Leonardo Lives!
Buffy Rocks!
King Arthur Found!
30 Brown Dwarfs!
New Bridge Designed by Leonardo da Vinci!

By DOUG MELLGREN
Associated Press Writer

OSLO, Norway October 31, 2001 (AP) — Almost 500 years ago, Leonardo da Vinci sketched a bridge so ambitious, it would have been the world's longest expanse. Critics said it couldn't be built and a skeptical sultan scrapped the project.

Five centuries later, the bridge Leonardo hoped would span an inlet on the Bosporus opened on Wednesday. It's a smaller version, built of wood, 1,500 miles north of Istanbul — but organizers promise the product is true to the master's plan.

Cranes lifted a 48,000-square-foot white cloth to unveil the bridge for more than 500 people gathered despite rain, wind and cold.

"This is the first time any of Leonardo's architectural and civil-engineering designs has been built. There have been models, but this is the first in full size,'' said Vebjoern Sand, a Norwegian artist who says he fell in love with the structure when he saw a model of it in 1995.

Leonardo's design pleases aesthetes as much as engineers.

"It just had to be built. This has taken years of effort,'' said Sand, who has described it as the "Mona Lisa of bridges.''

Leonardo designed the bridge in 1502 to cross the Golden Horn inlet in Istanbul. With a length of 1,155 feet, it would have been the world's longest bridge at the time, and Sultan Bajazet II didn't believe it could be completed.

Sand convinced the Norwegian Highway Department that it could, which led to their building a modest 220-foot-long, 26-foot-high wooden version of the bridge in Aas Township.

"The bridge is such a beautiful mixture between the functional and the aesthetic,'' Sand said.

Leonardo envisioned the bridge in stone. When that proved too expensive, the Norwegians settled for a graceful wooden version for $1.36 million.

The bridge, actually a pedestrian crossing, is supported by three light-colored wooden arches, like a series of archer's bows pulled back in parallel. Over them, a pathway in wood spans the E-18 highway, about 20 miles south of the capital, Oslo.

The arches are built in glued pine, a process used in many of the stunning venues at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. The railing is in stainless steel and teak.

Sand and other fans of the bridge held an all-night party Tuesday around the bridge, leading to the official opening by Queen Sonja.

In a letter discovered in 1952, Leonardo offered to build the original bridge for the sultan because no one else would. That left the question of whether the sultan's refusal had spared Leonardo a humiliating failure.

"Our project has proved that it can be built in wood or stone, in any scale, because the principles work,'' Sand said, adding he now dreams of one such bridge on every continent, possibly starting in the United States.

Norwegian Leonardo Project: http://www.vebjorn-sand.com/thebridge.htm

Protesters Urge World Bank To Halt Oil Funding
BRUSSELS October 31, 2001 (Reuters) — Environmental group Friends of the Earth held a protest in Brussels on Monday against World Bank funding of oil, gas, and mining projects in developing nations.

About 20 protesters, dressed in blue overalls and pretending to have a permit to start a gold mine in the city center, briefly blocked an area outside a hotel where World Bank officials were meeting. "World Bank clean up! Get out of oil, mining, and gas,'' a banner said. No one was detained in the peaceful protest.

The group says World Bank projects including a copper mine in Peru, oil drilling in Chad, and a pipeline across Cameroon will cause too much pollution and disrupt local societies.

"These projects will not help the World Bank's goal of eliminating poverty,'' Friends of the Earth representative Johan Frijns told a news conference. He said the World Bank should direct more of its lending to renewable energy like solar or wind power.

The World Bank meeting, including groups ranging from mining companies to environmentalists, was a first step in a review of its projects in oil, gas, and mining. The review is due to come up with recommendations in late 2002.
Children's Novel Tells Taliban Tale

By Karen Matusic

LONDON October 31, 2001 (Reuters) - Parents and teachers struggling to explain the war in Afghanistan can call on a new novel to help children picture life under the Taliban.

Billed as the only children's novel on the subject, The Breadwinner follows 11-year-old Parvana as she struggles to avoid beatings, bombings and death by starvation.

"The Breadwinner is a powerful depiction of life under the Taliban regime, told honestly and directly, in a way children will really understand," said the publishers.

Aimed at nine to 12-year-olds, it depicts Parvana masquerading as a boy -- women and children must stay home in hardline Afghanistan -- as she gathers food for her starving family following her father's arrest by the ruling Taliban.

Although written before the current conflict began, the survival story has all the land mines, beatings, brutality and restrictions familiar to Afghans today.

"Bombs had been part of Parvana's whole life. Every day, every night, rockets would fall out of the sky, and someone's house would explode," reads one passage in the book, written by Canadian author Deborah Ellis.

"When the bombs fell, people ran. First they ran one way, then they ran another, trying to find a place where the bombs wouldn't find them."

Oxford University Press said it rushed publication after worried parents, teachers and librarians struggled to answer children's questions in the wake of the September 11 attacks.

"Our reps at bookstores told us there has been enormous demand for books like this to help parents explain to their children what they were seeing on television," said Catherine Stokes, Oxford University Press marketing manager.

A U.S.-led military strike on Afghanistan is underway to force the ruling Taliban to hand over Saudi-born dissident Osama Bin Laden, Washington's prime suspect for the attacks on New York and Washington.

Children used to blanket media coverage of the conflict can now get a fictional rendition of life in Kabul through the book, which will be published Thursday.

The publisher said Ellis, a 41-year-old counselor in Toronto, had paid frequent visits to refugee camps in Pakistan during Afghanistan's 20 years of conflict.

On one trip, Ellis heard of a girl who had cut off her hair, wore boy's clothes and worked in a market to support her mother and sisters -- just like the heroine in The Breadwinner.

"The girl's mother and sister told me that a lot of girls were doing this," Ellis said.

"Their fathers and brothers were killed or imprisoned, and they have to go out and earn money to support their families."

Stokes said Ellis steered clear of politics but did not shield readers from the harsher aspects of life in Afghanistan, where women and girls must be covered from head to foot.

In the novel, 11-year-old Parvana must avoid land mines and suffer beatings at the hand of the Taliban in a paperback that promises "quiet strength and courage, family loyalty and unity" all written in straightforward prose.

