|Red Planet Mars! |
Black Hole Monster
and Tony Blair!
|Mars Odyssey Begins! |
Mars Spacecraft Orbit Thrills NASA
By ANDREW BRIDGES
AP Science Writer
PASADENA October 25, 2001 (AP) - NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey spacecraft circled the Red Planet on Wednesday on its first full day in orbit, two years after the space agency suffered back-to-back failures by Mars missions. The craft fired its engine Tuesday night to slow its speed, then arced over Mars' north pole into orbit.
Odyssey arrived nearly directly on its target - 480 miles above Mars' surface - and is slowly moving away from the planet, said mission engineer Guy Beutelschies. No problems were reported.
"Everything went according to plan," Beutelschies said. "We did a little bit better than we expected."
Odyssey's orbit will be adjusted to a circular route 250 miles above the surface by means of aerobraking - dipping into the atmosphere in an around-the-clock process set to begin Friday. The spacecraft should settle into its final two-hour orbit by late January. The mission's initial success served as redemption for NASA after its earlier Mars missions failed.
"This embodies the American spirit. We showed we could win after being slammed a few times," said retiring NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin.
Odyssey's mission to study the makeup of Mars and to search for frozen reservoirs of water faced a critical step with the first and only firing of its engine. Failure could have sent the spacecraft hurtling past the planet. Tension mounted at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory when the expected indication - a change in a signal transmitted from the spacecraft - was not detected as expected at 7:26 p.m. More than 4 minutes passed before the firing was confirmed.
"I was getting really worried then," project manager Matt Landano said.
Contact with Odyssey was lost as expected during its 20-minute pass behind the planet. Mission control erupted in cheers and high fives when the signal reappeared from across 93 million miles. Early indications showed Odyssey was in an orbit circling Mars every 19 hours, Landano said. The spacecraft, which flew a six-month, 286 million-mile course to rendezvous with the Red Planet, had been targeted for an orbit of 20 hours or less.
"These guys really redeemed themselves," said Ed Weiler, NASA's associate administrator for space science. "America needs some good news, especially now. Not many countries can do this and we showed that we could, right on the money."
Arrival at Mars has been perilous for previous NASA missions. Mars Observer disappeared as it neared the planet in 1993, probably due to a fuel system explosion. In 1999, a mix-up between English and metric units put the Climate Orbiter too close to Mars, causing it to burn up in the atmosphere. NASA's Polar Lander vanished three months later, probably due to a software error sending it crashing to the planet's surface.
Overall, fewer than one-third of the 30 missions launched to the planet by the United States and other countries since 1960 have succeeded. The 1999 failures forced NASA to re-examine its processes and overhaul its ambitious plans for robotic missions to Mars.
"We were successful only because we had a failure last time," Goldin said. "They checked and rechecked and the failure caused them to pay attention to things they had ignored before."
NASA has continued to explore Mars from orbit via the Global Surveyor, which arrived in 1997 and has sent back thousands of detailed images.
Odyssey has instruments to map the distribution of minerals and search for water across the planet's surface. Liquid water is considered a necessary element for life; finding reservoirs could help determine whether life ever existed on Mars. Another instrument measures radiation and how that might endanger humans if they ever explore Mars.
Profile of 2001 Mars Odyssey Mission
October 22, 2001 (AP - Here are some facts about the 2001 Mars Odyssey mission, compiled by the Associated Press:
- Name: Inspired by "2001: A Space Odyssey," the movie written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick.
- Journey: 286 million miles in six and a half months.
- Spacecraft: Built by Lockheed Martin Astronautics. The 1,598-pound, unmanned satellite is 7.2 feet long, 5.6 feet tall and 8.5 feet wide.
- Cost: $297 million.
- Communications: Microwave signals take 8 minutes, 30 seconds to reach Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
- Power: Solar array produces 750 watts of power.
- Mission: Map chemicals and minerals that make up Martian surface. Seek out hidden reservoirs of water and assess radiation risks to future human missions.
- Timetable: Primary scientific mission lasts from January 2002 to July 2004. The spacecraft also will serve as a communications relay for American and international spacecraft in 2003 and 2004.
- History: Sixth American spacecraft sent to Mars in the past decade. About 30 spacecraft have been launched to Mars since 1960; more than two-thirds have failed.
- Future: Twin American rovers and a British lander set to land on the planet in next three years. NASA set to send another orbiter in 2005 and a lander in 2007.
Arizona Faculty's Invention Makes It To Mars
By Brian B. Gruters
Arizona Daily Wildcat
TUCSON October 24, 2001 (U-WIRE) - An anxious group of scientists watched from Kuiper Space Science's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory Tuesday evening as a spacecraft carrying a system designed by University of Arizona scientists entered Mars' orbit.
The UA-designed Gamma Ray Spectrometer -- which analyzes the distribution of chemical elements on Mars to determine whether water ever existed there -- arrived at the red planet on the Mars Odyssey, a spacecraft launched in April.
