

Associated Press

LONDON August 16, 2001 (AP) - Paul Burrell, trusted butler of Princess Diana for many years, was charged Thursday for allegedly stealing property that had belonged to her. He denied all the charges.

Burrell, Diana's "rock" and confidant, was charged with stealing 342 items from Diana, Prince Charles and Prince William on or before June 30, 1998, at Kensington Palace. Some of the items included a bullwhip, a pepper grinder and photographs.

The 43-year-old Burrell was charged with three counts of theft - one each for items belonging to Charles, Diana and William - and was ordered to appear at Bow Street magistrates court on Friday.

Stony-faced and silent, Burrell left West End Central police station and was bundled into a taxi by police officers.

His lawyer, Andrew Shaw, read a short statement from the steps of the station.

"Paul Burrell denies absolutely the charges that have been preferred against him," Shaw said. "He's rightly perceived to be a man of integrity and trusted by the royal family. He says that their trust is justified."

Among the six items he is accused of stealing from Prince Charles are an inscribed silver salver, a white metal pepper grinder and a book, "Royal Institute of Painters in Watercolour." Another was described by police only as "an Indiana Jones bullwhip."

Burrell had been arrested on suspicion of theft in January. His home near Chester in northwest England was searched by officers who allegedly found Diana's personal effects.

Burrell has been free on bail since then, and has maintained the items were given to him by his employer.

After Diana's death in a car crash Aug. 31, 1997, Burrell was widely praised for refraining from making money from his connection with the princess or revealing private information about her.

He helped prepare Diana's body for burial, and he was the only person outside her immediate family to attend the burial at her family's estate.

Soon afterward, the queen awarded him the Royal Victorian Medal for his services to the royal family.

Three other men had been arrested in connection with the thefts earlier in the year. In April, London's Metropolitan Police charged Harold Brown, 48, with four counts of theft involving items from the estate of the princess.

The stolen goods include several pieces of jewelry and $1,700, as well as a bejeweled model of a dhow - an Arab sailing vessel - that Diana and Charles received as a wedding gift from the Emir of Bahrain. According to news reports, police were alerted when the vessel was put up for sale at a London art dealer's shop.

Brown was working for Princess Margaret, sister of Queen Elizabeth II, at Kensington Palace, where Diana also had an apartment.

Burrell joined the royal staff in 1976 as a trainee footman after completing a college course in hotel management. Within a year he was made personal footman to the monarch.

In 1986 he and his wife Maria, a former maid to the queen's husband, Prince Philip, were given jobs as butler and maid at Charles' country home at Highgrove in western England.

After Charles and Diana separated in 1992, Burrell went with Diana to Kensington Palace and was regularly seen with her at royal engagements.

Burrell was chief fund-raiser of the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund until the end of 1998 when he was told that since the charity no longer was actively raising money, the position wasn't necessary.

Black Widow Spiders Terrorize City

PAVLODAR Kazakhstan August 15, 2001 (Reuters) - A plague of lethal black widow spiders is terrorizing the northern Kazakh city of Pavlodar, killing an 81-year old woman last week.

The woman, who was not named, died two weeks after being bitten by one of the spiders. The creatures caused near-panic after some were found living in a ventilation shaft in a residential block.

Local authorities have brought in 50 doses of vaccine to treat bite victims.

The black widows -- so called because the females kill and eat their mates immediately after mating -- were first reported in former Soviet Kazakhstan in 1983, local entomologist Oleg Lyakhov said.

The huge spiders, which can grow up to three inches long, were not seen again until the drought-ridden years of 1998 and 1999, when the Central Asian state was also devastated by plagues of locusts.

One reason given by experts for their reappearance in large numbers is a decline in livestock numbers. Cattle are highly effective at trampling their cocoons and killing the spiders before they emerge into the light of day.

Black widows favor cool, shady, stony spots -- and it now appears that apartment blocks will do -- to weave up to 10 cocoons, each containing as many as 600 eggs.

