|Military-Industrial Complex, |
Charles Darwin, Oetzi the Iceman,
Miss America, Frozen Smoke,
Whale Poop, Dino Vomit & More!
|Return of the Military-Industrial Complex |
By Brad Knickerbocker
Christian Science Monitor
Washington February 13, 2002 (CSM) - In his vow to fight terrorism - to "win the first war of the 21st century" - President Bush has pledged "whatever it takes, whatever it costs...." If the administration's projections are correct, in just a few years that cost will near a half-trillion dollars a year.
On Capitol Hill this week, service secretaries and other top Pentagon officials are explaining to Congress how those sums will be spent. At a time of anticipated budget deficits, lawmakers are likely to temper their support for national security with the need to appear frugal.
Yet, depending on where they're from, they also can be expected to assert that the military bases and defense plants in their districts are among the most vital assets to protect the homeland.
In a military budget that is as big as the 15 next biggest countries combined, what's the potential for waste, inefficiency, and good old-fashioned pork? When it comes to military spending, the tradition of the "iron triangle" - Congress, the Pentagon, and defense industries - joining to push costly weaponry is nothing new.
"We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," five-star Army General Dwight Eisenhower said in his last speech as president in 1961. "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist."
With the nation under recent attack, US forces fighting overseas, and patriotism-fueled Pentagon budgets rising faster than usual, that potential increases.
Writing in the Washington Post, White House budget director Mitch Daniels warns that special interests are likely to jump on the national security and homeland defense bandwagon to promote their products.
But larding the federal budget with extras isn't limited to nonmilitary items, others note. "What Mr. Daniels forgot to mention was that vested interests also exist in the defense sector - that is, defense industries - that are out to do much the same," says the Cato Institute's Ivan Eland.
Some weapons outmoded?
Under increased scrutiny are big-ticket weapons that critics say are too costly, unreliable, or otherwise inappropriate in an era shifting from superpower cold war to terrorism and other forms of unconventional conflict. Among these are the F-22 Raptor fighter aircraft, B-1 bomber, V-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, Crusader self-propelled artillery system, and Comanche helicopter.
These "are five of the most wasteful and ineffective weapons systems," says Danielle Brian of the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight.
Before Sept. 11, Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself had questioned some major weapons systems that, in his view, did not fit the needs of military "transformation." When he was Defense Secretary 10 years ago, Vice President Dick Cheney questioned the value of some major weapons, too.
While the current Pentagon budget slows some programs, it doesn't eliminate any controversial big-ticket items. Mr. Rumsfeld says that there had been a "holiday" in procurement that needs to be redressed. Critics say it's matter of bureaucratic inertia, military turf protection, and favored congressional programs. "The new defense plan ... is focused on the acquisition of traditional on the acquisition of traditional kinds of weapons programs, such as tactical fighters, aircraft carriers, and heavy artillery systems," says Steven Kosiak, a defense specialist with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington.
This is likely to be an issue for many lawmakers, particularly in the Democrat-controlled Senate. "Longstanding problems in areas such as financial management, acquisition management, management of information technology, and personnel management have not disappeared just because we are now fighting a war," Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Carl Levin (D) of Michigan said Tuesday.
Other spending necessities
Weapons procurement is not the largest portion of the Pentagon budget. (That's operations and maintenance.) But procurement, together with research and development on new weapons and other gear, adds up to nearly a third of the budget - $123 billion proposed by the administration for 2003. In addition, the proposed budget for homeland security nearly doubles the current figure to $38 billion - more opportunities for military industries.
Within weeks of the terrorist attacks, the Defense Department issued a "Broad Agency Announcement," in which military contractors were asked for "help in combating terrorism." Thousands of proposals have been submitted since then.
The "military-industrial complex" that General Eisenhower warned of presents potential political landmines for any administration. For example, many former Republican officials and political associates of those now in the Bush administration are associated with the Carlyle Group, an equity investment firm with billions of dollars in military and aerospace assets.
Chairman of the group is Frank Carlucci, secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration and a close friend of Mr. Rumsfeld. Others who work for Carlyle include former Secretary of State James Baker as well as the president's father, former President George Bush.
|Princess Margaret Thought Burial ‘Gloomy’ |
By Paul Gallagher
London February 13, 2002 (The Scotsman) - Princess Margaret wanted to be cremated because she found the alternative Royal burial ground "gloomy", a life-long friend said last night.
Lady Glenconner said the late Princess had not wanted to end up at Frogmore in Windsor Great Park, where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert are buried. Instead, she preferred the Royal Crypt at St George’s Chapel in the grounds of Windsor Castle, where her father King George VI is buried.
"She told me that she found Frogmore very gloomy," said Lady Glenconner, a former lady-in-waiting to the princess.
"I think she’d like to be with the late King, which she will now be. There’s room I think for her to be with him now. She just said she was going to be cremated. I think she wanted her family and her friends at her funeral. Obviously, later on there will be a memorial service when her charities will be represented, but for her actual funeral she wanted it to be as private as possible."
Friday’s cremation will be will be a £280 service at the municipal crematorium in Slough, a major break with royal tradition. No members of the Royal Family will be present in the 1960s, stained brick crematorium and the princess’s ashes will later be carried without ceremony to St George’s Chapel in Windsor, where they are to be placed in the Royal vault. The last member of the Royal Family to be cremated is believed to have been Princess Louise, Duchess of Argyll, daughter of Queen Victoria, in 1939.
Yesterday, the Queen, dressed in black, briefly returned to her official duties by opening a homeless hostel in London - as Buckingham Palace confirmed she would not be attending Slough crematorium on Friday.
Princess Margaret’s cremation will be one of six at Slough crematorium on the day. Roger Parkin, the registrar, said: "As far as we are concerned, it will be a normal working day."
He added: "Friday is actually quite quiet. We’ve only got five others on the books at the moment. ."
For those who do not live within the administrative boundaries of Slough Borough Council, the charge levied for a cremation is £280, which includes the provision of a CD or cassette player to play any choice of music.
Mr Parkin said: "It all depends on what exactly the family wants. Our tradition is we tend to have people in at least a week after they have died to give the families a chance to get everyone together. But this is obviously a slightly different situation. I hope the other five families on Friday don’t get disrupted by this or I would feel very sorry for them."
The crematorium, which performs 1,800 cremations a year, was built in 1963 and, apart from Princess Margaret, the only other famous person to have been cremated there was the comedian Ernie Wise, three years ago.
The crematorium seats 80 people but for Princess Margaret, the witnesses will be restricted to representatives from her household and from the Lord Chamberlain’s department. Families - usually 15 a day - are given a 25-minute "slot" for their service.
The funeral service is to be led by the Rt Rev David Conner, the Dean of Windsor, who will then travel with the coffin the eight miles to Slough .
