|Gnome Liberation! |
Little Green Men,
and Patrick Stewart!
|Garden Gnome Liberation Front Strikes Again! |
Garden Gnomes Gather in Shadowy Operation
STRASBOURG, France July 12, 2001 (Reuters) - More than 100 garden gnomes and other gaudy statues were discovered on Wednesday assembled on a traffic circle in eastern France, a police spokesman said.
Some of the statues were set up to spell out "Free the Gnomes." No one claimed immediate responsibility for the stunt, but police said it bore all the hallmarks of the shadowy Garden Gnome Liberation Front.
The kitsch little creatures were reported stolen from numerous gardens around the town of Chavelot overnight and subsequently gathered together on the roundabout.
"It was a bit like a giant creche. Everything had been carefully set up," a police spokesman said.
The Gnome Liberation Front rose to prominence in the mid- 1990s following a series of raids on gardens to "free" gnomes and "return them to the wild."
The group suffered a setback in 1997 when a court handed its ringleader a suspended prison sentence and fined him for his part in the disappearance of some 150 gnomes.
After briefly going to ground, the Front hit the headlines again in 1998 when it staged a mass "suicide" of gnomes in eastern France. Last year, the group struck Paris, stealing around 20 gnomes during a night raid on a Paris garden exhibition.
[More info in this previous eXoNews feature on the FLNJ. - Ed.]
French Gnomes Helped on Way to Spiritual Freedom
STRASBOURG, France July 12, 2001 (Reuters) - More than 70 garden gnomes were found on the steps of a cathedral in northeastern France after an undercover operation by the shadowy Garden Gnome Liberation Front, a regional newspaper said on Thursday.
The kitsch creatures had been abducted from their green, floral homes and assembled on the steps of the cathedral in the town of Saint-Die, La Liberte de l'Est reported.
A banner of the Gnome Liberation Front, which aims to "free" gnomes and "return them to the wild," was found at the scene.
Local police who gathered the little statues declined to comment to journalists in an effort to contain what appeared to be a spiraling of gnome abductions in the area.
This is the second covert operation by the Front in as many days. Motorists in eastern France were surprised to find more than 100 gnomes, snow whites and other gaudy garden statues on a roundabout on Wednesday. Some were arranged to spell out "Free the Gnomes."
Important Gnome Links
Join the Good Fight for Garden Gnome Liberation! Viva la Front de libération des nains de jardin!
The FLNJ (Front de libération des nains de jardin) seems to be largely a French phenomenon, and therefore most FLNJ sites are logically French. (We are assured that the gnome movement will "grow", but some gnomes "are satisfied the way we are" and have been less than enthusiastic about new growth.)
French sites for the FLNJ (in French, of course):
A very informative site in English: http://www.foundus.com/jani/gnomes/welcome.html
Joseph Maher at the Macri Gallery - http://www.teleport.com/~aafinart/mg2/artists.html
Laaf Gnomes - http://www.southernporchandpatio.com
The Gnome Hazelnut Factory - http://gnomehazelnutfactory.com/littlegnomefacts.shtml
This FLNJ should not be confused with that other FLNJ - the Ferret Lovers of New Jersey (where else??) at http://www.ferretcity.com/FLNJ/
|False Alarm Causes Partial White House Evacuation |
By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON July 12, 2001 (Reuters) - A false alarm triggered the evacuation of parts of the White House complex for about an hour on Thursday after a car parked in the driveway attracted the attention of a bomb-sniffing dog, the White House said.
The Secret Service ordered people to leave the northern side of the West Wing, where top White House staff work, but President Bush remained in the building's southern side, meeting aides on a patio and then lunching with Vice President Dick Cheney in a dining room off the Oval Office.
Officials in parts of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building overlooking the White House were also required to leave their offices as were reporters in the White House press room, which sits beside the West Wing.
Around noon EDT the Secret Service determined the car was not dangerous and allowed staffers who were evacuated, including White House spokesman Ari Fleischer and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, to return to their offices.
"The vehicle has been rendered clear. The White House has returned to normal business,'' Secret Service spokesman Jim Mackin told Reuters.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the roughly one-hour evacuation had not affected Bush's schedule, saying the president had "full faith in the Secret Service to handle it and handle it well.''
During a routine check of the driveway, the car drew the attention of a bomb-sniffing dog and prompted the Secret Service to call in a bomb disposal expert wearing a green, hooded protective suit to investigate.
The car, which belonged to an aide to a member of Congress who attended a Medicare event in the Rose Garden on Thursday morning, was parked in the driveway close to the White House's northwest gate.
Mackin said the Secret Service had not yet figured out what caught the attention of the dog, saying false alarms are sometimes triggered by innocuous materials that were in a vehicle several days earlier.
"These dogs are so sensitive there are some false reads because there are so many things that they will alert to,'' Mackin said. "Sometimes that means some false reads to something in the car that may have been completely innocuous.''
The spokesman declined to say what kinds of materials can cause such false alarms.
There are frequent bomb and security scares at the heavily guarded White House. In February, a man held a gun to his head outside the White House's south gate and was shot in the leg by Secret Service agents.
|Water Vapor Offers Peek Into Future |
WASHINGTON July 12, 2001 (AP) -- In a glimpse of the ultimate fate of the solar system, astronomers have found that the blazing death of a distant star is melting its orbiting icy comets and creating a cloud of water vapor.