Buffy and Angel News

Bogus Buffy Threats Sent

Hollywood CA August 15, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Someone is mailing out bogus "cease and desist" letters, supposedly from 20th Century Fox Television, to fan sites for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, E! Online and the BuffyNewsWire site reported. "There's a person or persons out there who are sending out bogus e-mails to Buffy Web sites, purportedly on our behalf," Fox spokesman Steven Melnick confirmed to E!. "We're investigating to see who it might be, because they're not coming from us."

The studio says it has sent out only two cease-and-desist letters in the past month, part of its ongoing efforts to crack down on sites that it says infringe on the copyrights of the popular show. A genuine letter went to the Buffy Shooting Script Site.

BuffyNewsWire reported that at least four other Buffy fan sites have received bogus e-mails.

Greenwalt Offers Angel Spoilers

Hollywood CA August 14, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - David Greenwalt, co-creator of The WB's vampire series Angel, told TV Guide Online that the series will remain mindful of its predecessor, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, even though that show has moved to UPN. "We're not going to do crossovers, but we're not going to pretend Buffy wasn't the great love of Angel's life," Greenwalt told the site.

Greenwalt also offered spoilers for the season premiere. "In the first episode, everybody's waiting for the other shoe to drop about her death, because they know he's got to be grief-stricken," he said. Later, when the Slayer is resurrected on Buffy, "we won't act as if, when she comes back to life, he doesn't want to see her," he added.

The show will also bring back a familiar face, either Darla or Drusilla, Greenwalt said. "You'll be seeing one of them, and soon." Christian Kane (Lindsey), Eliza Dushku (Faith) and new Law & Order prosecutor Elisabeth Rohm (Kate) may also return.

And there will be a new villain. "There's going to be a villain named Holtz," Greenwalt said. "He's a vampire killer who's been hunting Angel for years." Keith Szarabajka, a veteran of Greenwalt's earlier series Profit, will play the part. "He's got a great voice ... really low and smoky."

Noxon Refutes Buffy/Doherty Rumors

Hollywood CA August 14, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer co-executive producer Marti Noxon denied several spoiler rumors to Cinescape Online. Among other things, Noxon denied that Shannen Doherty would be guest starring. "I am going to refute the rumor," she said.

Noxon added, "We haven't even talked to Shannen's people--that's a complete myth that she is coming on the show. The only truth to that rumor is that Shannen and Sarah are friends. Someone saw them together, I think, and started talking nonsense. It's not true, and ... right now we don't have any plans. We would be interested to have her guest, but ... certainly not [as] a series regular and not now. That's not really happening."

As for a rumored villain named Razor, Noxon said, "That is a fallacy. ... I'm refuting that, too. That is not our villain this season." As for the real bad guy, Noxon said, "All I can say is we've never done this before. It's a very different kind of threat."

German Zeppelin Returns

BERLIN August 16, 2001 (AP) — A new zeppelin that took to the skies this week over Germany carrying passengers — the first commercial blimp flights since the Hindenburg disaster — could bring new life for the spurned form of air transport.

"It has a real future,'' Juergen Bleibler, curator at the Zeppelin museum in Friedrichshafen, said of the new airship that took its first passengers for a cruise Wednesday over southern Lake Constance — the same place where Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin inaugurated the airship age in 1900.

The zeppelin era ended in 1937 when the Hindenburg caught fire on landing at Lakehurst, N.J., after an Atlantic crossing, killing 35 of the 96 people on board. Unlike the Hindenburg, the new model — called the Zeppelin NT for "New Technology'' and built by Zeppelin Luftschifftechnik in Friedrichshafen — is filled with nonflammable helium instead of dangerous hydrogen.

"They won't fly again to America but have a chance to succeed for tourism and sightseeing,'' Bleibler said of the new blimps.

With six flights a day, five days a week, the Zeppelin NT Bodensee — the German name of Lake Constance — will carry up to 12 passengers and two crew on a one-hour cruise over the lake on the Swiss border.