Her ashes will be returned to Windsor where they are to be placed in the Royal vault at St George’s Chapel, alongside her father’s tomb.
|TIMED Studies a Final Frontier |
Washington February 12, 2002 (NASA) - With its post-launch engineering checkouts complete, NASA's TIMED (Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics) spacecraft is now globally studying one of Earth's final atmospheric frontiers.
Since its launch December 7, 2001, TIMED principal investigators and mission operations personnel at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) in Laurel, Md., and the spacecraft instrument teams located in Colorado, Michigan, Virginia and Maryland, have been conducting routine engineering checkouts of the spacecraft and its four instruments and preparing TIMED for data collection.
TIMED will be studying the basic structure of the MLTI (Mesosphere and Lower Thermosphere/Ionosphere) - a mysterious region of space located about 40-110 miles above the Earth. During its two-year science mission, TIMED will examine the MLTI's chemistry and flow of energy to and from this layer of the atmosphere. Scientists will analyze how the region affects, and is affected by, the lower atmosphere, how it influences the space near Earth occupied by low-Earth orbiting satellites, and how events on the Sun affect the MLTI.
"We're very excited that our science mission is underway," says Dr. Sam Yee, TIMED project scientist and the mission's science team leader at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md. "TIMED's observations will provide us with the first-ever global picture of this critical region of our atmosphere, which will allow scientists to form a baseline for future studies of this area.
"During its mission, TIMED will characterize the physical properties of this region, enabling the scientific community to make future 'space weather' predictions and how it affects things like communications, satellite tracking, spacecraft lifetimes and spacecraft reentering Earth's atmosphere."
Orbiting from a unique vantage point above the MLTI, TIMED will use its remote sensing instruments, together with a network of ground-based observation sites to obtain an unprecedented set of comprehensive global measurements of the region.
TIMED is the first of six Solar Terrestrial Probes (STP) to launch. STP missions focus mainly on responses to two goals of the Sun-Earth Connection theme: (1) How and why does the Sun vary; and (2) How do the Earth and planets respond?
The STP Program Office at Goddard manages the TIMED mission for the Office of Space Science in Washington, D.C. APL designed, built and operates TIMED, and manages the mission's Science Data Center for NASA.
|Dugongs in Danger |
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent
Columbia February 13, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists say the sea mammal which inspired the ancient belief in mermaids is under serious threat. They say the animal, the dugong, is declining across most of its range.
Dugongs are regarded as key indicators of the health of their environment, highlighting threats to other species and habitats. They are being affected by human pressures, including pollution and the loss of their food source.
Details of the mammals' plight appear in The Dugong: Status Report and Action Plans for Countries and Territories in its Range. The report's funders include the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), the World Conservation Union and the CRC Reef Research Centre. It was released at Unep's governing council, which is meeting in the Colombian city of Cartagena.
The report's lead author is Helene Marsh, professor of environmental science at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia.
She said: "Dugongs appear to have vanished or already become extinct in some places. These include the waters off Mauritius, the Seychelles, western Sri Lanka, the Maldives, parts of Japan, Hong Kong's Pearl River estuary, several islands in the Philippines, and parts of Cambodia and Vietnam. Elsewhere populations appear to be declining, with the possible exception of northern Australian waters and those of the Red Sea area and Arabian Gulf. The situation in East Africa is particularly alarming and it is possible that this will be the next place where the dugong becomes extinct unless urgent action is taken."
Scientists believe Africa's dugongs are far more endangered than its elephants.
The report says growing pollution from land sources, coastal development, boat traffic and fishing nets are the dugongs' main worries. They are also hunted for meat, amulets and trophies.
Nor do the animals do much to help themselves. Females seldom produce more than one calf in a lifetime, and do not give birth at all when food is short.
Dr Tim Foresman of Unep said: "Even under a perfect, pressure-free and pollution-free environment, a dugong population is unlikely to grow at much more than 5% a year. Even a slight reduction in the survival of the adults, as a result of habitat loss, disease, hunting or incidental drowning in nets, can cause a chronic decline."
Dugongs, which are herbivorous, depend almost entirely for food on beds of seagrass. These need sunlight, but in many areas they are being smothered by silt or mud, or harmed by herbicides used on land.
The report wants more co-operation between countries with dugong populations, especially as they are turning out to be more mobile than anyone had realized. Scientists had thought they stayed put in one area, but the report says they have been found to swim up to 370 miles (600 km) in a few days.
The dugong, known in the Caribbean as the manatee, was thought by sailors in antiquity to be a mermaid, half-woman and half-fish. The legend perhaps stems from the females' habit of holding their calves with one flipper when suckling them, and diving suddenly when disturbed, flipping their fish-like tails.
|Christians and Muslims Sign Peace Treaty |
|JAKARTA, Indonesia February 12, 2002 (AP) — Rival Christian and Muslim factions from Indonesia's Maluku province agreed Tuesday to end their three-year war that has devastated the province and killed 10,000 people, a top Cabinet minister said. |
The government is hoping the accord will emulate the success of a recent truce between Christians and Muslims from Sulawesi island that succeeded in ending a similar, though smaller, sectarian conflict.
"Both sides have agreed to end all conflicts and hostilities,'' said Welfare Minister Yusuf Kalla, who hosted the talks in the hill town of Malino in south Sulawesi, 1,000 miles northeast of Jakarta.
"There were no disagreements,'' he said. "They really want to end the war.''
The agreement calls for the establishment of two commissions — for security and for social and economic affairs — to monitor the truce in the province known as the Spice Islands during Dutch colonial rule. It also provides for the disarming and banning of militias and establishment of joint security patrols, and calls for the return of refugees to their homes, the return of their property and the reconstruction of the province.
Hundreds of thousands of people fled their homes in three years of combat in Maluku, located 1,600 miles northeast of Jakarta. The provincial capital, Ambon, was devastated by fighting and its two communities now are divided by a strip of no man's land. Fighting escalated in mid-2000 when thousands of Muslims fighters belonging to the Laskar Jihad militia — or Holy War Troops — arrived from Java.
The paramilitaries — who refused to attend the Malino talks — said in a statement that the Muslim delegates at the negotiations did not represent the people of the province.
Former President Abdurrahman Wahid claimed the conflict was sparked by hardline generals opposed to civilian rule after decades of dictatorship. The violence decreased sharply after mid-2001, when then-Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri, who enjoys the backing of the military, replaced Wahid.
Muslims account for about 85 percent of Indonesia's 210 million people, but Muslims and Christians are split almost evenly in the Malukus. The U.S. government has welcomed the peace process.
"These talks are an important step in Indonesia's efforts to end violence, re-establish the rule of law and provide for reconstruction in the troubled province,'' State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Monday.
|Harrison Death Mystery Solved |
Los Angeles February 13, 2002 (BBC) - The confusion over where former Beatle George Harrison spent his last few hours and died has been cleared up.