Astronomers at a news conference Wednesday said that the finding, by an orbiting observatory, strengthens the theory that there may be life-supporting planets elsewhere in the universe.
Gary Melnick of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said the star, called CW Leonis, is "the perfect laboratory for dissecting a dying solar system.''
Melnick said the discovery marks the first time a solar-system type of water cloud has been found around a star other than the sun. He said that since water is considered essential for biological activity, the discovery boosts the idea that planets orbiting other stars may harbor life.
Melnick, co-author of a study that appears Thursday in the journal Nature, said the Submillimeter Wave Astronomy Satellite detected a vast amount of water vapor around CW Leonis, a star some 500 light-years from Earth. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light would travel in a year.
"What we have measured is the gaseous water emission resulting from the vaporization of a large number of icy bodies in orbit around the aging star,'' said Melnick.
He said CW Leonis was 1.5 to 4 times more massive than the sun. When such a star burns up all its nuclear fuel, its superheated atmosphere suddenly expands. Melnick said CW Leonis has now ballooned to a radius of about 483 million miles, approximately the distance of Jupiter from the sun.
Everything within that expanded sphere has now been burnt to a crisp, and the heat is melting a vast population of icy, comet-like bodies that circle in the far outer reaches of the CW Leonis system, Melnick said.
David Neufeld, a Johns Hopkins University astronomer and co-author of the study, said CW Leonis is a carbon star, a stellar body that has more carbon than oxygen. Such stars generally have almost no water, since its sparse oxygen atoms are typically tied up with the abundant carbon to make carbon dioxide.
Instead, Neufeld said CW Leonis has about 10,000 times more water than would be expected of a carbon star, based on the satellite observation data.
"The only logical explanation is that the water comes from a collection of icy bodies that are orbiting around the star and are evaporating because of the star's great power output,'' said Neufeld.
Melnick said the discovery boosts the belief that there may be life on planetary bodies orbiting stars beyond the solar system.
Since water vapor has been detected in a distant envelope around the star, he said, "it stands to reason that liquid water once existed in bodies close to the star.
"Since water is vital for life, (this) bolsters the possibility that a life-sustaining environment did exist outside our solar system,'' he said.
But if it ever did exist, said Melnick, it is gone, incinerated by the dying throes of CW Leonis.
That is the eventual fate of the sun and Earth, said Alan Bunner, science director of a NASA division studying the structure and evolution of the universe.
"Sometime in the future, about 6 billion years from now, our sun will burn up its nuclear fuel supply, and expand to about the orbit of the planet Earth, sizzling and evaporating everything in its path,'' said Bunner.
He said that is the process now under way with CW Leonis.
Alan Boss, an astronomer with the Carnegie Institution of Washington, said that Melnick and his team "make a very good case'' for the water around CW Leonis to have come from evaporating icy comets.
"The water is best explained by an enormous population of comets, and we suspect that CW Leonis also had a population of its own planets,'' said Boss, who was not part of the Melnick research team.
Another astronomer, Karen Meech of the University of Hawaii, Honolulu, said the finding by Melnick and his team validates some theories of how solar systems live and die.
On the Net;
Harvard satellite material: http://sao-www.harvard.edu/swas
|Elderly Man Licking Wounds After Cat Attack |
|QUEBEC CITY (Reuters) - An elderly Canadian man was said to be recovering on Thursday following a savage attack by his pet cat, which drew four carloads of police, two ambulances and an animal control officer. |
The National Post newspaper said Gerard Daigle, 80, lost a pint of blood and required stitches after his cat Touti, a diminutive roughly meaning Tiny, launched a frenzied attack after Daigle, who was apparently giving his pet parrot a shower, inadvertently sprayed the cat with water.
Daigle, who lives in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec, halfway between Montreal and Quebec City, could not be reached for comment on Thursday. The newspaper said he was saved by his 81-year-old wife who wrestled the cat away, only to have it turn on her.
"The cat wanted to eat her, too," the paper quoted Daigle as saying.
The couple managed to chase the cat into the bedroom and slam the door. Police responded in force because they thought they were dealing with a domestic emergency.
It is not known why Daigle was giving his parrot a shower.
|Genre Emmy Award Nominations Are In |
Hollywood July 13, 2001 (eXoNews) - In a typical blatant display of ignorance, the Academy of Television Arts & Science have once again ignored newer and younger popular genre shows and actors in favor of the same old highly rated network shows. Apparently it is still not artistry and originality but rather how much soap you can sell that determines major Emmy nominations.
Forget your favorite actors, writers and directors from Buffy, X-Files, Andromeda, Roswell, Farscape, Angel, The Lone Gunmen, and even Voyager! Michelle Geller, Gillian Anderson, and Kate Mulgrew and other worthy "independents" are all ignored once again in favor of more conservative, big number favorites. The Academy even created a category for those pathetic network "reality" shows! (For a complete list of the nominees - http://www.emmys.org/awards/2001noms.htm ).