The firm received final approval Tuesday from air authorities to start commercial flights in the 246-foot-long airships. Prices for the trip start at $275, and the company says it already has 3,500 bookings for this year and 500 for next year.

The new zeppelins are much smaller than the Hindenburg and are designed to carry tourists on short jaunts at a top speed of 75 miles per hour. The company has also been licensed to start production of the new airships.

The Zeppelin NT can reach altitudes up to 7,875 feet and fly for 24 hours for a range of 560 miles carrying 4,200 pounds. Three propellers help the craft maneuver like a helicopter, able to take off vertically and come to a landing on a point.

Bleibler said the dirigible's relatively slow speed, low noise and cheap operating cost make it well-suited for such pleasure cruises.

"It is a wonderful experience,'' he said.

The museum has already featured an exhibition on the design of the new zeppelin, and is gathering materials to document the history of the new aircraft.

Zeppelin-Luftschifftechnik has invested $34 million over more than a decade to develop the new ships, flying the first prototype in 1997. The new model uses principles of construction going back to Count Zeppelin himself, using internal supports within the blimp to maintain its shape and maneuverability even in case of a loss of pressure.

The Hindenburg offered the first commercial air service across the Atlantic. It carried 1,002 passengers on 10 trips between Germany and the United States during its one year of operation. The airship was destroyed at the May 6, 1937, tragedy at Lakehurst, which was captured as it happened by New York media and reverberated around the world.

Goodyear and other companies have since turned blimps into advertising tools, but for the most part, zeppelins fell into disuse.

Zeppelin isn't the only German firm hoping to find a 21st-century market for blimps, despite the legacy of the crash.

Another German company, CargoLifter AG, hopes to use lighter-than-air ships to move bulky products such as turbines, prefabricated bridges and oil rigs from factory to customer.

The first prototype of its 860-foot-long dirigible enters production this autumn, and CargoLifter has said it hopes to build 50 airships by 2015.

On the Net:  http://www.zeppelin-nt.com  and http://www.zeppelin-museum.de

Ambassadors Pay The Price
Washington August 15, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - President Bush has upped the ante for ambassadorial appointments: The norm has been that about 30 percent of that August group of extraordinaries and plenipotentiaries come from the pool of big campaign donors. Now it's up to 50 percent. Where is the restraint?

Take John Ong, chairman emeritus of B.F. Goodrich, nominated just last week to be ambassador to Norway. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, a Washington-based money-in-politics watchdog, Mr. Ong gave well in excess of $100,000 to the elect-George W. Bush war chest.

Rewarding wealthy donors with ambassadorships began long ago. But it's getting out of hand. What can a democratic nation, which ought to have higher standards for its representatives abroad, do to improve this situation?

White House officials have said these individuals weren't chosen for their fiscal largess - rather, that their business experience and Republican views can help forward the Bush agenda. But it's hard not to discern a connection between large contributions to candidate Bush and his party and the bestowal of plum ambassador posts. Consider the following appointments, with contribution amounts:

• Stephen Brauer, chief of Hunter Engineering of Missouri, $413,000 - Belgium.

• Washington real estate tycoon Stuart Bernstein, $182,600 - Denmark.

• Billionaire investor Howard Leach, $114,000 - France.

• Former Bush business partner, and investor, Mercer Reynolds, $111,973 - Switzerland.

• Telecom magnate Clifford Sobel, $109,000 - The Netherlands.

What to do? Campaign contributions, in themselves, are not objectionable. They can indicate civic involvement. But tied to ambassadorial posts, they point to quid pro quos, choice handouts given those with deep pockets.

While some business/political types have done well representing their country abroad, the norm ought to be to choose career foreign service officers. Their job is to know the nuances of diplomatic relations and the specifics of individual countries.

Should the president choose to make a public switch to such a stance, the move could help foster a reconnect between a cynical citizenry and the government it elects. And it would be a strong indication that there are actually limits to the influence and position money can buy. The privilege of conducting the country's business abroad would then rightly be a matter of merit, not patronage.