He passed away in a Hollywood Hills mansion once leased by Sir Paul McCartney and formerly owned by singer Courtney Love, an investigation by the Los Angeles county district attorney's office revealed. Questions were raised over the exact location where Harrison spent his final hours last November, after a friend listed his place of death as a fictitious address in LA. An LA solicitor called for a public investigation, pointing out that knowingly falsifying death certificates is an offence.
Harrison died in November last year after a long battle with cancer. Gavin de Becker, a security consultant working for the late Beatle, has now corrected the first address he put on the certificate.
Sir Paul's representatives had described as "utter fiction" reports that Harrison had died in a Beverly Hills home owned by the singer, pointing out he did not own a home in California. But it now emerges that Sir Paul had at one time leased the house from Love although it is not known if he had been leasing it at the time of Harrison's death.
"I'm happy the matter has been resolved and these vital records now accurately reflect the truth," Los Angeles district attorney Steve Cooley said. "I'm pleased those responsible for supplying erroneous records have now complied."
Mr. Cooley said that while willfully supplying false information on a death certificate could be prosecuted as a crime, he considered the matter now closed. The four-bedroom home, which sits on almost two acres of land near Griffith Park, has a long, gated driveway and stone walls to ensure privacy.
It is thought the first address was given on the certificate in an attempt to deter memorabilia hunters and tourists.
|Storm Lashes Oil Spill Ship |
New Zealand February 13, 2002 (BBC) - Officials are warning that a Korean log ship that ran aground off the coast of New Zealand last week could break up as it is pummeled by a severe storm.
The log carrier, Jody F Millennium, became stranded on 6 February in heavy seas soon after leaving the nearby North Island port of Gisborne. A major clean-up operation has already been hampered by the storm, and New Zealand's Maritime Safety Authority (MSA) said the break-up of the ship would have serious environmental consequences.
As forecasters predict that the storm - which has already brought gale force winds and high seas to the shore - will intensify, salvage operators must decide whether to risk refloating the ship or riding out the storm. A spokesman for the MSA, Russell Kilvington, said the disintegration of the cargo ship was an unlikely but alarming prospect.
"If it did, the consequences will be pretty severe and we could be talking about the possible evacuation of people because oil will get up in the air and that's very dangerous to eyes and lungs," he said.
Among those at risk would be a team of 19 Korean sailors who have decided to remain on the vessel. About half of the more than 700 tons of fuel on board the ship has not been pumped off although the poor weather has interrupted the operation.
When the ship ran aground last week some 25-40 tons of thick black oil drifted 400 meters to shore, polluting nearby rivers, beaches and coastline and sending noxious fumes over dozens of houses. But fears of a major environmental disaster then abated when the oil stopped leaking and few birds appeared to have suffered lasting injury.
The clean-up operation has so far cost $210,000.
Transport Minister Mark Gosche said that the government was now considering compulsory insurance for all ships arriving in New Zealand.
"I want to ensure all ships that enter New Zealand ports can pay for any oil pollution damage they cause," he said.
|Original Darwin Specimens on Display |
By Mike Collett-White
LONDON February 12, 2002 (Reuters) - Original specimens collected by British scientist Charles Darwin during his groundbreaking voyage around the world aboard "HMS Beagle" will go on public display for the first time this autumn.
London's Natural History Museum displayed a prize selection of pickled lizards, fish, an eel and a rodent for journalists to view on Tuesday, picked from thousands of creatures kept in glass jars as part of the macabre "spirit collection."
On the 193rd anniversary of Darwin's birth, the museum announced it would open a Darwin Centre in September, dedicated to the man who single-handedly revolutionized the way we look at the world by undermining the Bible's Book of Genesis.
His theory of evolution through natural selection was deeply unpopular at the time, and Darwin himself sought to tone down his theories to make them more palatable.
Colin McCarthy, reptile curator at the museum, told Reuters that Darwin's voyage of discovery was still the foundation of much biological research today.
"It is the working hypothesis of all biologists," he said.
McCarthy produced two Darwin lizards, both "type specimens" which are used to measure new species against.
A small, sleek "graceful swift lizard" and larger "Darwin's iguana" were curled in glass jars, looking much as they did in 1834 when Darwin found them on South America's southern tip.
DARWIN'S THEORIES UNPOPULAR
Darwin knew that what he had discovered would have a huge impact on the scientific world and society at large, and spent years gathering evidence for his main work "On the Origin of Species" to be sure of having a watertight case.
"Many of his fellow scientists and travelers were opposed to the theory of natural selection at that time," McCarthy said.
"He himself could see the implications of it, and he spent years assembling additional information before producing his theory. I almost think he would have preferred to produce that theory posthumously."
In the event his hand was forced when English naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace put forward his own similar theory, and their findings were presented to the Royal Society in 1858.
The next year Darwin published "On the Origin of Species," 23 years after his return from the five-year "Beagle" voyage.
The Darwin Day Organization, founded in the United States, is lobbying to celebrate Darwin Day annually to mark his birthday, building up to 2009, the bicentennial of his birth.
"Along with Newton and Shakespeare, Darwin is Britain's greatest gift to the world," said Richard Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University and honorary president of the organization.
|Norton To Testify on Indian Trust Funds |
|By ROBERT GEHRKE |
WASHINGTON February 13, 2002 (AP) - Interior Secretary Gale Norton faces the possibility of being held in contempt of court for continued failures to repair the management of a system of American Indian trust funds.
Norton was expected to testify Wednesday before U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth, who has ordered Norton to prove the Interior Department did not commit a fraud on the court by concealing the failure of key Indian trust fund accounting systems.
Although much of the alleged wrongdoing occurred during the tenure of her predecessor, Bruce Babbitt, Norton and Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs Neal A. McCaleb are on trial as the current officials in charge of the trust fund.
Lamberth has expressed frustration with the Interior Department's approach to the case, at one point calling Norton's handling of certain aspects "clearly contemptuous," and advising her attorney to "throw yourself on the mercy of the court."
He said at the outset of the contempt trial in December that he would give government attorneys a chance to prove Norton should not be held in contempt, largely to stave off a potential appeal.
Now, following weeks of testimony, the contempt trial is nearing its conclusion. The top congressionally appointed trust official, Thomas Slonaker, has testified that he did not have faith in the Interior Department's reform efforts.
In 1999, Lamberth held Babbitt and Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in contempt and fined them $600,000 for failing to turn over documents in the 5-year-old class-action lawsuit.
Any fines imposed against Norton would be paid for by the department, as were those imposed against Babbitt and Rubin.
The lawsuit stems from a century of mismanaged mining, grazing and timber royalties from 45 million acres of Indian land held in trust by the Interior Department.
Money intended for Indian beneficiaries was lost, misappropriated, stolen or never collected. The Indians' attorneys claim the government owes 300,000 Indian account holders more than $10 billion.