Voyager did score 8 production nominations - thanks to an effective Emmy-aimed promotional campaign by Paramount - X-Files and Stargate each got 2, and Xena and Dark Angel got one apiece, but that certainly doesn't make up for the Academy's lack of reward for the actors and shows that have been keeping TV interesting for the last few years. (Not to mention an insultingly large number of tech nominations for this year's atrocious Sci-Fi Network remake of David Lynch's Dune.)
What are these Academy members really watching? Your bet is as good as ours. We doubt they really watch anything at all!
Congrats to those fine technicians and production people from these great shows who did make the list!
OUTSTANDING CINEMATOGRAPHY FOR A SINGLE-CAMERA SERIES
The X-Files • This Is Not Happening • FOX
Ten Thirteen Productions in association with 20th Century Fox TV
Bill Roe, Director of Photography
OUTSTANDING COSTUMES FOR A SERIES
Star Trek: Voyager • Shattered • UPN
Robert Blackman, Costume Designer; Carol Kunz, Costume Supervisor
OUTSTANDING HAIRSTYLING FOR A SERIES
Star Trek: Voyager • Prophecy • UPN
Josee Normand, Hairstylist; Charlotte Parker, Hairstylist; Gloria Montemeyor, Hairstylist
OUTSTANDING MAKEUP FOR A SERIES
Star Trek: Voyager (Prosthetic) • The Void • UPN
Michael Westmore, Makeup Artist; Tina Kalliongis-Hoffman, Makeup Artist;
Scott Wheeler, Makeup Artist; James Rohland, Makeup Artist; Natalie Wood, Makeup Artist;
Ellis Burman, Makeup Artist; Jeffrey Lewis, Makeup Aritst; Bradley M. Look, Makeup Artist;
Belinda Bryant, Makeup Artist; Joe Podnar, Makeup Artist; Dave Quaschnick, Makeup Artist;
Karen J. Westerfield, Makeup Artist; Earl Ellis, Makeup Artist
The X-Files (Prosthetic) • Deadalive • FOX
Ten Thirteen Productions in association with 20th Century Fox TV
Cheri Montesanto-Medcalf, Department Head Make-Up Artist;
Matthew Mungle, Special Makeup Artist; Laverne Munroe, Makeup Artist;
Clinton Wayne, Makeup Artist; Robin Luce, Makeup Artist
OUTSTANDING MUSIC COMPOSITION FOR A SERIES (DRAMATIC UNDERSCORE)
Star Trek: Voyager • Workforce (Part 1) • UPN
Dennis McCarthy, Composer
Star Trek: Voyager • End Game • UPN
Jay Chattaway, Composer
Xena: Warrior Princess • The Rheingold • SYN
Joseph LoDuca, Composer
OUTSTANDING SOUND EDITING FOR A SERIES
Star Trek: Voyager • Endgame, Part 2 • UPN
Bill Wistrom, Supervising Sound Editor; Jim Wolvington, Supervising Sound Effects Editor;
T. Ashley Harvey, Sound Editor; Masanobu “Tomi” Tomita, Sound Editor; Dale Chaloukian, Sound Editor; Gerald Sackman, Music Editor
OUTSTANDING SPECIAL VISUAL EFFECTS FOR A SERIES
Dark Angel • Pilot • FOX
Cameron/Eglee Productions in association with 20th Century Fox TV
Elan Soltes, Visual Effects Supervisor; Michael Porterfield, Lead Visual Effects Compositor; Christian Boudman, Lead Visual Effects Compositor; Neill Blomkamp, Lead Visual Effects Animator; Mike Leben, Visual Effects Cameraman; Brian Moylan, CGI Supervisor; Trevor Cawood, Lead CGI Artist; Wes Sargent, Lead CGI Artist
Star Trek: Voyager • Workforce, Part 1 • UPN
Dan Curry, Visual Effects Producer; Ronald B. Moore, Visual Effects Supervisor; Chad Zimmerman, Visual Effects Coordinator; Paul Hill, Visual Effects Compositor; Greg Rainoff, Visual Effect Animator; David Morton, CGI Supervisor; David Lombardi, Computer Animation; John Teska, Computer Modeler and Animator; Brandon MacDougal, Computer Modeler
Star Trek: Voyager • Endgame • UPN
Dan Curry, Visual Effects Producer; Mitch Suskin, Visual Effects Supervisor; Ron Moore, Visual Effects Supervisor; Art Codron, Visual Effects Coordinator; Steve Fong, Visual Effects Compositor; Eric Chauvin, Matte Artist; Robert Bonchune, CGI Supervisor; John Teska, CGI Artist; Greg Rainoff, Visual Effects Animator
Stargate SG-1 • Small Victories • SHO
MGM TV, Showtime, Double Secret Productions in association with Gekko Film Groups
James Tichenor, Visual Effects Supervisor; Michelle Comens, Visual Effects Coordinator; Robin Hackl, 2D Compositor; Aruna Inversin, 2D Compositor; Debora Dunphy, 2D Compositor; Judy D. Shane, 2D Compositor; Kent Matheson, Matte Painter; Allan Henderson, 3D Artist; Craig Van Den Biggelaar, 3D Artist
Stargate SG-1 • Exodus • SHO
MGM TV, Showtime, Double Secret Productions in association with Gekko Film Groups
James Tichenor, Visual Effects Supervisor; Shannon Gurney, Visual Effects Coordinator; Bruce Woloshyn, Senior Compositing Artist; Robin Hackl, 2D Compositor; Doug Campbell, 2D Compositor; Debora Dunphy, 2D Compositor; Kent Matheson, Matte Painter; Craig Van Den Biggelaar, 3D Artist; Rob Bland, 3D Artist
|Swim-With-Dolphins Proposal Criticized |
MONTREAL July 12, 2001 (CP) - Questions of animal rights and human safety were raised Thursday by a coalition against a proposed swim-with-the-dolphins facility at a Quebec zoo. The group includes environmentalists, actors and humane societies from Canada and the United States. They said an interactive aquarium at the Granby Zoo, southeast of Montreal, would endanger humans and dolphins if it's built.