"This is a big key to understanding if life could have gotten started on Mars," said William Boynton, a UA planetary scientist who led the team that designed and built the GRS.
As the spacecraft neared Mars, it began the complex and risky procedure of entering the planet's orbit. Precisely on schedule the Odyssey sent a signal indicating it had reached orbit and was online. Then it disappeared behind Mars, beginning its orbit, and was unable to communicate with Earth for 20 minutes. As it emerged at 8 p.m., the Odyssey sent another signal indicating it was back online and had begun its orbit of Mars. As NASA received the signals, scientists from around the city watched a real time update of the satellite's progress.
When the initial signal was received, observers at NASA and LPL broke into applause. Then they waited for the Odyssey to re-emerge from its 20-minute blackout period. When the second signal was received the scientists burst into celebration. One shouted, "We're here!" as the crowd applauded and popped champagne corks. This "burn" of the engines is a complex process that has failed in the past, as it did in 1993 when NASA's Mars Observer entered the Martian atmosphere and was lost. That spacecraft was carrying the original GRS.
Dave Hamara of the GRS team worked on the Mars Observer and the 1998 Mars Lander, both of which failed during the critical stage of orbit entry. Hamara said he was relieved the Odyssey made it.
"I'm one for three," he said.
The GRS is a combination of instruments, including a gamma sensor head and two neutron spectrometers. Combined, these devices help to confirm the presence of water on Mars by analyzing the Martian soil's chemical composition and mapping the exterior of Mars for surface waters. Bill Feldman, a Los Alamos National Laboratory scientist who developed the neutron spectrometers, co-wrote the initial GRS proposal 17 years ago and witnessed the 1993 failure.
"I've got my whole soul into this," he said.
Mustard Study Shows Evidence of Climate Change on Mars
By Jinhee Chung
Brown Daily Herald
PROVIDENCE, R.I. October 22, 2001 (U-WIRE) - The climate of Mars has changed very recently, according to images recorded by a special high-resolution camera as part of the research of John Mustard, Brown University professor of geological sciences.
Mustard's work, conducted with Christopher Cooper and Moses Rifken, shows evidence that the planet's ice mantle has moved continuously north toward the equator, indicating a very recent climate change on Mars -- much more recent than scientists previously had thought.
Images taken by Mars Orbiter Camera show an uneven terrain full of pits and holes near the equator and an intact terrain further north. Mustard concluded the uneven terrain is due to the melting of ice, which evaporated in an increasingly warmer climate. Farther north and not deep beneath the unbroken mantle, the ice is still intact. About 100,000 years ago ice was stable and remained frozen in Mars' soil within 30 degrees of the equator; however, now the ice is stable only 50 degrees from the equator and higher, Mustard's work showed.
"So this is evidence that the climate has changed on Mars, much like the climate on earth changes, giving us the ice ages," said Mustard in an e-mail.
Mustard currently is in France. This discovery does not directly support the theory of life on Mars. However, ice in the soil could be used as a source of water on the planet.
"If the water could be unfrozen, it would be mobilized to support environments where life could exist," Mustard said in the e-mail.
Scientists Track "Perfect Storm" on Mars
October 11, 2001 (NASA) - Two dramatically different faces of our Red Planet neighbor appear in these comparison images showing how a global dust storm engulfed Mars with the onset of Martian spring in the Southern Hemisphere. When NASA's Hubble Space Telescope imaged Mars in June, the seeds of the storm were caught brewing in the giant Hellas Basin (oval at 4 o'clock position on disk) and in another storm at the northern polar cap.
When Hubble photographed Mars in early September, the storm had already been raging across the planet for nearly two months obscuring all surface features. The fine airborne dust blocks a significant amount of sunlight from reaching the Martian surface. Because the airborne dust is absorbing this sunlight, it heats the upper atmosphere. Seasonal global Mars dust storms have been observed from telescopes for over a century, but this is the biggest storm ever seen in the past several decades.
Mars looks gibbous in the right photograph because is it 26 million miles farther from Earth than in the left photo (though the pictures have been scaled to the same angular size), and our viewing angle has changed. The left picture was taken when Mars was near its closest approach to Earth for 2001 (an event called opposition); at that point the disk of Mars was fully illuminated as seen from Earth because Mars was exactly opposite the Sun.
Both images are in natural color, taken with Hubble's Wide Field Planetary Camera 2.
Credit: NASA, James Bell (Cornell Univ.), Michael Wolff (Space Science Inst.), and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
NASA Wants Volunteers to Go to Bed for a Month
WASHINGTON October 23, 2001 (Reuters) - The perfect job for troubled times just may be at NASA, where researchers are offering $11 an hour to volunteers who agree to go to bed for a month.
Of course there's a catch: successful candidates must spend the time with their heads tilted downward at a 6 degree angle to simulate conditions of long-duration space flight. On the plus side, they get to do it in Northern California, at NASA's Ames Research Center south of San Francisco.
So far, NASA has gotten hundreds of responses to its help-wanted notice, according to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Heather Wilson.