"We owe it to our children to be honest about the world and to provide them with material written specially for them," Ellis said in a statement.

Opposition Says UK's War Aims Unclear

LONDON October 31, 2001 (AP) — The British government is failing in its efforts to shore up support at home for the military campaign in Afghanistan, the country's opposition leader said Wednesday.

Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith said the government of Prime Minister Tony Blair has failed to communicate clear aims for the campaign and, as a result, appears "to be losing the battle for the hearts and minds of the British people.''

While a majority of Britons still back the war, opinion polls show a dip in support amid reports of stray U.S. bombs killing Afghan civilians.

On Tuesday, Blair exhorted Britons to remember the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and to remain resolute in pursuit of the perpetrators.

"We won't falter,'' he told the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff.

"We have a group of people in Afghanistan who are the sworn enemies of everything that the civilized world stands for, who have killed once on a vast scale and will kill again unless stopped,'' he said before leaving on a trip to promote Middle East peace.

Duncan Smith has supported the government's overall conduct of the war but said mixed messages from government and military officials have led to public confusion and unease.

"Even those who have supported military action from the outset are beginning to ask what our real objectives are and whether we are going about securing them in the right way,'' he wrote in an article for the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

"Recently it has failed to get the message across that there has to be a clear connection between a defined set of war aims and the current military action,'' he said.

Speaking to the British Broadcasting Corp., the opposition leader emphasized he still strongly supports Blair.

"I think the actions he's taken are correct, I think the prosecution of the war is correct, the search for (Osama) bin Laden, al Qaida is absolutely correct,'' he said.

Duncan Smith rejected critics of the military campaign who have called for bombing to stop so humanitarian aid can be delivered. That, he wrote, "will buy time for the government of Afghanistan, not for its people.''

Blair's trip took him to Syria Tuesday and Saudi Arabia Wednesday.

Meanwhile British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw met with Russian officials in Moscow on joint efforts to uproot bin Laden's al Qaida terrorist network and build a stable government in Afghanistan.

"Where previously the relationship (between Russia and the West) was based on a balance of power, this relationship now has to be based on a balance of trust,'' Straw said after talks with Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov. "We are on the same side now.''

Ivanov said he and Straw agreed on all major issues and that any differences in policy were "technical.''

However, Ivanov was noncommittal about British and U.S. efforts to push for a new sanctions regime against Iraq, saying only that he and Straw discussed the issue.

Supreme Court Declines Washington State Junk E-mail Case
By KATHERINE PFLEGER
Associated Press

WASHINGTON October 29, 2001 (AP) - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined without comment to hear a case involving Washington state's tough law against deceptive junk e-mail, commonly called spam.

The decision clears the way for trial to begin in King County Superior Court in Seattle on a lawsuit against Jason Heckel over millions of pieces of unsolicited e-mail sent by Heckel and his company, Natural Instincts.

The court first dismissed the lawsuit; that decision was overturned by the Washington state Supreme Court.

A Washington state law prohibits commercial e-mail with misleading information in the subject line, an invalid reply address or a disguised path of transmission across the Internet.

In October 1998, state Attorney General Christine Gregoire filed suit against Heckel of Salem, Ore., after her office's Consumer Protection Division received complaints about Natural Instincts' messages, advertising a $39.95 package called "How to Profit From the Internet."

Among the allegations, Heckel was accused of using a misleading subject line - "Did I get the right e-mail address?" - which state lawyers considered a trick to deceive recipients into thinking the message came from an acquaintance.

Heckel's attorney, Dale Crandall, said if he doesn't prevail after the King County trial, the case may work its way back again to the nation's highest court.

Crandall argues the Internet is a commercial infrastructure that needs to be protected from inconsistent state regulations, like Washington's law, to protect national and international commerce.

"We view the Internet to be similar to what the founding fathers saw in the oceans, coastlines and navigable waters," which are protected by uniform federal regulations, Crandall said.

But Regina Cullen, Washington state assistant attorney general, said Crandall wrongly argues Heckel's actions are legitimate and somehow protected under the Constitution.

"You have to take a look at what the man is doing - he is defrauding people," she said. "You can't use the Constitution as a shield to hide bad behavior."

Cullen said Heckel was selling a 45-page brochure on how to send out spam. She said the only customer she's aware of, a Washington state woman, sent Cullen a check but never received the brochure.

The case is Heckel v. Washington, 01-469.
Buffy Sings on Tuesday!

Musical Buffy Runs Long

Hollywood October 31, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer creator Joss Whedon told fans on the unofficial Bronze Beta message board that the highly anticipated musical episode of his UPN show will run about eight minutes long in its initial broadcast--the only time it will air with the added footage.

"Tuesday night [Nov. 6] is the ONLY TIME the show will be broadcast in its entirety," Whedon posted on Oct. 31. "It will run again, but deep cuts will have to be made--UPN are gods for letting us run (a total of eight minutes) long, but they can't do it on the rerun too."

Whedon added that he plans to put out a soundtrack to the episode, for which he wrote all the lyrics and music to be performed by the regular Buffy cast.

"We're definitely going to put one out, but it may take a while cuz of contract bull$@&%, MAN it's been a nightmare trying to set that up," Whedon posted. "I'm hoping to have a place at BuffUPN for people to log on and click if they're interested in buying it."

Read the eXoNews Review!

Buffy airs at 8 p.m. PT/ET on UPN.

http://www.buffyupn.com


CBS Pulls Wolf Lake

Hollywood October 31, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - CBS has placed its low-rated werewolf drama Wolf Lake on hiatus after four airings, Variety reported. The Big Ticket/CBS Productions series averaged only 6.6 million viewers, down 40 percent from what the network's Wednesday-night movie pulled in the 10 p.m. hour last year, the trade paper reported.

Wolf Lake starred Lou Diamond Phillips in a story about a small town where residents can morph into wolves. After picking up the series, CBS reworked the show's original pilot, making a number of tweaks, the trade paper reported.

Campbell Reveals Ho-Tep Hints

Hollywood October 31, 2001 (SciFi Wire) - Bruce Campbell revealed to Prevue Magazine a few new details of his upcoming satirical supernatural movie Bubba Ho-Tep.