They want responsibility for the trust stripped from Interior and assigned to a receiver outside the department. Norton has proposed creating a new bureau within the department to manage the money, although that plan has been met with stubborn resistance among Indian leaders.
|Bare-faced Cheek Puts Man in Jail |
Cardiff February 13, 2002 (Times UK) - A man suspected of a series of burglaries has been jailed instead for bare-faced cheek.
Paul Gilhaney, 28, who had been arrested on suspicion of a number of distraction burglaries in Cardiff, asked permission to shave off his stubble before a series of identity parades with his alleged victims.
When he returned from the bathroom not only was his chin clean-shaven, so were his eyebrows.
His swarthy appearance was so dramatically altered by the disappearance of his dark eyebrows, none of the eleven burglary victims, many of them elderly, was able to pick out the chief suspect from of the line-up of 12 men.
Police were forced to drop the burglary charges. But instead of telling Gilhaney he was free to go, they re-arrested him and charged him with perverting the course of justice.
Gilhaney’s eyebrows had grown back for his appearance at Cardiff Crown Court yesterday when he pleaded guilty to perverting the course of justice by attempting to disguise his appearance.
In addition to the six months sentence for his close shave Gilhaney was also ordered to serve 122 days of a previous suspended sentence.
Judge Philip Richards said Gilhaney had intended to pervert the course of justice “by altering your appearance”.
|Cheney Too Busy Running The War |
Washington February 11, 2002 (New Republic) - Since September 11 the Bush White House has often accused its policy critics of interfering with national security. In recent months the charge has been leveled at those raising questions about civil liberties and budget priorities.
And now, perversely, it seems the White House is making it against even those trying to determine what security failures may have made the events of September 11 possible.
Vice President Dick Cheney has reportedly threatened to portray Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle as an obstacle to the war on terrorism if Daschle proceeds with Senate hearings--potentially embarrassing to the White House--examining why the attacks on New York and Washington weren't prevented.
According to Newsweek, Cheney called to tell Daschle: "If the Democrats insisted, Bush administration officials might say they're too busy running the war on terrorism to show up. Press the issue, Cheney implied, and you risk being accused of interfering with the mission."
Indeed, it's a wonder Cheney even had time to make that call--not because he's so busy running the war, but rather because his schedule is so full of political events that have nothing to do with it.
Cheney plans to attend dozens of fund-raisers for GOP candidates between now and November, kicking off this week with events in Indiana and Kentucky. The president himself is already booked for 40 campaign events.
Even national security adviser Condoleezza Rice managed to deliver the keynote address at last weekend's Conservative Political Action Conference.
Amazing how you can find time when you want to, isn't it?
|Oetzi's Ice Age Mystery |
Glasgow February 7, 2002 (BBC) - This small object is at the center of one of the most extraordinary stories in modern archaeology.
It is a perfect replica of the flint arrowhead scientists now think killed Oetzi the iceman, the 5,300-year-old hunter who emerged from a melting glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991.
The copy has been constructed using data from a 3D Cat (Computer-aided tomography) scan of the Stone Age man's body.
Arguments now rage as to whether the real arrowhead should be cut out of Oetzi, who is kept in a freezer at the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology in Bolzano.
Peter Vanezis, professor of forensic medicine and science at the University of Glasgow, UK, is in no doubt a full post mortem procedure should go ahead. Professor Vanezis is one of the many researchers who have been called in to look at the body.
"It's vital to carry out an autopsy because as a forensic pathologist I'm fully aware that you don't really get the answer to all the questions you want unless you have a proper look inside the body and are able to retrieve the evidence," he told the BBC science program Horizon.
Bad Case of Worms
The iceman was discovered by German tourists in the September of 1991 in the Oetz Valley - hence the name - still wearing goatskin leggings and a grass cape. His copper-headed axe and a quiver full of arrows were lying nearby.
At first, it was thought he died from cold and hunger. It was only last year that researchers finally established he had a stone arrowhead embedded in his shoulder and that the nature of the injury - its position in an area full of blood vessels - probably meant he bled to death.
Rather embarrassingly the presence of the arrowhead was clear to see on a Cat scan done in 1994 but had been overlooked. A decade of research, however, has built up a fascinating picture of how Oetzi might have lived.
Oetzi was about 159 centimeters (five feet, 2.5 inches) tall, 46 years old, arthritic, and infested with whipworm.
He had also been seriously ill three times in the last several months of his life. High levels of copper and arsenic in his hair indicate that he had been involved in copper smelting.
He wore three layers of garments made from goat, deerskin and bark fiber. He had well-made shoes and a bearskin hat.
It is believed he belonged to an agricultural community based on the cereal grains found not just on his garments but recovered from his colon, which contained bran of the primitive wheat Einkorn. Muscle fibers also retrieved from the colon confirm he ate goat meat as well.
The presence in the body of pollen from the hophornbeam tree, which flowers in the Alps between March and June, indicates Oetzi died not in the autumn as first thought but in the spring or early summer.
In Thursday's Horizon program, which reviews the Oetzi story so far, German hikers Erika and Helmut Simon describe the moment they discovered our best window on the Stone Age.
"My husband walked in front of me a bit and then suddenly he stopped and said 'look at what's lying there' and I said 'oh, it's a body'." Mrs Simon says. "Then my husband took a photograph, just one, the last we had left in the camera."
Mr Simon continues: "We thought that it was a mountain climber or a skier who had had an accident - perhaps 10 years previously or perhaps two years previously."
|Genre News: X-Files Contest, Alice and Craven, Dean Stockwell, Nancy Drew, Bo Derek and Buffy! |
X-Files Gives Fans Chance to Appear On Screen
Hollywood February 12, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - Fans of "The X-Files" may soon be able to see their name in the famed opening credits of the paranormal show.
Starting Wednesday (Feb. 13), the show's website ( http://www.thexfiles.com ) will be holding a contest where viewers can submit their screen names to be in the opening credits sequence during the final episodes of the series.
The winners' screen names would specifically replace the fictional screen names on the "FBI Contacts, Witnesses and Contributors - Confidential" memo that regularly appears during the sequence.
Approximately 45 winners will be selected from the contest, which will continue through Wednesday, March 6.
The series finale of "The X-Files" airs Sunday, May 19 at 9 p.m.
Spotnitz Enters The Ether
Hollywood February 12, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - The X-Files executive producer Frank Spotnitz will write, direct and produce Into the Ether, a supernatural feature film and the first of two movies Spotnitz will make under a deal with Dimension Films, Variety reported.
Ether tells the story of a medical resident who suspects patients in the hospital where she works are dying through unnatural means, the trade paper reported. Spotnitz will rewrite a script by Brian Carr.
Spotnitz has spent eight years with The X-Files, which ends in May, and he directed two and wrote or co-wrote more than 40 of the show's 200 episodes, including "Memento Mori," for which he shared an Emmy nomination in 1997, Variety reported. He also co-produced and co-wrote the story for The X-Files: Fight the Future, the 1998 feature based on the show.