''There have been 15 recorded cases in the United States of incidents between human beings and dolphins when they were swimming together,'' said Franck Tieman of the Global Action Network, a Montreal environmental group.
''We're talking about broken bones, people being bitten, or hit against the wall,'' Tieman said after a news conference. ''The dolphins are in a stressful situation.''
The $12-million interactive aquarium would be ready in 2003 or 2004 at the zoo, an hour's drive from Montreal. The zoo, the largest in Quebec, plans to allow swimmers to mingle with dolphins in small groups. The facility may also offer dolphin therapy, a technique that some researchers believe can stimulate learning in mentally disabled patients.
Clement Lanthier, director of the zoo's animal health, cautioned that the project is still in the planning stages. Lanthier said he's still investigating the 15 reported incidents of contact between humans and captive dolphins.
''There's a risk that is inherent to any contact with animals,'' he said. ''But if that risk is higher with dolphins, we will not go ahead with this project, that's for sure.''
The Granby Zoo has said it would be the first in Canada to allow the public to swim with dolphins. But people can mingle with the animals at several facilities in the United States.
An official at the New York Aquarium, which does not have dolphin swims, said interactive marine facilities are safe as long as they're regulated.
''It really goes to a process of oversight and control,'' said Dr. Paul Boyle, deputy director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, which runs the Brooklyn-based aquarium.
''I guess it would become hazardous if the facility did not have well-trained staff and very stringent guidelines for how their staff allow the dolphins to come in contact with humans,'' Boyle said in a telephone interview.
But coalition members said Thursday that all dolphin facilities are inherently dangerous, based on evidence that the animals don't take well to life outside their natural habitat. The coalition said 40 per cent of bottlenose dolphins captured from the wild die from stress or infection within the first five days in captivity. They also raised the possibility Thursday that diseases and infections could be transmitted to humans.
Lanthier said the zoo may lean towards public opinion in deciding whether or not to open the aquarium. Surveys conducted by the zoo indicated that up to 90 per cent of Montrealers wanted to get up close to the dolphins in the water.
But Jacques Godin, a Quebec actor and animal-rights activist, said at a news conference Thursday that while people may enjoy the experience, the dolphins wouldn't.
''Just because they seem to be smiling doesn't mean that they're happy to swim with us,'' said Godin, referring to the formation of the animal's face that resembles a human smile.
''They're born with that (apparent) smile and they'll die with that same smile.''
SeaWorld has very extensive dolphin data: http://www.seaworld.org/bottlenose_dolphin/bottlenose_dolphins.html
|Russia Issues List of Closed Cities |
|MOSCOW July 12, 2001 (AP) -- Formalizing restrictions that date back to Soviet times, the Russian government has issued a list of about 90 cities, towns and villages that are normally closed to outsiders for security reasons. |
The order, signed by Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov, was published in the government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta on Wednesday. Kasyanov said the order was intended to officially establish the names of the settlements.
The list includes the nuclear centers of Zheleznogorsk in Siberia and Snezhinsk in the Ural Mountains, the chemical center in Shikhany in the Volga River region, and the Arctic naval bases of Polyarny, Severomorsk and Vidyayevo.
All the sites on the list have been closed to visitors since Soviet times. But in the Soviet era, their residents often enjoyed high wages and other government privileges; now many are struggling for survival, with diminished government subsidies since the 1991 Soviet collapse.
|Cave News Update: Britons Sitting on a Fortune |
By ADAM SAGE IN PARIS and HELEN RUMBELOW
Dordogne, France July 9, 2001 (London Times) - There was only one thing dampening the spirit of French national pride when Europe’s richest collection of prehistoric engravings was found hidden in a Dordogne cave : the treasures lay under a property that had recently been bought by a British couple for their retirement.
John and Sarah Howard, from Saffron Walden in Essex, have just been named by the French authorities as the owners of the cave that contains 30,000-year-old art considered to be the most important discovery of its kind in Europe.
Their second home, bought for just over £100,000, could now be valued at millions of pounds by the French courts.
Mrs Howard, 53, said: “We knew the area was rich in history, but we had no idea such a cave would have its entrance in our garden. The drawings are absolutely gorgeous and the fact that they are such an important historical discovery is really quite staggering.”
She and her husband, a 54-year-old solicitor, had always been Francophiles, holidaying in and around the Dordogne at least once a year. Mrs Howard confessed to having read the bestselling book A Year In Provence, but said that it was not the inspiration behind the holiday that they took in 1999 to look for a retirement home near Bergerac.