"I play a 65-year-old ex-Elvis Presley impersonator who has cancer on his penis," the popular genre actor told the site.

Campbell added, "The movie takes place in a rest home in Florida, where this mummy is sucking the souls of the old people at night. I team up with Ossie Davis, who plays an old guy who thinks he's Jack Kennedy. He thinks his enemies dyed him black and are keeping part of his brain in the White House. We team up and kick the mummy's ass!"


Patrick Stewart Beams Aboard the New TNN

NEW YORK October 31, 2001 (PRNewswire) - Patrick Stewart, who portrayed Captain Jean-Luc Picard, comes aboard the new TNN: THE NATIONAL NETWORK to host a post-Thanksgiving day celebration STAR GAZING ON STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION MARATHON on Friday, Nov. 23 (9:00 AM - 11:00 PM, ET/PT). Stewart will introduce 14 STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION episodes in which a different guest star is featured including Whoopi Goldberg, Kelsey Grammar, Leonard Nimoy, Ashley Judd and Bebe Neuwirth.

The internationally respected actor Patrick Stewart portrayed the commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise for seven years. As host of TNN'S STAR GAZING ON STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION, Stewart will offer viewers interesting facts about the series and about the celebrities who guest starred on the series and the roles they played during the 14-hour marathon.

Native Americans Charge Interior Mismanaged Billions
By ROBERT GEHRKE
Associated Press

WASHINGTON October 19, 2001 (AP) - The Interior Department should lose control over royalties from American Indian lands because it continues to mismanage hundreds of millions of dollars, the Indians' attorneys contended Friday.

"Endless broken promises, chronic half-truths, outright lies to this court, and the fumbling paralysis" of Interior Secretary Gale Norton and other senior officials show the department cannot correct the historical mismanagement and is unfit to manage the money, attorney Dennis Gingold wrote.

The court should appoint an outside receiver to fix the trust fund, he said in his motion filed in U.S. District Court.

The government established the trust funds in 1887 to collect Indian royalties from grazing, logging, mining and oil drilling on 54 million acres of Indian lands. Payments were to have been made to tribal members.

Filed in 1996 on behalf of 300,000 American Indians, the class-action lawsuit claims the government squandered at least $10 billion from the trust fund and possibly several times that amount.

The government admits the accounts have been mismanaged. Much of the money was lost, stolen or never collected.

Roughly $500 million a year now flows through the trust accounts.

Two years ago, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth balked at appointing a receiver and allowed the Interior Department to retain oversight of the trust with court supervision. He also ordered the department to piece together how much money should be in the accounts.

A series of stinging reports by two court-appointed watchdogs since then has spelled out Interior's failures and provided ammunition for the plaintiffs.

The reports said the Interior Department failed to make progress toward the court-ordered historical accounting, knowingly misled the court about the status of trust reform, destroyed and withheld evidence, failed to protect whistle-blowers adequately, hindered the court's investigators and failed to provide necessary leadership.

Interior spokeswoman Stephanie Hanna said the department still believes "we are the proper agency to implement trust fund reform."

"It's a complicated situation and one that dates back a long time and one that we're committed to carrying out carefully and to the best of our ability," she said.

The plaintiffs' motion also asks Lamberth to hold Norton, her predecessor Bruce Babbitt and 37 other current and former Interior and Justice Department officials and attorneys in contempt of court with the possibility of jail sentences.

Several similar contempt motions are pending.

In 1999, Lamberth held Babbitt and former Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt for failing to produce documents related to the case.

Indian Trust - http://www.indiantrust.com

Department of the Interior - http://www.doi.gov/bureau-indian-affairs.html
Bus In Civil Rights Case Is Sold for $492,000

CHICAGO October 27, 2001 (Reuters) - The bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man in a landmark 1955 U.S. civil rights protest has been sold to an automotive museum for $492,000, the museum president said on Friday.

Steve Hamp, president of the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, described the 1948-model bus as "the most important artifact in the history of the civil rights movement."

The Ford collection, named after a legend of the American auto industry, already includes the limousine that President John Kennedy was riding in on Nov. 22, 1963, when he was assassinated in Dallas.

"We are looking forward to displaying this monumental piece of American history," Hamp said of the former Montgomery, Alabama, city bus in a statement.

Parks, now 88 and in poor health, was employed as a department store seamstress in the Alabama capital. On her way home from work on Dec. 5, 1955, she refused to relinquish her seat to a white man, as the law required, when the bus became crowded.

Parks was arrested and fined $14, touching off a 381-day black boycott of buses in Montgomery, where two-thirds of the riders were black.

INSPIRED RIGHTS STRUGGLE

The incident led to a U.S. Supreme Court decision that forced the city to desegregate its bus system and helped fire the civil rights movement that eventually toppled the institutional segregation of the Old South.

At the time Parks acted, black riders in Montgomery were required to pay their fare at the front door of the bus, then enter by the back door. Besides having to give up their seats to white passengers, they were not allowed to sit across the aisle from them.

The bus was one of two purchased by the Summerford family of Montgomery 30 years ago, when the bus system was selling retired inventory. It was sold in an Internet auction on Thursday by Donnie Williams of Montgomery, who married into the Summerford family, according to auctioneers MastroNet Inc. of Oak Brook, Illinois.

The bus had been kept on private property and used, among other things, for storage, the auction house said.

Parks has made her home in Detroit -- near where the bus on which she famously refused to give up her seat will now be located -- since 1957 after efforts to find a job in Alabama failed.

"This object is not only important for our collection, but is important as well to the greater Detroit community," Hamp said.

He confirmed that the winning bid for the bus, which is in need of extensive restoration, was $492,000.

Were The Chinese First To Discover Americas?
BEIJING October 31, 2001 (Straits Times) - Chinese explorers founded or at least enriched the cultures of the ancient Americas, a group of historians here said.

The Chinese characters found in a 3,000-year-old Mexican inscription showed direct ties between ancient China and the Americas because 'back then people couldn't just send a fax with the characters, they had to go themselves', historian Song Baozhong said.

The researchers were intrigued by a possible trans-Pacific connection with the Mayans, whose civilization rose in 2000 BC, flourished and then faded in what is now Mexico. Based both on historical records and archaeological evidence, the historians said that compelling similarities between early Chinese and American Indian cultures showed up during their investigations.