Other X-Files news: Burt Reynolds will play God on an upcoming episode of Fox's The X-Files, the Internet Movie Database reported. The site offered no additional information on the episode or when it might air.
Craven Directing Alice
Hollywood February 12, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Scream creator Wes Craven will direct Alice, the feature film based on American McGee's twisted video game of the same name, Variety reported.
Jon and Erich Hoeber will write the script for the movie, a dark take on Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the trade paper reported.
"I can't wait to follow Alice down the rabbit hole for a completely new and nightmarish journey," Craven told the trade paper. Craven's partner, Marianne Maddalena, will produce for Dimension Films, with Collision Entertainment's Scott Faye and Paul Rosenberg and Abandon Pictures' Marcus Ticotin.
Stockwell Leaps To Enterprise
Hollywood February 12, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Scott Bakula will reunite with longtime friend and former Quantum Leap co-star Dean Stockwell in an episode of Bakula's new Star Trek series, Enterprise, SCI FI Wire confirmed.
Stockwell will appear in the episode "Detained," directed by David Livingston. Stockwell will play Grat, a Tandaran colonel who deals with Capt. Archer (Bakula) and Mayweather (Anthony Montgomery) after they enter Tandaran airspace. The episode will air in April.
Stockwell was in production on the Enterprise episode at the time his older brother, actor Guy Stockwell, died. Guy Stockwell died Feb. 7 at age 69, the Associated Press reported. The actor, whose cause of death was not revealed, counted among his credits 30 movies and 250 television episodes, encompassing such genre outings as Knight Rider, Quantum Leap, It's Alive, Burned at the Stake and the cult classic horror film Santa Sangre. Guy Stockwell is survived by his wife and three children, as well as his brother.
Lawson Fills Nancy Drew Shoes
LOS ANGELES February 13, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - Maggie Lawson will take on the legendary role of Nancy Drew in a new two-hour drama pilot for ABC/Touchstone Television based on the books by Carolyn Keene, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The updated version features Lawson (NBC's "Inside Schwartz") as a freshman journalism major who begins to sleuth her way through the crime beat of her college newspaper.
JFK Would Be Proud
Washington February 11, 2002 (New Republic) - Time was, the GOP advertised its contempt for highbrow culture with periodic promises to abolish the National Endowment for the Arts.
But, as in so many other areas of policy, the Bush administration has come up with a stealthier means to the same end, appointing 1980s sex symbol Bo Derek to a much-desired five-and-a-half-year term on the governing board of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
Derek's career is, of course, an inspiration to performing artists everywhere. After dropping out of high school, she married erotic photographer John Derek (she was 18; he was 47), and proceeded to disrobe with metronomic regularity for Playboy and a series of otherwise unmemorable movies of the late 1970s and early '80s. (In 1990, she won the Golden Raspberry award for worst actress of the '80s--and that was at the height of Brooke Shields's career!)
According to Business Week, Derek is now a "pet-care-product entrepreneur." We're reasonably certain how her appointment to the Kennedy Center board would be explained had it been bestowed by the previous president. In George W.'s case, we'll just have to chalk it up to execrable taste.
Buffy Contest Spikes Strange Result
Hollywood February 13, 2002 (eXoNews) - Zap2It is running a Valentine's Day contest in which readers can choose their fav Buffy boyfriend. Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans may be surprised at the result (I know I was!)
So far, the overall favorite is not Angel.
Go here to enter the contest (ends February 15th) and learn who is winning: http://tv.zap2it.com/shows/features/features.html?23722
|Mobster's Wife Battles Feds Over Smuggled Sperm |
|By MARC LEVY |
HARRISBURG, Pa. February 12, 2002 (AP) - The wife of an imprisoned New York mobster is battling the government for custody of her husband's sperm, which was smuggled out of the prison by a guard she helped bribe.
The government impounded the frozen sperm in 2000 at the office of Maria Parlavecchio's gynecologist in New York City and has refused to release it.
"It's fruits of the crime," federal prosecutor Wayne P. Samuelson said Monday. "It's contraband."
Maria Parlavecchio contends that the sperm is not an illegal substance and that it is not against the law to possess it, despite the illegal methods used to remove it from the minimum-security Allenwood Federal Prison in Pennsylvania. She is demanding the government release it. If the government gets its way, the sperm will probably be destroyed.
Parlavecchio's husband, Antonino, was sentenced in 1992 to 14 years in prison for racketeering and other charges. His 38-year-old wife, who is childless, wants to use his sperm to get pregnant. Both pleaded guilty in the sperm-smuggling case. He got an additional six months; she received a year of probation.
The dispute comes as federal prosecutors continue to unravel a slew of smuggling operations at Allenwood. At least 11 guards, prisoners, former inmates and others have been charged.
While Genoa salami, romano cheese and other creature comforts were smuggled into the prison, Samuelson would not comment on whether the Parlavecchios were the only ones to take sperm out.
The sperm was smuggled out more than three times over a two-year period beginning in 1998, with a guard getting about $200 to $300 per trip, prosecutors said.
In court papers, the Parlavecchios' attorney, Eugene P. Tinari, argued: "While it can be said that the money used to bribe the correctional officer is derivative contraband ... the same cannot be said of the seminal fluids."
He asked the court to allow Maria Parlavecchio "the chance to conceive a child, to create a life, to become a mother, and to have and enjoy the companionship and love of a son or daughter."
|Miss America Slot Machine? |
By JOHN CURRAN
ATLANTIC CITY February 13, 2002 (AP) - Five months into her reign as Miss America 2002, the shine is coming off the crown for Katie Harman.
She's not getting enough bookings, she hates the idea of a Miss America slot machine, and her parents say they have been treated rudely by pageant officials.
In an eight-page letter to Miss America Organization directors, Harman's parents said the 21-year-old collegian has been slammed with unexpected fees - including $750 for clothing alterations and $2,248 for a post-crowning party at Trump Taj Mahal Casino Resort.
"Katie is your Miss America, and I can't tell you how many times she is in trouble for things that are not her fault," they wrote.
It was the latest in a series of lumps for the Miss America Organization. Citing high production costs, pageant officials are threatening to move the show from Atlantic City after next year if they don't get more money from the state. And state pageant directors are grumbling about how the 80-year-old national contest is run.
In the Feb. 3 letter - a copy of which was provided by Miss America CEO Robert Renneisen Jr. in response to a request - Glen and Darla Harman of Gresham, Ore., complained about rude treatment and said pageant officials failed to follow up on Katie Harman's requests for lucrative bookings.
Pageant officials said Tuesday that Harman was unavailable for comment.
Renneisen said her bookings had picked up after a post-Sept. 11 slump and that she is on pace to earn $250,000 or more in appearance fees during her reign. He said the alteration bills for 26 items were sent to Harman by mistake after she used up her $1,500 alteration allowance. The pageant has since paid the bills, he said.