"We weren't sure what to expect, but we are so far happy with the amount of responses," Wilson said in answer to e-mailed questions. Her voice-mail at a number listed on a NASA news release was so full it refused to take messages last week.
The only real surprise was that significantly more men than women expressed interest, Wilson said in the e-mail received on Monday.
The 10 subjects chosen will start work in January 2002, and will stay in bed for 30 days in the head-down position, according to project manager Fritz Moore.
"Head-down bed rest simulates weightlessness and induces many of the physiological changes similar to those seen with space flight," Moore said in a statement.
On the Net:
Mars storm: http://www.msss.com
|Fungus Attacking Pumpkins In US |
By JOHN SEEWER
TOLEDO, Ohio October 24, 2001 (AP) - A fungus that rises from the ground is attacking fields of pumpkins in the eastern third of the country and covering acres of Halloween gourds with white spots.
Some pumpkin farmers in Ohio have lost as much as half their crop.
"Why it would show up here all of a sudden I haven't a clue," said Mac Riedel, a vegetable pathologist at Ohio State University.
The fungus, known as Michrodocium blight, has long been found in Europe but didn't appear in the United States until 13 years ago, when it was found in Tennessee. It has since spread into big pumpkin-growing states in the Midwest and along the East Coast.
The fungus seems to attack and spread when the weather is cool and wet. It first targets the pumpkin's stems and leaves, making the stems brittle, and then covers the gourd with a scabby surface of white and tan spots.
"Once the cosmetic value is destroyed, it's a total loss," Riedel said.
Illinois lost half of its crop a year ago, but the impact has been much less dramatic this season. While the fungus first was found in the South, it has crept into isolated fields as far away as Massachusetts in the past year. It hasn't been a good year for pumpkins in general. Dry weather in New York and Michigan shrunk the size of pumpkins in those states and has led to higher prices. While losses have mounted for some farmers, pumpkin prices at supermarkets and farmers' markets have remained steady in many states. That's because there is generally an oversupply of pumpkins, growers say. At least 10 different diseases can turn a bright orange pumpkin patch into a field of decaying black and green gourds. Most can be treated with sprays and fungicides.
It's not that simple with Michrodocium blight.
"We know very little about how to control it," said Mohammad Badoost, a University of Illinois researcher.
The loss of pumpkins last year in Illinois, the nation's largest pumpkin-growing state, forced some growers to buy pumpkins from other farmers to meet demand. Some farmers have been able to fight the disease with regular use of a fungicide, said Mary Ann Hansen, manager of the plant disease clinic at Virginia Tech University. What's most puzzling is that the disease can attack one field while leaving another patch just a few miles away untouched. At least half of the pumpkins were destroyed in one field at Fulton's Farms in Troy, Ohio, while another field nearby lost less than 20 percent.
"It got pretty bad before we knew what was happening," said Bill Fulton, owner of the farm. "I'd never seen it before."
Some customers were told that their entire orders won't be filled.
"We'll sell 60 percent of what we should have," Fulton said.
|Ocean Bioinvasions Increasing! |
By JOHN HEILPRIN
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON October 22, 2001 (AP) - An invasion of giant Australian jellyfish clogs shrimp nets in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Swarms of Chinese mitten crabs with a taste for salmon choke water pumps in San Francisco Bay.
These are just a couple of the ones scientists know about.
Along coastal areas home to nearly two-thirds of the U.S. population, the rate of known "bioinvasions" of aquatic species, pathogens, parasites and weeds has increased exponentially over the past 200 years, scientists warned Monday at a briefing for White House officials.
In a report outlining the problem, the Pew Oceans Commission, a panel formed last year by the nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts, called for a federal "strike force" and $50 million to eradicate the invaders.
"We really don't have a good grasp on the number of invasions going on," the Pew report's author, James T. Carlton, director of the maritime studies program of Williams College and Mystic Seaport, said Monday.
The Pew-sponsored commission recommends better enforcing of mandatory ballast water exchanges and regulating intentional releases of live non-native marine organisms. It also calls for an early warning system that would be run by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service.
A July report by Congress' investigative arm said invasive species cause billions of dollars in damage to crops, rangelands and waterways and is "one of the most serious environmental threats of the 21st century."
More than 20 federal agencies already are addressing the issue. The bulk of the work is being done by the Agriculture Department, which last year spent more than half a billion dollars seeking solutions, the General Accounting Office said.
An interagency federal task force created in 1999 came up with a plan early this year emphasizing early detection and prevention of species arriving through ships, drilling platforms, dry docks, canals, fisheries, aquariums and other means.
"The problem is accelerating," said Lori Williams, the task force's executive director. "Right now we're still in the 'make people aware of the problem' phase."
Pew Oceans Commission: http://www.pewoceans.org
Federal site: http://www.invasivespecies.gov
|Man Lives On Diet of Ants and Leaves |
|CARACAS October 22, 2001 (Reuters) - A German tourist lost for six days in the Venezuelan jungle survived on a diet of water and ants and had only a penknife to defend himself against wild animals. |
Dr. Hanns-Juergen Linke was rescued by a National Guard helicopter on Wednesday in Venezuela's southeast Gran Sabana region, the German Embassy said.