“We were going to be just looking, not buying, and this was the first place we had seen when we looked on the Internet,” she said. “When we actually saw it we just fell in love. It was amazing, with its own waterfall and absolutely beautiful grounds. We immediately put in an offer.”
The idyllic peace they enjoyed in the two-bedroom, 17th-century house continued until last October, when they returned from holiday to find a bizarre letter in their post. It was from Marc Delluc, 44, a French army cook who spent his weekends potholing near their home.
“The letter said that he had crawled through a very dangerous tunnel and had very much by chance found this amazing cave behind it,” Mrs Howard said. “We were shocked.”
M Delluc had clambered into the first section of the cave and felt a light wind on his face. After pushing aside some rocks and walking along an underground tunnel, he found himself looking at depictions of women in erotic scenes, at horses, rhinoceroses, mammoths and strange hybrid animals. One bison was 12ft long. Another scene in the cave featured no fewer than 40 creatures.
M Delluc said yesterday: “It was spectacular. I just sat there gazing at the ceiling.”
Dany Barraud, the French Culture Ministry’s head of archaeology in the Dordogne, said that his team had been working in the Howards’ garden since the discovery last September.
The couple were sworn to secrecy to avoid the publicity that could have attracted thieves before archaeologists sealed off the site. Even now the Howards are careful not to disclose their French address because the garden has already been invaded by hordes of tourists looking for the tunnel’s entrance.
The walls and floors of the cave are too fragile to allow public access, although a replica may be built as a visitor attraction in a nearby cave.
M Barraud said: “The carvings seem to have been done by the same person, who must have been incredibly talented. This site is of world importance.”
His team has so far identified about 1,000 yards of walls adorned by more than 100 carvings. He believes that there could be more.
The team is also excited by seven ancient human skeletons found on the floor. “We have never found evidence of burials in caves where we have discovered prehistoric paintings,” M Barraud said. It may be evidence of an early burial ritual, long before historians thought that such a ceremony existed.
Mrs Howard said yesterday that she had not considered the financial implications of the discovery of the entrance of the cave on her land, but added: “We might have to start thinking about it now.”
The Howards may face a battle with the French authorities, who are likely to resort to expropriation. When similar historic cave paintings were found at Chauvet in the Ardèche region of southern France in 1994, the French Culture Ministry initially offered the three families that owned the land a price based on its value before the paintings had been found — about £3,000.
The families went to court and were awarded £8 million in March. The Howards, along with the other owners of the rest of the land under which the cave lies, could expect a similar sum, according to French lawyers.
At present the couple are looking forward to an exclusive tour of the ancient art under their lawn, to be conducted for them by archaeologists in September. After that, they may have to make different plans for their retirement.
“I think John is apprehensive that the peace and tranquillity we bought the house for is never quite going to be the same,” Mrs Howard said.
For more pictures and details about the cave find, see last weeks eXoNews lead story.
|Congress Flips to Encourage Hunt for Little Green Men |
By PAUL RECER
WASHINGTON July 12, 2001 (AP) - Seven years after members of Congress rejected research into extraterrestrial life as a search for "little green men," lawmakers encouraged scientists Thursday in their efforts to uncover life beyond the Earth.
"The discovery of life in the universe would be one of the most astounding discoveries in human history," Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, said Thursday at a hearing of the House space science subcommittee. "Funding should match public interest and I don't believe it does."
Smith said that since funds for the search for extra terrestrial intelligence (SETI) were booted out of the federal budget in 1994, "the SETI credibility has been enhanced."
Four scientists appearing as witnesses said that in the last five years the concept that life exists beyond the Earth has been boosted by dramatic discoveries both on Earth and in space.
Among the advances cited:
-- At least 50 planets have been found in orbit of distant, sun-like stars in the last five years and researchers now believe that solar systems may be common through out the universe. Finding planets was considered an essential step toward finding life.
"All of these planets are Jupiter-size or larger," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for space science. "No Earth-like planets have been found, but we don't yet have the technology" to detect planets the size of Earth in orbit of distant stars.
However, Weiler said that a space observatory now being built will be able to search for the chemical signatures of life in the atmospheres of planets up to 50 light years away.
-- Liquid water is considered an essential chemical for the development of life and it has been found now on moons of Jupiter and in orbit of at least one distant star. Also, there is strong proof that water was once common on Mars and there are plans to search beneath the Martian surface for evidence of water, the most likely place for life on the Red Planet.
-- Detailed studies of galaxies suggest that the formation of planets and solar systems may be common. The Hubble space telescope has captured many images of stars surrounded by the dust and gas clouds thought to be precursors for planets.
-- Researchers have found bacteria that live in the coldest of salt water, in the deep pressure and heat of volcanic vents at the bottom of the ocean, and in the most acidic environments. Since life is possible in such hostile environments on Earth, then it may also have developed in extreme conditions that may exist on other planets.
In 1994, some members of Congress ridiculed the SETI Institute and its efforts to detect radio signals from alien civilizations, calling the effort "a search for little green men."
The SETI concept fell so far out of favor that the National Science Foundation put a notation on its Web site that proposals for SETI research were not welcome.
Christopher F. Chyba, a leader of the SETI Institute in California, said that since losing its congressional funding, the program has been supported by private donations, has about 120 employees, and is regularly searching for signals on two million radio channels using a major radio telescope in Puerto Rico.