Some of these artifacts are touring China as part of an exhibition on the Mayans, including six jade tablets with writing that Mr Song construes as being Chinese.

"Science is still awaiting the final, irrefutable evidence,' said the co-author of Chinese Ancestors Opened Up America. But as for myself, after 20 years of research, I've come to the conclusion that it was Chinese who discovered the Americas, and that subsequently there were frequent contacts."

As early as 1761, French Sinologist Joseph de Guignes claimed Chinese sailors had been traveling up and down the American west coast in the fifth century AD. China's rich historical literature has also helped spawn the belief in ancient Sino-American links.

Much earlier, in the year 219 BC, a fleet carrying thousands of men and women set out from China towards the eastern seas, in search of an elixir that would bring immortality to the emperor. The expedition never returned, leading some to speculate that it probably wound up in Central America. To some researchers, reports like these explain the near-identical nature of many cultural features on both sides of the Pacific. But some from the Academy of Social Sciences are unconvinced.

One scholar admitted there were parallels such as the way both early Chinese and Mayans used chipped stone tools for hunting.

'But I don't think that explains anything, since chipped stone tools are a fairly obvious solution for a pre-metal culture,' he said.
Sewer Blasts Frighten Chinese City
BEIJING October 31, 2001 (Reuters) - A series of blasts ripped through the sewers of the eastern Chinese city of Chuzhou, blowing manhole covers high into the air and sending columns of fire skywards, domestic media reported on Wednesday.

Fire officials told Reuters the explosions were thought to have been triggered by petrol leaking into the sewers from a service station.

"We are not sure yet which gas tank was leaking. Fortunately the tanks were not ignited," said one.

Local officials said a few people had been injured, none seriously, in the explosions which prompted a mass evacuation of the downtown area.

The media painted a hellish picture of the blasts and ensuing fires, which broke out near a downtown petrol station on Tuesday evening and lasted five hours.

A report on news Web site http://www.sina.com.cn  described "deafening blasts and huge columns of fire shooting up from underground."
Dame Agatha Christie A Film Pioneer!

By Vanessa Thorpe
Arts Correspondent

London October 28, 2001 (Guardian UK) - A British Museum curator has discovered a reel of film shot by Agatha Christie that inspired the author to write some of her most famous detective novels, including Death on the Nile.

The reel of film, which shows an archaeological dig in Iraq in the 1930s, had been thought to be the work of the renowned archaeologist Reginald Campbell Thompson.

But Henrietta McCall, curator of the British Museum's major new exhibition about Christie and her love of ancient ruins, claims the pioneering footage was shot by the author during her stay at the site.

The exhibition, Mystery in Mesopotamia, which begins next week, will be screening two other short films that Dame Agatha is known to have shot in Syria and Iraq, which have never been shown.

The rare footage has been lent to the museum by Christie's daughter, Rosalind Hicks, and is likely to prove one of the show's biggest attractions. Christie herself is featured briefly, wearing a red coat in an early use of colour film.

McCall now suspects that an older piece of film that was previously attributed to Thompson is also the work of the pioneering camerawoman much better known as the creator of Jane Marple and Hercule Poirot.

'I looked at the subject matter of the films as much as anything else,' McCall explains. 'There is a sequence at a fair which is almost the same as a still photograph we have from the Christie family.'

McCall also visited Thompson's son and showed him the film. 'I had another clue there, because he was amazed at the idea his father could have taken the film and said he did not know he had a camera. I am prepared to go out on a limb and say that this is Christie's work too.'

The whodunnit writer's obsession with archaeology began in 1928 when her 14-year marriage to the aviator, Archie Christie, broke down following his affair with Nancy Neele. Deeply unsettled, Christie headed for the 'Near East', taking the Orient Express.

Agatha Christie And Archaeology: Mystery In Mesopotamia runs from 8 November until 24 March 2002 at the British Museum.

Agatha Christie Museum Online - http://agatha.museumonline.at/default-e.htm

King Arthur's Burial Site Found
BY MARK SMITH

Edinburgh October 30, 2001 (Edinburgh News) - It is a mystery that has enchanted lovers of legend and myths since the Dark Ages. But now an Edinburgh historian claims to have finally located the mythical Avalon, said to be the last resting place of King Arthur. And far from being a misty isle in an exotic location, the real Avalon is no more than a short boat trip from Edinburgh, according to Arthurian expert Stuart McHardy.

He believes the Isle of May in the Firth of Forth is actually Avalon and he claims that Arthur himself is buried beneath its windswept turf.

The island is home to thousands of birds, including a puffin colony, and is a popular day-trip destination with tourists. It has never been connected with Arthur by historians before. But now Mr McHardy claims he has put together a historical jigsaw puzzle which points to the Isle of May as the real Avalon. After 25 years of research Mr McHardy believes Arthur was actually a tribal warlord, fighting for Christianity against the forces of Paganism in southern Scotland during the sixth century.

Many sources tell of 12 battles fought by Arthur before he died, and Mr McHardy believes the last of these was fought at Camelon, near Falkirk, in 539AD. Badly injured, Arthur was taken by his followers to the legendary Isle of Maidens, said by Mr McHardy to be the modern Isle of May. Here, Arthur’s nine sisters, including the infamous Morgana, were said to practice pagan rituals and witchcraft.

The maidens were unable to help Arthur, however, and he eventually died and was buried on the island. Mr McHardy is set to announce his controversial new theories on Arthur at a special conference to be held in Edinburgh next month, attended by the world’s leading Arthurian experts. His new book, The Quest for Arthur, will further outline his theory when it is published next month.

He said: "Links between Arthur and the Edinburgh area have long been known to historians. I have no doubts at all that the evidence linking him with Lothian and southern Scotland is indisputable. It is not just the place names but also historical writings and the poem the Goddodin which clearly place him here. I believe that there is strong historical evidence that Isle of May was actually the Isle of Maidens, meaning the nine maidens of legend who practiced weather watching and shape changing there."

In the book, published by Luath Press, Mr McHardy explores the links between Arthur and local landmarks such as Arthur’s Seat, a former street called Merlin’s Lane beside the Tron Kirk, Traprain Law in East Lothian and many other sites.