The Gran Sabana, which contains the Canaima National Park, is a wild, sparsely populated area the size of Belgium that has jagged, jungle-draped table mountains and the world's highest waterfall.
A helicopter rescue team found Linke after spotting the letters S.O.S., which he had drawn in the sand by a river. They said he was weak but otherwise in good health.
Before flying home to Germany on Friday night, Linke told reporters he had got lost in the jungle during a tourist hike in the Auyantepui area of the Cainama Park.
"When I realized, I couldn't see anyone anymore and I didn't know where I was," he said.
With no coat and only a small Swiss-made penknife to protect himself, Linke wandered for six days through the wilderness. He lived off water and ants.
"I had heard that the Indians ate them. But I stopped eating them later because they burned my lips," he said. He also tried eating leaves "but I didn't like them."
|Roswell and X-Files News! |
Roswell Happy With UPN
Hollywood October 23, 2001 (SCI FI Wire) - Ronald D. Moore, co-executive producer of UPN's teen alien series Roswell, told SCI FI Wire that he's pleased so far with the direction the show is taking on its new network.
"We feel very good about the show creatively," Moore said in an interview about the series, which aired its third episode of the season on Oct. 23. "It seemed like by the end of the second season and the last, like, half-dozen episodes, we had sort of found what we thought was the best and most comfortable mix of science fiction and the relationship aspects of the show, and we were really happy with where we ended up last season."
Moore added, "So this year what we tried to do was sort of stay in that groove and maintain that kind of feeling to the show and the mix of stories. ... The opportunity to introduce the show to a whole new crop of viewers also meant that we could also relaunch the show in a certain sense. So we looked at the first episode as almost like a new pilot, to sort of say, 'Here's the show, here's the characters. And here's where they are in the world, and what you've kind of missed.' And then to sort of look at the rest of the episodes a little more episodically than we had previously."
One of the key changes this season is a move away from long, multi-episode story arcs, Moore said.
"On The WB, the network really wanted long, continuing complicated storylines, making it heavily serialized, which also kind of put new viewers at a distance to a certain extent," he said. "And at UPN, it's sort of the opposite. We want it to be more episodic. We want you to be able to tune in and not feel like you've missed everything. But it's a delicate balance, because at the same time, we need to maintain the continuity of the show to the people who are already our fans and who expect a certain follow-up. But we don't want it to be so burdensome to the new viewer that they turn it off and go, 'Oh, God, I don't know what's going on.' But we feel pretty good about it, and we think we've sort of struck that balance."
Moore added that the show's creators aren't overly concerned with competition from The WB's Smallville, which premiered last week to stellar ratings.
"We knew going in that it was going to premiere very big," Moore said. "It's the new Superman show. I mean, it's like, I'm curious. There's a given curiosity factor that is going to bring people over to that show to just see it. 'Yeah, what's this new Superman thing they're doing?' So we knew that, and so we were prepared to let them have a big premiere and a solid follow-up rating or two. ... But after the bloom is off the rose, and they have to do it every week, then it's going to be a fair fight, and we'll just see what happens."
Roswell airs Tuesday nights on UPN at 9 p.m. ET/PT.
Major Roswell Fan Site - http://www.crashdown.com
X-Files Debut Delayed
Hollywood October 23, 2001 (SCI FI Wire) - Fox will delay the ninth-season premiere of The X-Files to Nov. 11 from Nov. 4, the Zap2it.com Web site reported. The premiere is being moved to avoid the rescheduled Emmy Awards ceremony and the possible game seven of the World Series, the site reported.
The two-part premiere will feature Xena: Warrior Princess star Lucy Lawless and Princess Bride actor Cary Elwes. The second part of the episode will air on Nov. 18.
Fox will also delay the series premiere of The Tick one week, to Nov. 8 from Nov. 1. The Tick, starring Patrick Warburton, will air Thursdays at 8:30 p.m.
Official X-Files Site - http://www.xfiles.com
Nice Alternate X-Files site (ahem) - http://flatdisk.net/keyox
|Mummy Mysteries! |
Schoolboy Deciphers Mummy Mystery
By Sarah Cassidy
UK October 22, 2001 (Independent Digital) - A schoolboy who taught himself to read hieroglyphics has outwitted experts in Egyptology by identifying a 2,600-year-old mummy that had baffled museum curators for more than 100 years. The ancient writing on the mummy's casket had confounded archaeologists at Sheffield Museum since it was donated to the city by a private collector in 1893.
But 17-year-old Adam Cadwell, an A-level student from Sheffield who was on work experience at the museum, translated the intricate inscription covering the mummy's casket to reveal the identity of the embalmed Egyptian inside.
Adam discovered the mummy was a young woman called Djema'at, the daughter of a wealthy upper middle-class family from Thebes, who was aged 14 when she died.