Mr. Bush may be working hard to distinguish this administration from its predecessors, but on this issue, it looks remarkably the same.
Fish News

Fish and Wildlife Service Choice Faces Controversy

WASHINGTON August 13, 2001 (AP) - The White House's choice to head the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was fired from the Pennsylvania Game Commission in 1995 amid allegations of payroll fraud.

Steven A. Williams was dismissed from his job as deputy executive director after it was discovered that he had asked a subordinate to change payroll records, which temporarily boosted Williams' salary, The Erie (Pa.) Times-News reported Sunday.

Williams was never charged over the incident. He told the newspaper he was frustrated over the dismissal and said he didn't know anyone was doing anything wrong. If the matter comes up during his Senate confirmation hearings, Williams said it will be a chance to tell his side of the story.

Mark Pfeifle, a spokesman for the Department of the Interior, which includes the Fish and Wildlife Service, said Sunday that Williams had been "completely exonerated by the Pennsylvania attorney general, completely exonerated by the Pennsylvania Game Commission, and those who say otherwise are ill-advised and not backed up by the facts."

"We look forward to his confirmation by the Senate," Pfeifle added.

Williams is currently the secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. Bush announced July 18 that he would nominate Williams to run the federal agency that works to conserve and protect fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats.

"Steve Williams has a two-decade career protecting wildlife and bringing people together to resolve natural resource issues," said Pfeifle. "He has the full support of the Interior Department and will be a great director of the Fish and Wildlife Service."

Russia Foils Sturgeon-smuggling Attempt

ROSTOV-ON-DON Russia August 13, 2001 (AP) - Russian border guards arrested two men who were attempting to smuggle 1,100 pounds of black caviar-bearing sturgeon out of the vicinity of the Caspian Sea, a border guard spokesman said Monday.

The two residents of Russia's North Caucasus region of Dagestan were arrested Saturday with 54 of the fish, including nine beluga sturgeons, said a spokesman for the North Caucasus department of the border guards, who declined to give his name.

In July, Russia halted commercial fishing of sturgeon in the Caspian for the rest of the year because of depleting stocks.

The ban stems from an agreement Russia, Kazakstan and Azerbaijan signed at a meeting of the U.N.-affiliated Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

But poaching is rampant, and Russian border guards have seized nearly 2.5 tons of sturgeon and 22 pounds of caviar since Russia announced joined the moratorium, the ITAR-Tass news agency said.

Stocks of the Caspian's beluga sturgeon have dropped by about 90 percent over the past two decades because of destruction of spawning sites, pollution and the end of Soviet-era caviar regulation.

US Germ Warfare Rebuff A 'Mistake'

By Emma Jane Kirby

Geneva August 15, 2001 (BBC) - The former head of the British chemical and biological defense establishment has warned the United States that their decision not to sign an international treaty banning germ warfare will undermine international security.

Graham Pearson said that the United States had based its decision on an "illogical assessment" and that US relations with the international community would suffer as a result.  He was speaking in Geneva at a meeting of the United Nations Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. 

The US refused to sign the proposed treaty last month, saying it would put national security and confidential business information at risk. The ad hoc group of states party to the 1972 convention is due to complete negotiations on a draft protocol in Geneva on Friday.

When the US ambassador, Donald Mahley, announced last month that the US would not ratify the biological weapons protocol, there was outcry across the world.

However, since the United States' departure from the negotiating table, multilateral talks have continued quietly in Geneva while the implication of the Americans' decision has been assessed by world delegates.

Addressing the panel on Wednesday, Dr Pearson, currently with the Department of Peace Studies at the University of Bradford in England, concluded the US had made a "huge and worrying mistake".

He said that "the rejection of the protocol by the United States" will mean "that it will not be trusted by other states" to live up to "its earlier promises and official statements at the highest level".

"The damage that this mistrust, as it involves the world's leading power, will cause to international security will be incalculable," he said.

Dr Pearson urged the rest of the world to press ahead with the treaty in a bid to make the world a safer place.