For many years Avalon was said to be sited near Glastonbury, Somerset, in an area rich in Arthurian links and legends. Supporters of Glastonbury’s claim today attempted to play down Mr McHardy’s claim.

A spokesman for the Glastonbury Abbey Trust today said there was no way the Isle of May could be considered as a possible burial site for Arthur.

"Glastonbury is Avalon. It is as simple as that. The Arthur legend has local equivalents in many places around Britain, which is perfectly understandable. But the area around Glastonbury has the strongest links to Arthur. The pre-Roman name for Glastonbury was Ynys Avallon, which was changed by the Romans."

Mr McHardy agreed there are many versions of the Arthur myth, but added: "We have the Goddodin, the oldest known text in Welsh, telling us that Arthur was from southern Scotland and I think this can be proved by looking at the information ."

Snake News:

Social Workers Put Squeeze on Python

VANCOUVER October 29, 2001 (Reuters) - A Canadian couple may soon be forced to make a decision; either get rid of the family's 16.5-foot python or risk having their young children removed from the house.

Child welfare officials visited Kerry-Ann and Daniel Koop after a newspaper photograph showed the pet snake named Boaz curled up on the living room floor of their Kelowna, British Columbia, home with two of the Koops' nine children, a three-year-old son and an 18-month-old daughter.

The picture caused a flurry of complaints to child welfare officials and police about the children's safety.

An official said on Friday the Koops had not formally been ordered to choose between the kids and the 140-pound snake, but she said removing the children from the home is an option if the snake stays.

"Removing the children would be a last resort," said Marisa Adair, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Children and Family development.

The Koops told reporters that Boaz is no threat to anybody, and has been handled by hundreds of school children in an educational program on animal abuse.

The family rescued the python in 1997 after it was abandoned by a previous owner.

Smashed Snake Costs $1.7 Million

SAN FRANCISCO October 29, 2001 (Reuters) - San Francisco's rapid transit system will pay more than $1 million after an endangered garter snake was found flattened at a construction site, officials say.

The Board of Directors of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system approved payment of $1.07 million to the contractor at BART's airport extension project, where work stopped for some 18 days last year as wildlife officials investigated the incident.

"It was not clear whether it was the contractor's fault or BART's fault that the snake died, so we decided to go ahead and compensate the contractor for the lost time," BART spokesman Mike Healy said on Friday.

The striped San Francisco garter snake thrives in the marshy area west of the airport, and construction of the new BART approach is under way amid a list of precautions aimed at protecting the endangered species.

After the snake was found flattened those precautions were stepped up, with officials slowing the speed limit on the construction site and requiring that workers be brought in by bus instead of driving their own cars.

Healy said every effort was being made to protect the San Francisco garter snake, which has been put on the endangered list as rampant development eats up its traditional habitat on the San Francisco peninsula.

The multi-colored snake, often described as one of the rarest and most beautiful snakes in North America, is believed to number fewer than 1,500 in the wild.

"We have saved 77 snakes. We trapped them in the wetlands where the project work was going on and sent them to a protected environment," Healy said, adding that no one was sure how the million dollar snake made it through the security perimeter around the construction site.

"It's just one of those things," he said.

Government Sues Daisy Over BB Guns
By JENNIFER LOVEN
Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON October 31, 2001 (AP) — The government is suing one of the nation's top BB gun manufacturers in an attempt to force the recall of millions of air rifles alleged to have a dangerous defect.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission voted 2-1 on Tuesday to file a lawsuit against Daisy Outdoor Products after the Rogers, Ark.-based company repeatedly refused to negotiate a voluntary recall or other settlement, commission chairwoman Ann Brown said.

The commission's suit targets 16 versions of Daisy's PowerLine Airgun. The company has produced 4.9 million of the model 880 PowerLine Airgun since 1972 and 2.4 million of the model 856 since 1984, the commission said.

The complaint alleges that BBs can get stuck in the magazine of those models, leading users who can no longer hear pellets rolling around inside to believe the guns are unloaded. However, firing the BB guns can shake the pellets loose and shoot them out at extremely high speeds, the suit says.

As a result, the alleged defect — which would cost $2 per gun to fix — has been associated with at least 15 deaths and 171 serious injuries, Brown said.

"These aren't the same BB guns we all grew up with,'' Brown said.

Daisy marketing director Joe Murfin said anyone who has been hurt has ignored clear warnings on the packaging on how to safely use BB guns. The packages say BB guns should never be pointed at a person and should only be used by those over 15, with parental supervision.

"There is no defect with this product,'' Murfin said.

The suit asks an administrative law judge to order a recall pulling all unsold products from store shelves nationwide. The commission also wants the company forced to wage a public awareness campaign and offer consumers free repairs, replacements or refunds for BB guns they have already bought.

Mary Sheila Gall, the lone commissioner to vote against the suit, said six previous CPSC investigations of Daisy BB guns had found no defects. She also said the deaths and injuries represent a minuscule percentage of the guns sold.

"This complaint is highly politicized, it is not well-founded in law or the evidence, and it should not have been brought,'' Gall said.

The mother of a Pennsylvania teen-ager who was shot in the head with a Daisy BB gun joined Brown at a news conference after the vote.

"We don't want one other child, one other family to go through what we went through,'' said Becky Mahoney of New Hope, Pa.

Mahoney's son Tucker, then 16, was injured in 1999 after he and a friend had been shooting targets with an 856 model. They could no longer hear pellets inside, so the friend aimed the gun at Tucker and fired.

Tucker suffered severe brain damage. The Mahoneys sued Daisy and received an $18 million settlement.

The vast majority of recalls are accomplished through a joint agreement between the CPSC and a company. A lawsuit is generally a last resort, and they have been used only six times before.

The administrative law judge's decision can be appealed by either side back to the commission. The company could then appeal further in federal court, meaning it could be two years or more before any decision is final.

Consumer Product Safety Commission: http://www.cpsc.gov

Daisy: http://www.daisy.com
1908 Siberia Mystery Blast 'Solved'

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online Science Editor

ITALY October 30, 2001 (BBC) Astronomers may have solved the puzzle of what it was that brought so much devastation to a remote region of Siberia almost a century ago.