His translation revealed the inscription contained lists of offerings that her family hoped the gods would provide for their daughter, including 100 jars of beer, 100 jars of wine and 100 wheaten loaves. He also discovered a spell for charming the gods written on her casket. Djerma'at's family would have believed that she could use this in the after-life to win over the gods. He found that she lived during the 26th dynasty, about 650 BC.
Adam, who hopes to become an Egyptologist, said: "This is all I have ever wanted to do. When you mention archaeology people imagine that you must be like Indiana Jones running around with a Stetson and a whip rather than being on your hands and knees all day with a trowel.
"My interest is in language so I'm not really an Indiana Jones-type figure – but if Lara Croft from Tomb Raider ever needs an assistant I'll be there."
The museum's curators started to research the mummy's identity in earnest in 1992, using X-rays and CT scans to determine her origin. But until Adam came to the museum they had been unable to translate the hieroglyphics covering the casket. Adam first became interested in ancient Egypt after learning about its history at primary school. His fascination with the country prompted his parents to take him on holiday to Egypt when he was nine years old.
"I came home [from school] reeling off useless facts I learnt that day," he said. "My parents were looking for a place to go on holiday and they said, 'Why don't we give Egypt a try?' So I ended up in front of the temple of Karnak, and that was it. It all spiraled from there."
Adam first achieved national acclaim in July when he discovered a rare ancient Egyptian burial figure lying forgotten in a dusty drawer at a museum in Harrogate. He read the inscription and realized the six-inch figure had been removed from the tomb of an Egyptian Queen who had died 3,000 years before. It had been left to Harrogate museum by a private collector but curators had been unaware of its value and rarity.
Anne Murrey, chairwoman of the North Yorkshire Ancient Egypt Group, which boasts Adam as its youngest member, said: "Adam is an extremely clever young man. He reads hieroglyphics like you or I would read a newspaper. We have been going through the storerooms of the local museums looking at objects that have been forgotten for decades. Adam has been translating the inscriptions and we are delighted that he has found some real treasures."
Gill Woolrich, Sheffield Museum's curator of archaeology, said: "We are really pleased that Adam has been able to finally identify the mummy. We have done a lot of work to find out more about its identity but until now we never had anyone who could read these hieroglyphics."
Mummification Was Not So Simple
By WILLIAM McCALL
Associated Press Writer
Bristol, England October 24, 2001 (AP) - The ancient Egyptians prepared mummies in ways more complex than previously believed, using such embalming materials as plant oils, tree resin and beeswax, researchers say.
Richard Evershed and Stephen Buckley of the University of Bristol in England removed and analyzed tiny samples from 13 mummies at several British museums, and identified some of the substances used to preserve the dead.
The choice of embalming materials indicates the ancient Egyptians understood the value of antibacterial agents and different ways to dry the body before preserving it, Evershed said.
"I'm not suggesting they knew what bacteria were," he said, "but they had an understanding that water was part of bacterial decomposition."
The study discounted previous theories that embalmers used petroleum-based materials, which are relatively common in the oil-rich Middle East. Repeated tests found no traces of oil, Evershed said.
Sarah Wisseman of the University of Illinois-Urbana said the research shows that the embalming techniques were refined over time.
"What this is suggesting is these Egyptian embalmers had a very sophisticated knowledge about mummification," she said. "And over time, they had to adjust to shifting supplies of materials, plus shifting political conditions, such as when the Greeks and Romans took over."
The study, published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, tested samples from mummies ranging from nearly 4,000 years old - when ancient Egypt was reaching its peak - to less than 2,000 years old, when the Roman Empire controlled the region.
Some of the tree resins dried to a hard finish, much like the surface of an oil painting. The Middle East had a plentiful supply of cedar, cypress and pine during that era.
"One child mummy looks like it's been varnished, like it's been lacquered from head to toe," Evershed said.
Wisseman said mummification spread from the ruling class in Egypt to become a relatively middle-class practice.
"As the Greek historian Herodotus tells us, the quality of mummification came down to the size of your pocketbook," she said. "So you could get expensive or very cut-rate treatments, or anything in between. Sometimes they'd just coat the body and wash it off later."
She noted that the procedure used by Evershed and Buckley required samples of less than a few millionths of an ounce - an important consideration for museums that work hard to preserve the mummies.
"Museum curators know they can offer just a tiny, tiny bit of material to provide something useful for future studies," she said.
British Museum: http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk
|Historic Film Reels Rescued From Skip |
|BY DALYA ALBERGE |
UK October 20, 2001 (BBC) - Thousands of feet of silent film discovered in a derelict toyshop in Lancashire give a unique insight into life in late Victorian and early Edwardian Britain.
More than 800 reels, each about 100ft long, contain over 26 hours of rare footage. They were found sealed in barrels bound for the skip in the building in Blackburn that was once home to a pair of little-known northern film-makers.
Experts at the British Film Institute (BFI) say that the find will transform cinema history because so little has survived from its earliest days.