Man With One Ear Drowns in Cat's Water Bowl
WELLINGTON New Zealand August 16, 2001 (Reuters) - A New Zealand man has died after slipping on ice and drowning in his cat's water bowl, local media said Thursday.

Peter John Robinson, who was 28, was found by his mother lying face down in the dish in the South Island town of Reefton last month, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Gill Robinson said she believed her son had gone to feed his cat, Piper, and hit his head after slipping on ice. The inch-and-a-half of water in the bowl was enough to cover his mouth and was taken into his lungs.

A coroner found that Robinson, who had had balance problems since being born without one ear, had drowned following a significant head injury, the Herald said.
Life From Space Dust?

Poland August 15, 2001 (BBC) - Astrophysicists say particles swirling around planets could have been transformed into the building blocks of life by the solar wind, then fallen to Earth as dust.

A Polish team says it has shown in the laboratory that a biological molecule is formed when space dust is zapped with a high-energy beam of light.

But other scientists are sceptical about claims that life arrived on this planet from outer space.

Thousands of tonnes of dust from space enter the Earth's atmosphere each year.

The astrophysicists, based at Jagiellonian University, say precursors of life are more likely to have reached Earth in the form of dust than during a comet impact.

Dust would be more likely to enter the Earth's atmosphere without burning up, they argue, while any complex biological molecules borne by comet would be destroyed.

"The formation of terrestrial life is still an open question. It is believed that abiotic creation of simple biogenic molecules and then later chemical and physical transformation could lead to the generation of cells and then contemporary organisms," Professor Lubomir Gabla of Jagiellonian University told the BBC.

"Some of the molecules synthesised in our experiment have a biologically active nature," he said.

Mark Burchell of the Physics laboratory at the University of Kent at Canterbury, UK, says that space missions take scientists closer to answering the question of how life began on Earth.

"The problem in the laboratory is that you always can do things on a bench top," he told BBC News Online.

"But did it really happen? If you think that you could have generated some of these building blocks out in space, the thing to do is go out in space and have a look," he said.

Genesis Probe

NASA launched the Genesis mission two weeks ago: an unmanned mission to collect solar winds and dust.

Its Genesis spacecraft will travel a million miles towards the Sun, open a lid and expose a series of arrays ready to pick up solar wind particles.

After three years the lid will close and the craft will return to Earth with about 20 micrograms of solar wind.

It is estimated that around 3,000 tons of interplanetary dust fall to Earth every year.

The Polish research is published in the journal Physical Review Letters.

California Sues EPA Over Ethanol Requirement

Associated Press

LOS ANGELES August 13, 2001 (AP) - California officials have sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in hopes of reversing a decision that requires vehicles in the state to use the gasoline additive ethanol.

The lawsuit, filed Friday afternoon in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, calls on the agency to waive rules requiring ethanol to be added to most of the state's gasoline. Ethanol adds oxygen to gasoline to make it burn cleaner.

Gov. Gray Davis has ordered that MTBE - the only oxygenate available besides ethanol - be phased out by 2003 because it pollutes ground water. State officials argue that California can meet federal air-quality goals with non-oxygenated, reformulated gasoline.

The EPA's oxygenate requirement is "a straitjacket mandate that will drive up gas prices while increasing air pollution," Davis said in a statement. "The potential for harm to Californians, both economically and environmentally, leaves me no choice but to fight back with guns blazing."

California produces 5 million to 7 million gallons of ethanol a year, a far cry from the estimated 600 million to 900 million gallons it would need to comply with the rules. Officials say the ethanol requirements would make the state dependent on the Midwest, which grows the corn used to make most ethanol.

Winston Hickox, secretary of the California Environmental Protection Agency, said California's ethanol needs could create supply problems and send prices skyrocketing.

Representatives of two environmental groups, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Clean Air Trust, also said at the news conference that requiring ethanol could do more harm than good to California's air.

Studies have shown that while ethanol blends reduce carbon monoxide levels, they increase levels of oxides of nitrogen.

EPA officials in Washington, D.C., and San Francisco did not return several calls seeking comment Sunday.