In the early morning of 30 June, 1908, witnesses told of a gigantic explosion and blinding flash. Thousands of square kilometres of trees were burned and flattened.

Scientists have always suspected that an incoming comet or asteroid lay behind the event - but no impact crater was ever discovered and no expedition to the area has ever found any large fragments of an extraterrestrial object. Now, a team of Italian researchers believe they may have the definitive answer. After combining never-before translated eyewitness accounts with seismic data and a new survey of the impact zone, the scientists say the evidence points strongly to the object being a low-density asteroid.

They even think they know from where in the sky the object came.

"We now have a good picture of what happened," Dr Luigi Foschini, one of the expedition's leaders, told BBC News Online.

The explosion, equivalent to 10-15 million tons of TNT, occurred over the Siberian forest, near a place known as Tunguska. Only a few hunters and trappers lived in the sparsely populated region, so it is likely that nobody was killed. Had the impact occurred over a European capital, hundreds of thousands would have perished. A flash fire burned thousands of trees near the impact site. An atmospheric shock wave circled the Earth twice. And, for two days afterwards, there was so much fine dust in the atmosphere that newspapers could be read at night by scattered light in the streets of London, 10,000 km (6,213 miles) away. But nobody was dispatched to see what had happened as the Czars had little interest in what befell the backward Tungus people in remote central Siberia.

The first expedition to reach the site arrived in 1930, led by Soviet geologist L A Kulik, who was amazed at the scale of the devastation and the absence of any impact crater. Whatever the object was that came from space, it had blown up in the atmosphere and completely disintegrated. Nearly a century later, scientists are still debating what happened at that remote spot. Was it a comet or an asteroid? Some have even speculated that it was a mini-black hole, though there is no evidence of it emerging from the other side of the Earth, as it would have done.

What is more, none of the samples of soil, wood or water recovered from the impact zone have been able to cast any light on what the Tunguska object actually was.

Researchers from several Italian universities have visited Tunguska many times in the past few years. Now, in a pulling together of their data and information from several hitherto unused sources, the scientists offer an explanation about what happened in 1908. They analyzed seismic records from several Siberian monitoring stations, which combined with data on the directions of flattened trees gives information about the objects trajectory. So far, over 60,000 fallen trees have been surveyed to determine the site of the blast wave.

"We performed a detailed analysis of all the available scientific literature, including unpublished eye-witness accounts that have never been translated from the Russian," said Dr Foschini. "This allowed us to calculate the orbit of the cosmic body that crashed."

The object appears to have approached Tunguska from the southeast at about 11 km per second (7 miles a second). Using this data, the researchers were able to plot a series of possible orbits for the object. Of the 886 valid orbits that they calculated, over 80% of them were asteroid orbits with only a minority being orbits that are associated with comets. But if it was an asteroid why did it break up completely?

"Possibly because the object was like asteroid Mathilde, which was photographed by the passing Near-Shoemaker space probe in 1997. Mathilde is a rubble pile with a density very close to that of water. This would mean it could explode and fragment in the atmosphere with only the shock wave reaching the ground."

The research will be published in a forthcoming edition of the journal Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Meteorite Hunters Scour Southwest

PHOENIX October 28, 2001 (AP) -- The sunshine sparkling on his meteorite-encrusted wedding ring and Van Halen blaring from his car stereo, Bob Haag rolled into Portales, N.M., looking for space rocks.

He had heard the news less than 24 hours earlier: Rare iron-rich stone meteorites had landed near the eastern New Mexico town. Armed with a pocket full of $100 bills and banking on another big score, the self-styled "long-haired hippy kid from Tucson" hit the road.

He was in town before the stones had time to cool.

This is the world of the meteorite hunter, where a handful of pros like Haag and legions of metal detector-toting amateurs comb the Southwest in search of celestial tidbits more valuable than gold.

"Without a doubt, I have the best job in the galaxy,'' Haag said. "But you don't have to be a rocket scientist. You do a little research, find where meteorites have fallen, and just go there and look. That's it. There's no magic.''

In 25 years of hunting meteorites, Haag has followed "million-dollar falls,'' multiple meteorite drops that happen about every 1,000 days, to Egypt, Russia, Japan and more than 50 other countries.

He has built an extensive collection, which he said has been appraised at $25 million.

"These are pieces of stars that have never been seen on Earth before,'' Haag said. "It's so 2001 Space Odyssey, so Buck Rogers spaceman, so Marvin the Martian. These are today's new treasures, and we don't even have to leave the planet to get them.''

During his search in Portales in 1998, Haag started working the residents immediately, handing out pictures of the meteorite and posting "Wanted!'' posters at the town's barber shop and Wal-Mart promising a reward.

Soon, a crew of housewives, teen-agers and retired men were scouring the desert scrub behind their homes.

Haag shelled out about $15,000 for three of the 60 meteorites that were eventually recovered -- including $5,000 to a child on a bike. He guesses that the three rocks are worth at least twice what he paid, though he hasn't sold them.

Most hunters agree there's more to the quest than money.

"The excitement with meteorites is that these samples are parts of planets that once existed somewhere in outer space,'' said David Kring, professor of planetary studies at the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Meteorites are a piece of a very old puzzle -- 4 1/2 billion years of the solar system's history that can be partially unraveled by studying the meteorite you hold in your hand.''

The dry, wide-open spaces of the Sonora, Chihuahua and Mohave deserts of the southwestern United States make for ideal meteorite hunting terrain. Would-be collectors just have to be able to recognize them.

About 800 baseball-sized or larger meteorites have fallen in Arizona alone in the past 300 years, but only about 40 have been recovered, Kring said.

He said he finds about one or two meteorites among the 600 rock samples brought to his office by amateur rock hunters each year.

Jim Kriegh, a retired University of Arizona civil engineering professor, wasn't even looking for meteorites when he made his big find.

While hunting for gold in remote northwestern Arizona in 1995, Kriegh stumbled across a strewn field, the scattered fragments of a huge rock that dropped out of its orbit between Jupiter and Mars about 15,000 years ago and exploded over the desert.

Over two years Kriegh and his partners pulled more than 2,400 meteorite pieces from what would become the Gold Basin Strewn Field. One of only two strewn fields in Arizona, it is believed to be the oldest in the world outside of Antarctica, Kring said.