The films, preserved in dark, airtight conditions, feature scenes from factories, street life, transport, sporting events, royal visits and parades. They also portray bowler-hatted football spectators, cloth-capped workers emerging in their thousands from factory gates at the end of the day, and women wearing clogs and bonnets.
Patrick Russell, a keeper at BFI Collections, said: “The survival of this huge quantity of such fragile material from the late 1890s and early 1900s is miraculous. The find is of profound cultural significance. The size of the collection alone guarantees that early British film history will be rewritten as a result.”
Many of the films were commissioned by traveling showmen and fairground operators to show across the country. They feature scenes from the North of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
They were produced in Blackburn between 1899 and 1913 by Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon, whose film work included a reconstruction of the Boer War using local actors. “This is very different,” Mr Russell said. “We will have to reassess early British film history. The discovery means that Mitchell and Kenyon will move from being a footnote to something far more significant.”
The film-makers’ premises in Northgate changed hands three times after their partnership was dissolved in 1922. When the last business closed, Mr Russell said, some mysterious sealed barrels were found by men clearing the premises. They were opened by a local historian, Peter Worden, 63, an optician who remembered Mitchell from his childhood.
Mr Worden, who has handed the footage to the BFI, has had a lifelong fascination with film and recalls Mitchell running a camera shop in the building. “I remember him as rather severe, but not harsh, with a typical Victorian-style moustache waxed at the tips,” he said.
Mr Worden knew that material had been left in the cellar when the premises became a toyshop, but his attempts to investigate at the time were rejected. “When the toyshop closed down, the next owner was stripping the building and I had to persuade them not to put the barrels in a skip.
“The most important thing about the films is that they’re generally not images of kings and queens and generals, although there are some — King Edward visiting the Isle of Man in about 1904 — but real people. There are horse drawn tram rides through the streets of Sheffield, football matches, incredible stuff of steamers at Blackpool.”
Vanessa Toulmin, a social historian and director of the National Fairground Archive at Sheffield University, described the find as the “crown jewels” of early film. “It suggests that traveling showmen played a more significant role in the evolution of cinema than previously realized,” she said.
The unlabelled films are identified by inscriptions that appear on the opening frames. One features a lace factory in Nottingham. A 1906 film, Launching of the Dominion, shows the ship going down the slipway in Glasgow. A 1902 film, Opening of Cork Exhibition, features boating scenes at a regatta in the city. Among films yet to be studied is one entitled Lady Godiver in Coventry: precisely what it shows remains to be seen.
Mr Russell said that about 80 of the films show workers leaving their factories at lunchtime or the end of the day. “They show a lot of variations — how people react to the camera, different kinds of factories, different classes of workers, different clothing. For the public, there was an obvious thrill in seeing themselves on film. The showmen seemed to cram as many people in a frame as possible.
“The street scenes are particularly important because they predate the bombing of cities and subsequent redevelopments that have affected the way northern and Scottish cities look.”
He noted too the prevalence of hats: “People don’t wear hats as much as they used to.”
Dr Toulmin said: “There’s so much to see in the costumes and the way people dressed. The seaside ones are amazing, people promenading, walking up and down in their Sunday best. What amazes me is it’s so clean, really spotless.”
The BFI has begun preserving and studying the films. It plans to make them available to the public, through publications, videos and a tour. “So the films will travel the country as they did nearly a century ago,” Mr Russell said.
British Film Institute - http://www.bfi.org.uk
|Valenti Urges Filmmakers To Do Their Job |
CHANTILLY, Va. October 25, 2001 (AP) - Filmmakers don't need to avoid sensitive topics because of last month's terrorist attacks -- as long as they tell a good story, said Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti.
"I'm a great believer in making a movie that tells a story,'' Valenti said Wednesday. "There are only about eight plot lines since the time of Sophocles and Euripides that still endure.''
He said producers of the Arnold Schwarzenegger film "Collateral Damage,'' in which a firefighter confronts terrorists, responded to legitimate concerns when they postponed the opening from early October. But, he noted, the film's terrorists are eventually beaten by Schwarzenegger's character.
Valenti is urging filmmakers to continue their daily routines.
"Be fearful. Be anxious. That's OK. But do your job,'' he said.
Valenti spoke at a trade show organized by the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce.
|US to Ease Hard-Rock Mining Rules |
|By Christopher Doering |
WASHINGTON October 24, 2001 (Reuters) - The Bush administration is set to abandon Clinton-era environmental restrictions on mining for gold, silver, copper and other metals on federal lands, green groups said on Wednesday.
The Interior Department will announce its so-called hard-rock mining regulations on Thursday.
"Environmental issues such as mining-specific water standards, cleanup standards" and the ability to stop operations in mines even after they have passed environmental tests "are all out of the rule," Lexi Shultz, director at the Mineral Policy Center in Washington, told Reuters.
The Bush administration said earlier this year it would keep the rule requiring mining companies to post bonds to cover clean-up costs. Without the bonding requirement, taxpayers could eventually pay more than $1 billion in potential clean-up costs for the mines.