The EPA has contended that under the Clean Air Act, it lacks the authority to grant the state's request. Federal officials have said the state hasn't proven that complying with the oxygenate requirement would increase air pollution.

Abuse Of Jailed G-8 Protesters Probed

By Alessandra Rizzo
and Nicole Winfield

ROME August 15, 2001 (AP) - American Sherman Sparks sat naked in a Genoa prison infirmary, an ice pack on his injured groin, for a half-hour before a guard gave him a blanket to cover himself.

Stefania Galante was forced to stand spread-eagled against a cell wall for two hours in the middle of the night as baton-wielding guards insulted her and 30 other protesters.

"They were threatening girls who didn't have their legs open, telling them they would be raped with the clubs,'' Galante said. "It was surreal. I couldn't believe it was happening.''

It had been just a few hours since riot police smashed through the doors of a school housing demonstrators at the G-8 summit last month, hunting for weapons and troublemakers.

While much attention has been focused on the July 22 raid and the 60 people injured, prosecutors this week opened an investigation into what occurred soon after the raid at the Bolzaneto police garrison.

Some of the 90 protesters detained that night say they were physically and mentally abused at Bolzaneto, beaten and forced to strip for medical exams and subjected to sexually graphic insults. They say they were deprived of sleep, food, water and medical care.

Foreign detainees say it took days to see their lawyers and consular officials, and that they were forced to sign documents they didn't understand. Once released, they were left at an airport without money, plane tickets or in some cases passports.

Two Canadians among those arrested were released and allowed to return to Canada.

At least 50 people have filed complaints against police in connection with their detention.

The treatment of foreign demonstrators has been the most problematic issue for Premier Silvio Berlusconi since the summit ended.

European countries have lodged formal protests about how their citizens were treated. Amnesty International has called for an independent inquiry, and lawyers are threatening action against individual officers.

At least 22 other foreigners, including three Americans, detained elsewhere in connection with the summit were released yesterday.

Many held at Bolzaneto are angry about their treatment.

Sparks, a recent college graduate from Salem, Ore., filed an 11-page affidavit when he was released. In it, he described how he was beaten in the abdomen and groin during the raid, hospitalized, imprisoned and then taken back to the hospital after his injury worsened in the cold prison cell.

Jose Luis Sicilia, from the Spanish city of Zaragoza, said he was forced to undress and do push-ups at Bolzaneto even though he had just been hospitalized for two broken ribs.

"One day they entered with an electrocardiogram machine and they started to wet my chest and ankles while a policeman was smiling saying to me, `electroshocks, electroshocks,' '' Sicilia said. He said he wasn't tortured but was traumatized.

Three senior law enforcement officials have been transferred because of what went wrong at Genoa, including the death of an Italian protester.

Officials have said some units used "excess'' force to combat the 100,000 protesters in Genoa.

On Monday, about a dozen people detained at Bolzaneto appeared before prosecutors to testify as part of a special investigation.

Galante, a 29-year-old from Padua, said some women had their earrings and other piercings ripped out.

"It looked like we were either back in time, or in some other country, in some other reality,'' Galante said.

Iggy Pop Is A VIP!

By Dean Goodman

LOS ANGELES August 16, 2001 (Reuters) - Once a punk rock outcast who was locked up in a psych ward, Iggy Pop is now a celebrity, a Reebok model who rubs shoulders with the cream of society.

But his elevated status does not stop him from noticing the absurdity of the situation, as he told Reuters in a recent interview: the kid raised in a Michigan trailer park is often the center of attention at various phoney-baloney shindigs.

"Occasionally I'll go to one of these VIP affairs or parties, and I always sorta look around thinking, 'My God, how shallow and crass these people are! Not like me!' That is honestly how I feel.

"At the same time I recognize the holes in that theory, because I'm there aren't I?"

So Pop put pencil to paper and composed the spoken-word diatribe "V.I.P.," which is found on his new album, "Beat Em Up" (Virgin), the 16th of a storied career.