Chyba said SETI, in partnership with the University of California, Berkeley, is now building a $30 million radio telescope array that will be able to listen to signals from the nearest one million stars in many channels.
And, said Chyba, the NSF has now removed its restriction on funding of SETI research. Proposals for SETI research now compete for funding "on a level playing field" with other research proposals, he said.
Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., said it was impressive that SETI continued to thrive even though federal funds were cut off, and she said the federal government should not be biased toward the research.
"We need to let the federal agencies know that bias against SETI research is not favored," said Lofgren. "No member of this committee wants bias against any good science."
|Bush Drops Plans to Ignore Gay and Lesbian Anti-discrimination Laws |
By LAURA MECKLER
WASHINGTON July 10, 2001 (AP) - In a fresh controversy over the Bush administration's "faith-based initiative," the White House on Tuesday backed away from a proposed regulation that would have allowed religious groups that receive federal money to discriminate against gays and lesbians.
Amid intense criticism, officials abruptly ended a review of a proposed regulation that would have exempted religious groups from state and local anti-discrimination laws.
The decision came late Tuesday afternoon, hours after Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration officials said that churches and other religious groups should be allowed to stick to their principles in running secular programs with government money.
White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said senior administration officials reviewed the matter over the course of the day and concluded that religious groups do not need overt protections in order to bypass gay-rights hiring laws.
Legislation now pending in Congress - and being pushed hard by President Bush - makes it clear that any religious group that gets government money may consider religion in making hiring decisions. The courts have said this includes one's religious practices - and for some religions that could mean rejecting job applicants because they are gay.
"That's when you get into definitions that will ultimately be decided by the courts," Bartlett said.
He added that the administration was not backing off Cheney's statement that a group should be allowed to be faithful to its "underlying principles and organizing doctrines" even when it accepts government money.
"The charitable choice law provides adequate protections," Bartlett said, referring to a law used as a model for Bush's initiative to allow religious charities a bigger share in providing federal social services.
The issue was raised by an internal report from the Salvation Army, the nation's largest charity, which suggested the White House would put forward the regulation in exchange for support of its initiative pending in Congress.
White House officials denied the quid pro quo but said they were considering the regulation, which would allow religious groups to bypass local and state laws that bar discrimination against gays when the groups take federal dollars.
Gay rights groups, Democrats and civil rights organizations reacted strongly, and by day's end, it was clear that the issue would mean a new round of controversy for Bush's overall legislation.
"President Bush regularly talks about seeing into the good hearts of people. Does he think that gay people do not have the same good hearts and moral values as others? How else could he support, in the name of faith, taking a position that values gay people less than others?" said a statement from Kirsten Kingdon, executive director of Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays.
"It will just deepen opposition and make many of my colleagues more skeptical," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said before the White House changed course.
Later, Lieberman's spokesman welcomed the change. "This is a reassuring signal after a very disturbing signal, and hopefully it means we can now kind of refocus on finding common ground and strengthening rather than weakening civil rights protections," said Dan Gerstein.
Some state and local laws bar discrimination in hiring gays and lesbians. Others require employers to offer health insurance and other benefits to the domestic partners of gay employees. Typically, these laws do not apply to religious groups. But it's not clear whether groups lose that exemption once they accept taxpayer dollars.
The Bush administration was considering issuing guidance from the Office of Management and Budget banning enforcement of these laws for religious groups that get federal dollars, which often pass through local and state government.
The Salvation Army report explicitly linked the regulatory action with the legislation, now pending in the House.
"It is important that the Army's support for the White House's activities occur simultaneously with efforts to achieve the Army's objectives," said the document.
It said White House officials wanted to move the legislation first "and use the political momentum of this" to push through the regulatory change. And it said White House officials believed a regulation was better than trying to move separate legislation on an exemption, "which is more time-consuming and more visible."
It added that the Salvation Army, which operates a national network of social services, would enlist more than 100 of its leaders to lobby members of Congress "in a prearranged agreement with the White House."
The Salvation Army said the report overstated the strategic relationship between the two issues, though spokesman David Fuscus said the regulation is needed. "As a church, the Army does insist that those people who have religious responsibilities, who are ministers, share the theology and lifestyle of the church."
|Mother Battles System Over Marijuana Muffins |
By WAYNE WILSON
Scripps Howard News Service
SACRAMENTO CA July 11, 2001 (Scripps Howard) - A 7-year-old suffering from a brain disorder that has wracked his body with extreme changes in mood, energy and behavior is now at the center of a controversy that pits a caring parent against a protective bureaucracy on the emotionally charged battlefield of medical marijuana.
It's a war being conducted behind closed doors because it involves a child who officials want to take away from a mother who says the cannabis muffins she feeds her son have improved his life.
For more than four years, the child had been a terror at home, unmanageable at school and a challenge to doctors and nurses who had ministered to him during three psychiatric hospitalizations. And according to a Web site published by his mother, she has tried everything to stabilize his illness, administering 19 drugs prescribed by 16 doctors over a span of four years. When all failed, the homepage revealed, the mother turned to a home remedy approved by her son's pediatrician: muffins flavored by a pinch of marijuana.