But the centerpiece of the new regulations -- giving the Interior secretary the power to block mining projects likely to cause "sustainable and irreparable" harm to the land -- is in danger.
Larry Finfer, a spokesman for the Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management, said the new provisions cover several issues. "There is much more" to the revisions than simply removing the agency's ability to veto a proposed mining project, he said.
The rollback is a blow to environmentalists who celebrated the Clinton-era rule as the first significant reform to mining regulations in two decades.
The planned regulation also would have replaced an antiquated 1872 rule that gave mining companies the power to reshape land in order to remove ores, and does not subject their gains to federal taxes.
The previous administration had aimed to control such things as cyanide leaching that occurs in the process of extracting gold ore. Hard-rock mining can also pollute water and soil with such heavy metals as cadmium, lead and arsenic.
U.S. mining companies said they hoped the rewritten plan would be more realistic.
The Clinton-era rules "would have created a cumbersome type of regulatory scheme that duplicated existing rules," said Newmont Mining Corp spokesman Doug Hock.
"The industry hasn't had a problem with tougher rules (such as bonding requirements) as long as they make sense in a regulatory context," he said.
The industry has also cited a 1999 National Academy of Sciences study that concluded most U.S. mining regulations were adequate and simply needed to be better implemented.
Green groups say the Bush administration's revisions will make it impossible to define how much work mining companies need to do to repair environmental damage from chemicals after a mine is closed.
And without specific standards, it will be difficult to define how much of a bond companies will need to post to cover the clean-up, they argue.
The controversial issue garnered some 49,000 public comments. The rule followed years of hearings and meetings that began during the first President George Bush's administration.
|Bill Gates Shrugs Off Criticism of Windows XP |
By ALLISON LINN
AP Business Writer
REDMOND, Wash. October 25, 2001 (AP) - It's the week of Microsoft's biggest software release in six years and chairman Bill Gates is shrugging off criticism that his company's new juggernaut operating system is designed to muscle out the competition.
Love it or fear it, Gates says, Microsoft's Windows is "the most important tool that's ever been created."
"It's a tool for communications, for creativity - it's the basis for the entire software industry," Gates said in an interview in his unassuming office overlooking the company headquarters.
On Thursday, Microsoft formally releases Windows XP, a major retooling of the operating system that runs the vast majority of personal computers. To some - including the Justice Department - Windows' massive reach creates a difficult quandary. As Microsoft keeps improving and expanding its dominant product, consumers may get a better deal, but competitors face the threat of being squashed. And as Microsoft's software and Internet services become more pervasive, critics say so does the potential for breaches in information security. To Gates, Windows XP is simply about saving computer users time and money.
"It's a value for consumers," Gates said. "Why are there headlights in cars? Why don't they make you go and buy those things separately?"
It's also about money: Desktop operating systems accounted for more than $8 billion of the $25.3 billion in revenue Microsoft reported for fiscal year 2001. Friends and foes agree that Windows XP is the souped-up sedan of the desktop operating system world. It offers new features for listening to music, playing videos, for editing and organizing digital photographs. A new feature called Windows Messenger lets users communicate instantly with others using text, voice and video.
"If you look at the value of the stuff that's in Windows XP, compared to the stand-alone packages you'd have to buy for the equivalent, that's many hundreds of dollars," Gates said.
When competitors such as America Online, Kodak or Netscape complain that Microsoft's built-in products threaten to squeeze them out of the market, Gates doesn't flinch. They are welcome, he says, to develop more alluring products.
"Windows has always moved forward by including the popular things that you used to have to buy separately," he said.
Gates' no-holds-barred vision for Microsoft's growth has built the company into a multi-billion-dollar enterprise and made him the richest man in the world. Gates asserts his company's products have driven the technology revolution - not handicapped it as some critics assert.
He says that's part of why Microsoft has refused to curtail its aggressive efforts to keep adding more features to Windows despite the legal threat from the federal government and attorneys general from 18 states and the District of Columbia who sued Microsoft for antitrust violations.
"The PC ecosystem is very rich and we have a huge responsibility to that ecosystem," Gates said. "We work extremely hard and we put out a new version of Windows every couple years as best we can, and no legal thing has prevented us from doing that, and I don't expect that it will."
Although a federal judge ruled the company guilty of monopolistic practices and penalty hearings open next month, Microsoft has refused to put Windows XP on the bargaining table. In fact, Microsoft has only expanded its reach. A new feature in XP called Passport seeks to become the standard online authentication system, storing Web site passwords, credit card numbers and other personal information required to complete Internet transactions.
Critics say that by requiring Passport sign-up to use such features as Windows Messenger, Microsoft is coercing people into giving the company personal information. Groups such as the Electronic Privacy Information Center have complained to the Federal Trade Commission.
Gates calls Passport a savior, not a threat, to Internet commerce.
"We're trying to make the Internet more effective and allow not just large companies to get to critical mass with these user names and passwords, but let any company who wants to participate in Passport just do it," he said.