The seven-minute song, which satirizes the V.I.P. culture of entourages, paranoia, reflected glory and fake smiles, was inspired by a dinner party hosted by fashion maven Donatella Versace in Milan. Pop was about to visit the bathroom, until a minder commanded him to use the VIP facility.

"I used the private bathroom, which I can only describe as palatial in a kind of a Venetian or Near Eastern style. A harem style."

Pop, born James Osterburg 54 years ago, laughs as he recounts the experience. Indeed, his mood has lightened considerably since his previous album, in which he considered "the circumstances of my death." That album, 1999's "Avenue B," a largely orchestral set partly inspired by his marriage break-up, sold dismally, Pop's fans evidently discomfited by his bleak honesty.


"Beat Em Up" finds Pop brandishing a renewed lust for life. He decamped from New York City to Miami -- "the acupuncture pressure point of the browning of America" -- and found a loving 28-year-old girlfriend. He loves to ride around the city in his cherry-red Cadillac DeVille convertible, a 1968 model for which he paid $5,600. As he relates it, everyone in the city stops in their tracks and waves at him when he drives by in his V.I.P vehicle.

People have been staring at Pop for more than 30 years, since his days at the helm of pioneering Detroit punk group the Stooges, when he would cut his chest with glass, smear himself with peanut butter and dive into the crowd. The scars are still evident on his sinewy body which he bares to full effect when he performs shirtless during his energetic shows.

The Stooges were destroyed by drugs, but their three studio albums, "The Stooges" (1969), "Fun House" (1970) and "Raw Power" (1973), are considered essential listening for anyone seeking a primer on American rock music.

Pop, a mental and physical mess, checked into a Los Angeles psychiatric hospital in 1974, before beginning phase two of his career.

He teamed up with long-time admirer David Bowie for his first two solo albums, "The Idiot" and "Lust For Life." The 1977 releases yielded some of Pop's best known songs, such as "The Passenger," "Nightclubbing" and the title track of the latter album, a popular jingle for ads.

His output has been wildly variable since then, but usually entertaining. He has become a cult legend in his own time, with music critics -- "the Mandarin court" -- fawning over his legacy, to his occasional annoyance.

"I can't really pee or go to the bathroom, I can't open my mouth without being compared to what I did 28 years ago or what I did 15 years ago," he said.


With song titles such as "Death is Certain," "Weasels," and "Jerk," Pop's new album covers familiar territory, decrying -- usually with a wink -- society's scumbags. The lyrics are often strained -- "A mountain of feces is rapin' my ear" -- but Pop says he tried to make the album "accessible to common people."

"You do not necessarily have to have read (punk rock memoir) 'Please Kill Me' or heard a Lou Reed album in the last 10 years to like this. But if you have, hopefully you can like it, y'know?"

For the first time in his career, Pop produced the album himself. It is dedicated to his bass player, Lloyd "Mooseman" Roberts, a former member of rapper Ice-T's controversial rock band Body Count, who was killed in a drive-by shooting last year. Pop had hired Mooseman to infuse his music with some street soul.

"I didn't really want to turn a baseball cap backwards and pose like a black guy. So I got one ... I can't imagine a better name for somebody that plays that instrument than Mooseman. That's what you want, y'know?"

Pop's band is rounded out by guitarist Whitey Kirst -- a "fairly simple soul" from Canada -- who has played with Pop for 11 years and shared songwriting credit on all the new songs; and Kirst's brother, Alex Kirst, on drums.

Like Bowie and Reed, Pop has distinguished himself in other media. He acts, lectures, does voiceovers and collaborates with other musicians, such as French jazz singer Francoise Hardy and techno-trance band Death in Vegas.

In the late 1980s, Pop was performing perhaps 100 shows a year; these days, he estimates it's 25 to 30 gigs annually. One of the highlights is "The Passenger," where he often invites the audience to dance on stage with him.

He is scheduled to begin a U.S. tour in October, a Virgin spokeswoman said. Details are still being worked out.

Iggy on Virgin - http://www.iggypop-virginrecords.com/iggypop.html

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