Five weeks later, the results were in:
"My son for the first time in his life is laughing and loving life," the 30-year-old Rocklin, Calif., woman wrote. "He has very little to no angry outbursts, he is compliant, is doing great in school, and actually is making friends."
Not everyone is enamored of the woman's approach to her son's affliction, however. Placer County's Child Protective Services has "taken me to court," she said on the Web site, "with accusations of me abusing my son."
Authorities have filed a petition that, under Welfare and Institutions Code Section 300, could result in the boy's removal from his home and placement elsewhere as a dependent of the court. Because such proceedings are confidential under state law, neither the mother nor her attorney would discuss the matter. County spokeswoman Anita Yoder said that the nature of the case precluded the county from commenting. A hearing Tuesday was just one step in a series of Juvenile Court proceedings that will examine whether the boy is being harmed by the treatment. Neither side would say when the next hearing would be.
Proponents of medical marijuana have picked up on the controversy and are criticizing the county for overreaching in its war against Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. They suggest that the county apparently has taken the position that Proposition 215 does not apply to children. The law permits Californians with a physician's approval to use marijuana for medical purposes.
Use of medical marijuana by children has never been studied, according to Drew Mattison, co-director of the Center for Cannabis Research at the University of California, San Diego.
According to the Web site, which was posted before the Juvenile Court hearing Tuesday, the boy's mother says he has bipolar disorder and also has been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder, conduct disorder, impulsive disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, but none of the drugs prescribed ever worked.
"I have supported doctors and government agencies attempting anything to help my son," the mother said. "The adverse reactions these medications have had on him, not to mention the unknown of what they are doing to his system, is heart-wrenching to a mother."
[The exact recipe for Mom's marijuana muffins remains unknown at this time. Ed.]
|Antimatter Provides Key to Cosmic Riddle |
STANFORD CA July 6, 2001 (AP) — Physicists have taken some of the most precise measurements so far of the behavior of matter and antimatter, and their findings could help explain why the universe is filled with something rather than nothing.
Researchers have long known that during the Big Bang about 14 billion years ago, equal amounts of matter and antimatter were created. And researchers also know that when these two forms of matter collide, they annihilate each other. But there is almost no antimatter in the natural universe today. This raises a question that has fascinated and perplexed physicists: Why is the universe still filled with matter — stars, planets and people? Why isn’t the cosmos a complete void?
Physicists have tried to answer the question by reproducing antimatter in linear accelerators, then comparing its behavior — its rate of decay — to that of regular matter.
In a paper submitted Friday for publication in Physical Review Letters, an international team of physicists working at Stanford University announced they have found differences in the decay rates of so-called “B” meson subatomic particles and their antimatter counterparts.
That could help explain why matter rather than antimatter dominates the universe today.
“B” mesons and anti-“B” mesons, which are created for a trillionth of a second by high-speed particle collisions in accelerators, are actually the second subatomic particle in which researchers detected a difference in the decay rate, known as a charged-parity violation.
The phenomenon was first detected in 1964, while researchers were studying the kaon, or “K” meson, and its antimatter equivalent. Those researchers, based at Brookhaven National Laboratory in New York, won the Nobel Prize for their work.
“After 37 years of searching for further examples of CP violation, physicists now know that there are at least two kinds of subatomic particles that exhibit this puzzling phenomenon,” said Stewart Smith, a Princeton University physicist and member of the international team.
Far From Zero
Physicists seeking CP violations measure their results on a scale from zero to plus or minus one. The work done at the Stanford accelerator is significant because the result is not zero, which would mean the rates of decay are the same.
“This is the first result that has come out that is convincingly different from zero, which is a very important result,” said Val Fitch, who shared the Nobel in 1980 for the 1964 kaon discovery.
The paper released Friday is not the first to show CP violation in the “B” meson particles. A team in Japan released similar results, though their measurements have not been as precise.
Smith and more than 600 scientists and engineers from 73 research institutions around the world have done this research using BaBar, a 1,200-ton “B” meson detector at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
On the Net:
Physical Review Letters: http://prl.aps.org
Stanford Linear Accelerator Center: http://www.slac.stanford.edu
|IRS Warns of Tax-Refund Checks Scam |
|By JEANNINE AVERSA |
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON July 9, 2001 (AP) — The Treasury Department is concerned about people operating scams in which they are offering to calculate the amount taxpayers would receive in tax-refund checks, a spokesman said Monday.
The Internal Revenue Service is looking into the matter, Treasury Department spokesman Robert Nichols told reporters during a weekly briefing.
There is no need for taxpayers to pay for such a service because the IRS later this month will send out letters notifying people whether they will receive a refund, how much and when.
The IRS has identified scams in four states: Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma
"This is outrageous ... and obviously we frown upon this,'' Nichols said.
Individuals, groups or both were marketing services to calculate peoples' refunds for a fee, Nichols said. He did not know, however, whether people actually used the services.
Nichols said it wasn't clear whether the marketing of such services was a violation of any law or regulation.
The IRS' letters, or notices, giving people information on the tax-refund checks are intended to go out before July 20, which is when the first wave of rebate checks will be mailed out, Nichols said.
The actual check mailout will be based on the last two digits of the Social Security number of the taxpayer listed first on the 2000 return, starting at 00 and going through 99.