In a separate letter, Miss Oregon Scholarship Pageant director Dana Phillips said Harman objected to the idea of a Miss America-themed slot machine. To date, no such machine exists. Until recently, the Miss America Pageant banned contestants from even entering casinos because of fears it could sully the pageant's image.
"She felt this concept was demeaning to the image of Miss America and that she would not endorse nor promote it if it came to fruition," Phillips said.
Renneisen, a former casino executive who took over the pageant two years ago, would not say if there were plans for a Miss America-themed slot machine but said the organization would not rule out such a venture. Renneisen said Harman was being used as a tool in an "internal political squabble" in which the executive directors of the Oregon, California, Illinois and South Carolina state pageants are seeking to oust Renneisen and his management team.
Those four directors asked the Miss America board of directors to let the National Association of Miss America State Pageants take over administration of the pageant, according to Renneisen. An attorney for the state association said the state pageant directors weren't trying to take over, just to improve communication with state pageants.
|Barry White Works Magic on Love-shy Sharks |
LONDON February 13, 2002 (Reuters) — Despairing staff at a marine center in central England are going to extraordinary lengths to tempt their sharks to mate, playing them tunes by American love crooner Barry White.
With Valentine's Day close, marine scientists at Birmingham's National Sealife Centre said on Tuesday they hoped the so-called "walrus of love" would get the love-shy creatures in the mood for romance.
"They haven't been mating, so we are hoping we can encourage them with a bit of romantic music as it's coming up to Valentine's Day," said marine biologist Karen Hewlett. "We are playing a variety of music from Barry White to modern pop classics."
The center, which boasts breeding success with many marine species, including seahorses, turned its attention to the sharks after U.S. research suggested they enjoyed music. The Rowland Institute for Science in Cambridge, Mass., found fish processed songs in a similar way to humans and even appreciated different tunes and melodies.
Staff in Birmingham are pumping the music into the tanks of three species of small sharks: topes, dogfish, and starry smooth hounds.
Hewlett said it was not clear how long it would be before the music took effect but added success would be easy to judge. "In the early stages of shark courtship, the male will chase the female at high speed 'round the tank and attempt to bite her back and pectoral fin," she said.
|Cassini Studies Ripples in Space and Time |
Pasadena February 12, 2002 - NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to fly in good health with less than 29 months to go before it becomes the first Earth envoy to enter orbit around Saturn.
Last month, Cassini completed a 40-day period of data collection as part of a multi-year search for gravitational waves. The data comes from radio transmissions between Cassini and stations of NASA's Deep Space Network in California, Spain and Australia.
The experiment used frequencies both in the X-band, which is the band commonly used by interplanetary spacecraft, and in the higher-frequency Ka-band, a new band for the Deep Space Network. Data was successfully collected for 90 percent of the possible transmission time in the Ka-band, a promising beginning for future uses of that band by Cassini and other spacecraft. In the traditional X-band, data was received for 98 percent of the possible time over the 40-day experiment.
Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of space and time that are set off by acceleration of massive bodies, such as black holes or supernovas. Their existence has been confirmed indirectly, but never detected experimentally. This search assesses the Doppler effect on radio waves traveling between Cassini and Earth. The Doppler effect is how the frequency of a transmission is affected by the relative speed between the sender and receiver, such as the raised pitch of an approaching train's whistle.
Scientists are looking for barely perceptible fluctuations that would be caused in Cassini's speed relative to Earth if gravitational waves of certain wavelengths were traveling through the solar system. They expect analysis of the data to take months. Cassini will be used for two more periods of gravitational wave investigation before it reaches Saturn.
Engineers are making progress at correcting a problem of haze on the spacecraft's narrow-angle camera. Warming the camera for a week to a temperature just above freezing has significantly reduced the problem, so that treatment will be repeated for a longer period beginning March 5.
"We're fully confident it is going to get better," said Robert Mitchell, Cassini-Huygens program manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.
The usual operating temperature for the camera is minus 90 Celsius (minus 130 Fahrenheit). Haze on its optics appeared when it was cooled to that temperature after a routine-maintenance heating of the instrument to 30 C (86 F). That occurred following flawless imaging of Jupiter for several months of 2000 and 2001. Heating the camera again, but to only 4 C (39 F), is removing the haze. Test images taken of a star in late January showed the improvement.
Cassini will reach Saturn on July 1, 2004, and release its piggybacked Huygens probe about six months later for descent through the thick atmosphere of the moon Titan on Jan. 14, 2005. Cassini-Huygens is a cooperative mission of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. JPL, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.
|Frozen Smoke Can Catch a Comet |
Pasadena February 13, 2002 (NASA) - The most obvious ideas are not always clear. Take aerogel for instance, a transparent, smoky blue substance that's been especially manufactured to bring home a piece of a comet, among other things.
This exotic substance, commonly referred to as "frozen smoke" for its hazy appearance, has many unusual properties and can withstand extreme temperatures. Its versatility was obscured until it got into the hands of some NASA researchers. They saw through the haze and realized the possibilities. The result was the development of a novel use of aerogel for space exploration.
Much Ado About Nothing
Aerogel is a silicon-based solid with a porous, sponge-like structure in which 99.8 percent of the volume is empty space. By comparison, aerogel is 1,000 times less dense than glass, another silicon-based solid. Discovered in the 1930s by a Stanford University researcher, aerogel is the world's lightest solid.
NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., altered the original recipe to come up with an exciting new way to use aerogel for space exploration. This particular JPL-made aerogel approaches the density of air, but it is durable and easily survives launch and space environments. JPL used aerogel to insulate the electronics box on the Mars Pathfinder Sojourner rover, which explored the red planet in 1997.
Strong Enough To Stop a Bullet in its Track
The Stardust mission, currently on its way to comet Wild 2 (pronounced Vilt 2), will use aerogel to encapsulate interstellar and comet dust particles and bring samples home in 2006. When Stardust encounters the comet, the particles will be traveling up to 6 times the speed of a rifle bullet. To collect these delicate particles, each smaller than a grain of sand, aerogel will gradually slow them to a stop without damaging them or altering their shape and chemical composition.
The aerogel on Stardust was developed and manufactured at JPL. It is less dense at the impact face where the particle encounters the aerogel and yet has a gradually increasing density as the particle burrows deeper and slows to a stop. This is a similar concept to the use of progressive lens in eyeglasses.
The aerogel aboard the Stardust spacecraft is fitted into a tennis racket-shaped collector grid. One side of the collector will face toward the particles coming from the comet, while the reverse, or B side, will be turned to face the streams of interstellar dust at various points in the mission's seven year journey.
When a piece of comet dust hits the aerogel, it buries itself in the material, creating a carrot-shaped track up to 200 times its own length. This slows it down and brings the sample to a relatively gradual stop. After the comet encounter, the aerogel collector will retract into a sample return capsule and return to Earth for logging and storage by scientists at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, where research scientists throughout the world will be able to study and analyze these unique particles.