To date, more than 5,000 meteorite pieces have been recovered in the area.

"It evokes all sorts of mysterious thoughts,'' said Kriegh's hunting partner, Twink Monrad. "There were wooly mammoths and prehistoric lions and tigers and small horses in the area, and it just makes you wonder what they saw when this space rock exploded. It's amazing.''

Monrad was a homemaker before Kriegh invited her to explore the strewn field. Now, she makes the seven-hour trip from her home near Tucson to Gold Basin a couple of times a month.

In 1999, she discovered a separate meteorite lying in the strewn field, called the Golden Rule Meteorite after a nearby mountain peak. She attributes her success to persistence.

"I firmly believe that if a person were to go over any square mile, time after time, anywhere in the world, they'd also eventually find meteorites,'' she said.

This strategy, employed by Monrad, Kriegh and others who trek to Gold Basin, is the same method favored by professionals like Haag.

Haag said he makes his money by simply being able to recognize the rocks better than his competitors. He plucked his most valuable find, a rare moon rock, from a pile of low-priced meteorites a collector was displaying at a gem show.

But while he often sells the gemlike meteorites he finds for hundreds of dollars per gram, some are off-limits.

A few years ago, Haag spent two months in a desert on the Libyan-Egyptian border hunting for a rare Howardite stone meteorite. One night, he said, he dreamed he saw the meteorite streaking through the sky and then bursting into five fiery pieces. Two days later he found five Howardite pieces lying neatly in the sand.

"This wasn't something to be bought or sold,'' he said. "This was something sent from heaven just for me.''

Bob Haag's home page: http://www.meteoriteman.com

University of Arizona meteorite page: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/SIC/arizona--meteorites

Swiss Tunnel Where Ten Died Was Mined
By Allan Hall

Berlin October 31, 2001 (The Scotsman UK) - The Swiss army has admitted that the St Gotthard tunnel, which turned into an inferno killing at least ten people last week, was mined with high explosives intended to deter invaders.

Army experts insisted the blaze, started after two lorries collided head on, could not have triggered the explosives. But Swiss defense policy under which other Alpine tunnels have similar defensive charges will change, officials say.

The nearest alternative route to the St Gotthard through the Swiss Alps reopened yesterday.

The Barges tunnel on what is known as the San Bernardino route closed after a lorry and a car collided, bring new traffic chaos on yet another major north-south European artery.

In the St Gotthard accident, temperatures in the ten-mile tunnel, connecting the Zurich region with Italy, reached 1,000C.

A Swiss army spokesman, Colonel Urs Caduff, admitted that explosives were buried in the rock near the entrance and that although army top brass had ordered that they be removed weeks ago, they were still there at the time of the crash. He promised that all explosives would be removed by the time the tunnel’s expected reopening next spring.

Mr Caduff insisted there was no danger of the explosives being set off by the fire.

"The detonators were stored in special secured areas separately from the charges," he said. "There was no danger of explosion at any time during the accident."

The Swiss army chief of staff ordered the removal of explosives at the Gotthard tunnel and other vital entry and exit transport bottlenecks weeks ago, he said, but it had not been carried out.
Hollywood Madam Releases Comedy Sex DVD
By Sarah Tippit

LOS ANGELES October 30, 2001 (Reuters) - Here are some sex tips from an expert: Men with sexual hang-ups should seek hookers, women wanting to expand their bedroom repertoire should knock back tequila and teenagers lusting after teachers should hold those thoughts until they graduate.

So says former "Hollywood Madam" Heidi Fleiss, who has turned her back on a career employing prostitutes after a highly publicized trial and 3-year jail term -- to forge a new path in "comedy."

To that end, Fleiss, 35, has teamed up with her longtime friend Victoria Sellers, the daughter of the late comic actor Peter Sellers and actress Britt Ekland, in offering irreverent sexual advice on the Web site http://www.laugh.com , which also features sketches by the likes of television greats Jerry Seinfeld and Milton Berle.

This week, Fleiss and Sellers, who is also 35, released a new "comedy" DVD in time for the holidays, offering creative answers to the myriad sexual questions Fleiss says people have been asking her.

"It's a great Christmas gift," Fleiss told Reuters in a telephone interview. "I could have done a porn video but I didn't. This is comedy. Some comedy is X-rated (but) throughout history comedy has been X-rated. If you're going to go puritanical it doesn't go over well."

Besides, she added, "People need something to help them relieve the stress" of the Sept. 11 hijacked jet attacks on the United States. "It's a good time for sexual and emotional healing."

'SEX TIPS'

"Sex Tips with Heidi Fleiss and Victoria Sellers," available as of Wednesday wherever videos and DVDs are sold, features Fleiss and Sellers tooling around Hollywood in a limo, alternately gossiping about the tragically hip and doling out outrageous sexual tips.

Among the topics they tackle are how to turn a woman on (try $5,000, Fleiss says); "how to deal with premature ejaculation (go in the bathroom and read Hustler before approaching your wife); how a couple of 90-year-olds can spice up their sex life (buy some sex toys); and how to deal with a schoolgirl crush on a teacher (Don't do it. Get a career first, Fleiss advises).

"Victoria and I had a blast making this DVD ... and getting into as much trouble as the law would allow," Fleiss said. "Hey, I've already been to prison and I don't intend on making a return engagement."

The DVD also includes a bonus 15-minute interview with Fleiss billed as "straight talk with Heidi" on "How to Be a First Class Madam."

"I think the candid interview on my life and hooker business catches people's attention," Fleiss said. Laugh.com President and video producer Bob Kohn said more editions are already planned. He said daily sex tips from Fleiss with titles like "Bone a Friend" and "Teeny Weeny Peenie" will also soon be made available for download to palm pilots and cellular telephones. Neither Fleiss nor Kohn were willing to discuss terms of Fleiss's contract.

'BLACK BOOK' NEVER MADE PUBLIC

Fleiss was released from federal prison in 1998 after serving 21 months for money laundering and tax evasion convictions connected to her infamous call-girl ring, which catered to the rich and famous.

She was arrested after an undercover sting operation in 1993 proved that she employed prostitutes that flew across the country for clients and charged them thousands of dollars. Her so-called "black book" of clients was never made public.