The amount of the refund will be based on the taxpayer's 2000 income tax return. The maximum will be $600 for married filers, $300 for single filers and $500 for heads of households.
The refunds are part of the 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax relief package signed last month by President Bush.
Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill has said repeatedly that taxpayers don't need to do anything to get a refund, other than file a return for the 2000 tax year.
On the Net:
|Nepal Installs Young Girl As New Living Goddess |
By Gopal Sharma
KATHMANDU July 10, 2001 (Reuters) - A four-year-old girl was installed on Tuesday as Nepal's new living goddess or Kumari, a deity revered by thousands of Hindus and Buddhists in the Himalayan kingdom, a priest said.
The selection of Reshmila Shakya was a closely guarded secret, but officials said the girl replaced the old Kumari, or virgin goddess, who retired last week after she reached puberty.
"The new Kumari was installed amid time-honored traditions and Vedic rites," the chief priest at Nepal's royal palace, Ramesh Prasad Pandey, told Reuters.
The installation of the new living goddess took place at the Kumari Ghar in the temple-studded Durbar Square at the heart of the Nepali capital.
"She's a lovely girl and happily blessed me," said one devotee.
In Nepali tradition, a young girl from the Buddhist Shakya family is chosen through a rigorous religious process to serve as the living goddess. She lives in a 15th century temple in Kathmandu's Basantapur area, noted for its ancient monuments.
Nepal, the world's only Hindu kingdom, considers the Kumari an embodiment of the Hindu deity Taleju Bhavani, the goddess of strength.
The role of the goddess is limited to appearing several times a day in a resplendent golden-colored dress, with a third eye painted on her forehead, at an upstairs window of the temple from where she blesses devotees below.
On festival days, she is carried in a palanquin, or chariot, through Kathmandu.
She is revered by thousands of Hindus and Buddhists as well as the king of Nepal who is himself considered to be an incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of protection.
"The Kumari culture has its own importance in ritualistic and spiritual performances in Nepal," said Milan Shakya, a professional artist. "Many people believe when the Kumari becomes unhappy some natural disaster could strike."
The girl remains a living goddess until retirement, which usually takes place at the onset of puberty. Retired kumaris generally live the rest of their lives as spinsters as men are afraid to marry a former goddess.
The selection of the living goddess is a secret but people familiar with the process say fearlessness, the ability to live alone as well as to be comfortable among strangers are musts.
Last year, the government raised the monthly pension paid to former goddesses to 3,000 Nepali rupees ($40) from 1,000 rupees.
Reigning goddesses get a 6,000 rupee a month allowance. ($1= 75.02 Nepali rupees)
|Prehistoric Village Unearthed in North Carolina |
ASHEVILLE, NC July 9, 2001 (AP) — Arrowheads, shards of pottery and other remains of a prehistoric Indian village have been unearthed on the grounds of the Biltmore Estate.
In four weeks of digging at a site in a corn field, estate curators and archaeologists from Appalachian State University found 30,000 pieces of pottery, stone tools, animal bones, arrowheads and other artifacts.
The area once was home to a group of people known as the Connestee, but historians do not know much about them, said Scott Shumate, assistant director of the university's archaeological laboratories.
"The vast majority of Connestee is 200 B.C. to 600 A.D.,'' Shumate said. "These people don't have a written record so we have to affix a name to them. Whether they're direct ancestors of the Cherokee, we're not sure.''
The site contains a series of clay floors, representative of successive structures built 10 to 20 years apart. The main structure was possibly a teepee-like structure, Shumate said.
The estate was built more than a century ago by George Vanderbilt, a grandson of the railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt.
Biltmore Estate: http://www.biltmore.com
|Patrick Stewart Beams Down for University Honor |
Cardiff, Wales July 10, 2001 (BBC) - Star Trek actor Patrick Stewart OBE has received an earthly honour from the University of Wales, Cardiff.
Stewart - who plays Captain Jean-Luc Picard in Star Trek: The Next Generation - was presented with an honorary fellowship in a ceremony on Monday at St David's Hall.
Yorkshire-born Stewart is known for roles in The Next Generation, The X Men and for treading the boards in Shakespearian roles.
Staff at the university - who are writing a book on the Star Trek television series - decided to honour the star for his commitment to work in theatre, film and television.
Courses run at the university's School of Journalism span the range of Stewart's varied and distinguished acting career.
The 60-year-old former Royal Shakespeare Company actor arrived in Cardiff on Sunday to perform a one-man show called Uneasy Life Ahead..., before an audience of students and lecturers.
Stewart began his working life as a journalist on the Mirfield Reporter in Yorkshire, where he was asked to leave after spending too much time in the theatre.
He paid his way through drama school by becoming a furniture salesman and studied performing arts at Bristol's Old Vic.
Over 20 years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, he developed in to one of the UK's finest classical actors, appearing on television in Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and on the big screen in Dune.
He was spotted by Star Trek producers during a visit to the United States and was chosen for the role which has secured celebrity status.
Now based in Los Angeles, Stewart returned to his roots in June to perform at the West Yorkshire Playhouse in Leeds and he was given an OBE in the Queen's New Year's Honours.
Check out this revealing recent interview with Patrick Stewart.