Clear Uses of Aerogel
Because of its unique combination of physical properties--thermal, acoustical, optical and electronic--aerogel holds incredible potential for Earthly uses.
However, compared to other standard commercial materials, aerogel is still rather costly. Thus, despite the fact that it would make a superior insulator for your home or cooler, you are not likely to see it put to use as such in the near future.
Meanwhile, researchers at JPL are working to improve on the properties and performance of aerogel. By making aerogel more versatile, it might become competitive as a commercial material. Until then, researchers keep looking to the sky, anxiously awaiting the return of the smoky blue substance, which will bring home a souvenir from space.
|Murder Suspect Leaves 50 Grand As Compensation |
|ORLANDO, Fla. February 13, 2002 (AP) — A man charged with murdering his wife left $50,000 on the kitchen counter for the slain woman's children after her death, the victim's daughter said. |
Terry Rapp, 57, is charged with beating Terri Rapp, 56, to death in their home after an argument Jan. 8.
Kristi Davis, 30, said detectives told her that her stepfather left two $25,000 checks made out to her and her brother, Jason Davis, 25.
"It sounds like sympathy money,'' Davis said Tuesday. "It looked like to me that it was compensation for not having my mom.''
Terri Rapp, a travel coordinator for Disney Cruise Lines Inc., disappeared Jan. 10. Rapp and his stepchildren searched for 11 days before he admitted killing her and led authorities to her body in a wooded area, police said.
Davis said the checks were cashed to cover funeral expenses and the Rapps' bills.
|Tree Genome Sequencing |
By Ron Walli
Washington February 11, 2002 (DOE) — Trees like cottonwood, hybrid poplar, and aspen have long been used as model organisms in forestry, and the choice of Populus as the first tree genome to sequence is due in large part to their rapid growth rate, small genome size, and widespread use in areas of interest to the forest industry and DOE.
"This effort will furnish scientists in this country and abroad with an unprecedented molecular 'parts list' for a tree," said Jerry Tuskan, a researcher in ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division. "Such a list will provide the scientific community with a catalog of genes, knowledge as to what these genes do in trees and an exciting opportunity to better understand how trees grow."
Ultimately, this information will allow scientists to more effectively use trees to carry out important functions like carbon sequestration and enhanced production of biomass for fuels and fiber.
This project builds on the success that DOE has had in mapping the human genome, a decade-long effort that is expected to lead to cures and the prevention of diseases in people. While sequencing the human genome took years, researchers at DOE's Joint Genome Institute, ORNL, and cooperating institutions expect to make the genetic blueprint of Populus available within 18 months. And they expect the payback to be significant.
"Genetic sequencing of Populus is expected to lead to faster growing trees, trees that produce more biomass for conversion to fuels, while also sequestering carbon from the atmosphere," said Stan Wullschleger of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division. "In addition, trees with unique traits may be used in phytoremediation, a process whereby trees such as cottonwoods or hybrid poplars could be used to clean up hazardous waste sites.
"Clearly, the information we gain from this effort will benefit ongoing and future projects within DOE and open the doors to countless other opportunities to use woody plants in the pursuit of goals related to traditional forest products and even ecological preservation."
Worldwide, support for the project is high, as more than 100 scientists have indicated via the Web that they believe a poplar genome sequencing effort should be a top priority of forest research. Already, cottonwoods, hybrid poplars, and aspens are being used in a variety of ways ranging from paper production to carbon sequestration to the development of fast-growing trees as a source of feedstocks for renewable bio-based products.
"I have never seen the forest genetics community more excited," said Toby Bradshaw, a molecular biologist with the University of Washington, which helped DOE lay the foundation for this effort. "The sequencing of the poplar genome will be a bonanza for researchers seeking to understand how individual genes influence the growth of trees and their adaptation to the natural environment. This knowledge might eventually be applied to the breeding of fast-growing trees capable of producing wood, fiber, and energy sustainably on a small amount of land."
In addition to ORNL, participants in the international project include the Joint Genome Institute, the University of Washington, Genome Canada, and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences. The Joint Genome Institute sequencing facility will produce half of the sequence this year and another half in 2003.
|Ancient Peruvian City in Dire Peril |
By Missy Ryan
Lima, Peru February 7, 2002 (Reuters) - The remains of a city thought to be the oldest in the Americas, buried under Peruvian soil since the era of Egypt's pyramids, could be destroyed by erosion and exposure to the elements if the world community does not rush to the rescue, archeologists said on Wednesday.
Researchers believe that Caral, a complex of stone temples, altars and dwellings located in a desert valley 185km north of Lima, dates to before 2600 BC - around the same time the famed Giza pyramids were built in Egypt.
"Nowhere in Peru or in the Americas - in the Mexican hills or in Mayan lowlands - is there a city this old. Peru predates (other sites) by 1 500 years," archeologist Ruth Shady, who has headed Caral's excavation since 1994, told reporters.
Caral, whose importance was brought to the world's attention last year in research appearing in the journal Science, was recently named one of the world's 100 most-endangered cultural heritage sites for 2002 by the nonprofit New York-based World Monuments Fund. But now, even as archeologists uncover the city's foremost areas, including an amphitheater 30 meters in diameter, Shady said the site was in danger of swift deterioration due to erosion and exposure to the elements.
Shady said that there already were signs that structures that have withstood centuries could collapse without buttressing, while paint that has adorned buried buildings was flaking off due to daily temperature fluctuations.
"Thousands of years have passed, and some walls are giving in," she said.
According to the World Monuments Fund, the site faces the added risks of agricultural encroachment, looting, governmental failure to implement protection measures and insufficient funds for proper conservation. While the cash-strapped government of Peru has committed some 1,8 million soles (about R6-million) for the project, Shady said international donations were needed desperately, adding that the World Monuments Fund already was seeking funds.
"This belongs not only to all Peruvians but to all of humanity so the international community needs to contribute to its conservation," she said.
Shady says the "sacred city," which sprawls 65 hectares across the inland valley floor, shattered earlier ideas about when civilization first flourished in the New World.
"This changes the idea that civilization was slow in arriving in the New World... and shows civilization appeared around the same time (in the Old World and the New World)," she told reporters.
In its heyday, which Shady said lasted about a thousand years, Caral was home to about 3 000 people. They lived in a complex society marked by class divisions - with the elite housed in sprawling buildings and servants housed in more spartan settlements nearby - as well as specific religious areas. The city dominated scores of nearby settlements, she added, and Caral residents traded goods with the Pacific coast to the west and the Andean and jungle regions to the east.
Among the site's most precious finds are 32 flutes made of condor and pelican bones, delicately engraved with images of monkeys, birds, and human faces.
Shady said Peru's biggest telecommunications firm Telefonica del Peru SA, a unit of Spain's Telefonica SA, had pledged to finance the restoration and preservation of one major pyramid-like structure at Caral. Shady said she hoped tourists would visit the site. Tourism represents a lucrative economic contributor for the culturally vibrant but impoverished nation.