She became interested in her new venture shortly after being released from prison, she said. "I was thinking of going into business on the Internet. My attorney said, 'You ought to attend this conference if you're going to be involved in the Internet -- even though they're a bunch of nerds and geeks.' I was anxious to go because it sounded like they were all billionaires."

From there, Fleiss and Sellers, who have been buddies since both were 16, hooked up with Laugh.com president Kohn and began their "sex tips" column on his Web site. "She's a wild girl," Fleiss said of Sellers. "She carries the whole thing. She's so funny I don't even like to eat food when she's around because I might choke."

Woman Gets $13 Million in Bank Blunder
LONDON October 29, 2001 (Reuters) - A British secretary got more than she bargained for when she asked her bank for a small loan and was sent a check for a small fortune, a British newspaper reported on Saturday.

Susan Anderson wanted $5,700 to pay off debts. The Halifax bank. which uses the slogan "Always giving you extra," did just that and sent her a check for more than $13 million.

"I know the slogan, but this was ridiculous," Anderson, 51, told The Sun.

The mother of two didn't spot the error at first. "It's only when I looked at it later that I thought: 'That's not right'," she said.

"At first I thought it was for 8,000 pounds (about $11,600), twice what I wanted. Then I looked at it again and realized that there was this huge figure that seemed to go on for ever," said Anderson, who is now expecting a new check for the right amount.

The single mother of two from Gloucestershire in western England alerted the bank to the mistake, but not before photocopying the check and showing it to her workmates. She also admitted dreaming about how to spend the money.

"Since getting it I've been round the world 20 times in my head spending it. I could certainly do some serious damage to money of that kind, and I need it," she said.

A spokesman for the bank told The Sun a computer error was behind the blunder.
Conservationists Warn of Threat To African Lions

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON October 31, 2001 (Reuters) - Lions could disappear from West and Central Africa in the next decade because their populations are fragmented and too small to survive, conservationists said Wednesday.

A new report by a group of animal experts said the largest concentrations of lions consist of two groups of 200 lions each in Cameroon and along the borders of Senegal, Mali and Guinea. Other populations are as small as 50.

But in order for the animals to continue to exist without inbreeding at least 100 breeding pairs, or 500 to 1,000 animals, are needed.

"For the next century lions will not go extinct but they will be restricted to about a dozen national parks," Hans Bauer, of Leiden University in the Netherlands, told Reuters.

He was one of a group of 30 lion experts who met under the auspices of the World Conservation Union in June in Cameroon to discuss the dwindling lion populations in West and Central Africa.

According to 1996 estimates by the group, there are between 30,000 and 100,000 lions throughout all of Africa but Bauer, who has worked in Cameroon for many years, said the real numbers are probably closer to between 10,000 and 30,000.

"In all of West and Central Africa, from Senegal to Chad, there are only 2,000 animals," Bauer said, adding that all of the populations will not survive into the next decade.

According to the 130-page report by the experts, known as the African Lion Working Group, lions are being squeezed into smaller and smaller areas because more land is being used for agriculture and livestock breeding. But the animals need large tracts of land to survive.

"We have an idea of the status of lions in West and Central Africa and an idea of what is happening and the main problems," Bauer said. "It is a serious problem."

The report, which will be published soon on the Internet at http://www.african-lion.org , calls for the establishment of a database on lion populations in West and Central Africa.

The lion experts are also planning to prepare a lion management handbook and a scheme for the long-term conservation and monitoring of the lions of West and Central Africa.

Space Observatory Finds 30 Brown Dwarfs

October 26, 2001 (ESA) - The impressive cloud in the region of the star rho Ophiuchi is one of the heavenly meeting points for astronomers in search of young stars. Located 540 light-years away in the constellation of Ophiucus, in the celestial equator, the dusty clouds close to rho Ophiuchi are the nest of more than one hundred newborn stars.

ESA's Infrared Space Observatory, ISO, has also found a surprise hidden in the dust: 30 brown dwarfs, elusive and ambiguous objects considered to be 'failed stars' because they have too little mass to shine as stars. Relatively few of these brown dwarfs have been identified so far, so finding one is like winning a trophy. With this discovery ISO has turned the rho Ophiuchi region into a favorite game reserve for brown-dwarf hunters.

"ISO gives us a new, really rich sample of young brown dwarfs in the rho Ophiuchi region. We will clearly have to go back and search for more of these sub-stellar objects with current and future infrared telescopes, both in space and from the ground with the 10-metre class telescopes," says Sylvain Bontemps (Observatoire de Bordeaux, Floirac, France), a member of an international team led by Lennart Nordh (Stockholm Observatory, Sweden) that observed the rho Ophiuchi cloud with ISO.

Brown dwarfs are elusive because they are very faint, and ambiguous because their true nature is still unclear. Some astronomers say that at least some of them, the less massive ones, could be better described as giant planets, like Jupiter, instead of as failed stars. The minimum mass for a star to shine as such is 8 per cent of the mass of the Sun, or 80 times the mass of Jupiter - below that limit, the 'nuclear oven' that provides the star's energy cannot be ignited at the star's core.

In the case of the brown dwarfs found in the rho Ophiuchi region, "the less massive are about 5 per cent of the mass of the Sun, or 50 Jupiter masses. But certainly there could still be less massive objects hidden in the dust," Bontemps says.

This brown dwarf population has the added value of its youth. They are typically a million years old, and as a consequence they are still relatively bright. This makes them easier to study than other older brown dwarfs, whose light is weakened due to their very cold atmosphere.

ISO performed similar surveys in other nearby regions of star formation, such as Chamaeleon I and Serpens, which have also revealed the presence of young brown dwarf populations. All these results contribute to solving the question of what the true nature of brown dwarfs is.

This note is based on the results published in the scientific paper "ISOCAM observations of the rho Ophiuchi cloud: Luminosity and mass functions of the pre-main sequence embedded cluster" by S. Bontemps et al., published in Astronomy & Astrophysics 372, 173, 2001.

The European Space Agency's infrared space telescope, ISO, operated from November 1995 till May 1998. As an unprecedented observatory for infrared astronomy ISO made nearly 30 000 scientific observations.

ESA Home Page - http://www.esa.int


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