Peruvian sites such as the famed Inca citadel Machu Picchu in the Andean highlands, and the Nasca lines, mysterious giant etchings in the southern desert, draw thousands of tourists each year.
|FBI Probes Death of Crime Suspect |
|MEMPHIS February 13, 2002 (AP) — The focus of an investigation into a fraudulent driver's license scheme with possible terrorism ties has shifted to the mysterious death of a chief suspect, whose car went up in flames a day before her court hearing. |
Katherine Smith, 49, was found burned beyond recognition early Sunday in a car crash that a prosecutor described as "most unusual and suspicious.'' Her arraignment in federal court was scheduled for Monday.
"Was it an accident? Was it a suicide? Or was it something else?'' FBI spokesman George Bolds said Tuesday. "It's not clear what happened exactly.''
The car Smith was driving ran off the road and struck a utility pole in a rural area just north of the Mississippi state line, Highway Patrol Lt. Col. Mark Fagan said.
Smith's car "was immediately engulfed in flames,'' but authorities do not know whether the fire started before or after the crash. The body was so badly burned it took authorities until Tuesday to confirm Smith's identity.
FBI agent J. Suzanne Nash said the gas tank did not explode and the car was only slightly dented from the crash. Authorities said the woman's family last saw her Saturday night and they did not know why she was driving in rural Fayette County, where the crash occurred early Sunday. The area is 40 miles from her home. Bolds said it may take two or three weeks to complete an autopsy and forensic tests on the car.
Smith and the five men — all Middle Easterners — were charged last week by federal officials with conspiracy to get Tennessee driver's licenses under false pretenses. The FBI was also investigating whether Smith's co-defendants have connections to the Sept. 11 attacks or other terrorist ties.
A federal court hearing for three of the men, Mostafa Said Abou-Shahin, Abdelmuhsen Mahmid Hammad and Mohammed Fares, was set for Wednesday afternoon. Authorities did not give their ages and said they admitted being in the country illegally. The two others — Khaled Odtllah, 31, and Sakhera Hammad, 24 — were being held without bond following a Monday court hearing.
Smith and the five men were arrested Feb. 5 after they left a driver testing station in Memphis. Prosecutors said Smith had processed four driver's license applications that morning based on false information provided by Odtllah.
Smith, a license examiner for nine years, told authorities that Odtllah was a friend who had asked for help getting licenses six or seven times, Nash said.
Nash said that when Sakhera Hammad was arrested, investigators found a Sept. 5 visitor's pass for the World Trade Center in his wallet. He told authorities he was a plumber and worked on the center's sprinkler system. He said Abdelmuhsen Mahmid Hammad was a cousin who worked with him, Nash said. Federal authorities learned that Odtllah drove to Memphis from New York City on Sept. 11, Nash said.
Nash said in court Monday there was no reason to believe any of the five men was a terrorist.
|Scientists Scoop Whale Poop for Clues on Diet |
By Michael Perry
SYDNEY February 11, 2002 (Reuters) - Australian scientists have developed a non-lethal way of studying the eating habits of the world's whales -- they scoop up their feces and study the DNA of digested prey.
The scientists say they will present their unique research at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Japan this year as a possible alternative to Japan's annual kill of minke whales to study their impact on commercial fish stocks.
"To have any type of fisheries management where you are setting quotas on a commercial species of fish you need to have an understanding what else lives on that fish in the food web,'' researcher Nick Gales told Reuters on Tuesday.
"From a good understanding of the dynamics of the food web in an area you can develop quotas that are ecologically sustainable,'' said Gales from the Australian Antarctic Division. "We are saying this is a powerful non-lethal tool for the study of whale diets.''
A fleet of five Japanese vessels is now in the Southern Ocean hunting minke whales. The fleet plans to catch around 400 minke whales before returning to port in April. Japan is allowed under a 15-year-old international moratorium on commercial whaling to catch a certain number of whales for scientific research. But environmental groups say some of the whale meat ends up being used by Japan's restaurant industry.
Australian Antarctic Division scientists began their whale waste research in 2001, firstly using pygmy blue whales off Australia's southern and western coasts. The pygmy blue whale was selected as it eats a specific species of krill that swims to the surface, enabling scientists to test their new DNA technique. Today, whale researchers are collecting feces from blue whales off the United States and Canada, humpbacks around the Antarctic and sperm and breeder whales off New Zealand.
Gales said the collection of whale poo is not difficult.
"Animals that live in the water will tend to defecate near the surface when their bodies are not under a large amount of pressure from the water,'' Gales explains. "Whale scat breaks up and dissipates in the water quite quickly, so in the water you will see a large brown stain behind a whale as it dives... We built simple plankton-type nets. You just come along in your small boat when you see whale stains and pull the net through it and collect the sample and preserve it.''
But until last year scientists could not determine what a whale ate by simply studying its feces as the digestive process broke down the prey and degraded its DNA.
"With animals like whales there is very little left in a scat that you can identify as a hard part, like an air bone from a fish or body of a krill, to identify what it has been eating,'' Gales said. "So we developed a genetic method of extracting all the DNA out of a predator scat sample and then amplify that DNA to determine what prey was ingested.''
Gales said the whale feces research was still in its early stages as scientists had yet to devise a method to determine the quantity of food a whale consumed. The technique would also be used to study the eating habits of penguins, seals and dolphins.
|Dinosaur Vomit Discovered in Quarry |
Peterborough UK February 12, 2002 (BBC) - Fossilized "dinosaur" vomit has been discovered in a quarry in Peterborough.
Scientists believe the vomit, estimated to be 160 million years old, gives vital clues to the feeding habits of ichthyosaurs, marine reptiles that lived at the same time as the dinosaurs.
Detailed analysis has revealed the remains of dozens of belemnites - an ancient sea creature - within the fossilized substance.
Professor Peter Doyle, of the University of Greenwich, believes the belemnite shells contained in the vomit indicate that they were regurgitated. The process is shared by the modern-day sperm whale.
Professor Doyle said: "It is highly unlikely that these shells passed through the ichthyosaur's intestines and were excreted as droppings because they would have damaged the soft tissue of the reptile's internal organs. The only alternative is that the shells were vomited out in much the same way that modern-day sperm whales regurgitate the indigestible beaks of squid."
Further examination has revealed distinctive etching marks on the shells. These are believed to have been caused by the digestive fluids from the gut of the ichthyosaur.
Ichthyosaurs swam in the ocean when dinosaurs walked on land. They appeared slightly earlier than dinosaurs (250 million years ago) and lived until about 90 million years ago.
Professor Doyle said: "The Peterborough belemnite shells have revealed acid etching marks, proving that they had been eaten by a predator. The fact that most of these belemnites were juveniles reinforces our view that they did not die of old age."
The research team believes the acid etching marks provide the first hard evidence that ichythosaurs vomited the inedible parts of shellfish to avoid internal damage and chronic indigestion.