Still, Microsoft stands to gain most from Passport. The company is building a set of paid Internet-based services, called .NET My Services, that will depend on Passport authentication. Again, critics say Microsoft has incorporated Passport into Windows so it can grow a customer base for .NET. They worry about the security risk if Microsoft holds personal information on millions of Internet users.
Gates dismisses those concerns, though Microsoft has suffered serious security breaches in which hackers gained access to the company's internal network - and may have even obtained valuable source code.
"There is no new security challenge created by Passport," he said.
Microsoft also is fighting a competitive battle for Passport users against AOL, whose dominant instant messenger system encourages people to stay within AOL's environment for shopping and other online activities. Gates accuses AOL of excluding others on the Internet; AOL accuses Microsoft of doing the same on the computer desktop.
Meanwhile, Microsoft forges ahead with the next version of Windows, working with a $5 billion annual research and development budget. The company won't say when to expect the next upgrade.
"The reason we can find that $5 billion in R&D is by coming up with new innovations, and so if we ever stopped innovating we'd have no income," said Gates. "So we do need to move forward and our partners are very dependent on us moving forward."
Microsoft is obviously at http://www.microsoft.com
|Has The Whole World Gone To Pot? |
British Official Looks to Ease Pot Laws
By CHRIS FONTAINE
Associated Press Writer
LONDON October 25, 2001 (AP) - Smoking marijuana is illegal in Britain, but an overstretched police force in south London can't be bothered to make arrests. Now one community's blind eye toward pot use is the model for national drug laws.
Although the effectiveness of the experiment in Brixton has yet to be determined, Home Secretary David Blunkett announced this week that he wants to relax marijuana laws across Britain. Fed up with the hours it takes to process paperwork for a crime increasingly viewed as innocuous, police in Brixton do not actively pursue marijuana users and will only confiscate the drug and issue a warning to those found smoking or carrying it.
Instead, police are cracking down on harder drugs and violent street crime in the inner-city neighborhood.
The six-month experiment began in July, and reaction from police chiefs, politicians and the general public has been largely favorable. Patrick Hines, a dreadlocked Rastafarian selling incense sticks at the entrance to the Brixton subway station, applauded the move Wednesday as a step toward decriminalization and greater social acceptance of regular marijuana, or cannabis, use.
Hines said there might be a short-term danger of dealers attempting to sell more of the drug and youths abusing it. But if education went hand-in-hand with legal relaxation, he said police would achieve their aims.
"Decriminalizing cannabis is in a way a form of fighting people who are into hard drugs," said the 46-year-old from Guyana. "If people don't have access to a spliff (marijuana cigarette), they may go search for their high in harder drugs ... and with hard drugs comes violence and crime."
Paul Andell, treasurer of the Brixton Community Police Consultative Group, said the proposal was a reflection of reality.
"We are here in the 21st century. Cannabis is a relatively innocuous drug and it was sensible to move in the way we have," Andell said. "Here in Brixton, it is still early days in the pilot scheme but the initial indications are it is a success."
After the government announcement, investors snapped up shares of GW Pharmaceuticals, the only British firm licensed to grow marijuana for medicinal purposes. The company is conducting trials of a marijuana-based pain reliever and expects the medicine could reach the market by 2004, if government laws change to allow prescription sales. Evidence of increasing public acceptance of cannabis also could be found at the Body Shop outlet across the street from the subway station.
The chain of beauty stores sells a line of products emblazoned with the distinctive five-pointed leaf of a cannabis plant. The British company stresses that its products are made with hemp, a close relative of smokable marijuana that does not produce a high. Under Blunkett's proposal, marijuana would be reclassified as a "Class C drug" - putting it in the same category as anabolic steroids. It would still be illegal to possess or smoke, but police would not be able to arrest a violator. Instead, they could only issue a warning or a court summons.
The proposal will be discussed among the nation's police forces for several months and perhaps forwarded to Parliament for approval in spring.
Since the start of the experiment in Brixton, 218 people have been officially warned for possession of cannabis, compared with 168 people arrested during the same period last year.
Lambeth police: http://www.met.police.uk/lambeth
Body Shop's Hemp Action: http://www.bodyshop.com/usa/hemp-action
Marijuana Prescription Law OK'd
By ANTHONY DEUTSCH
Associated Press Writer
AMSTERDAM October 19, 2001 (AP) - The Dutch Cabinet approved a bill Friday that would give pharmacies the ability to fill marijuana prescriptions and allow the government to pay for them.
Parliament was expected to vote in the next few months on the proposal to put medicinal marijuana on the national health care plan. If the bill is passed by the 150-seat legislature, pharmacies would be supplied with "pharmaceutical quality" marijuana after testing by a government agency.
Although the sale of marijuana is technically illegal, Dutch authorities tolerate the sale of small amounts in hundreds of so-called "coffee shops" that operate openly. A gram of marijuana costs about $4.
Under the new law, most users would have the cost of their joints paid by the government as long as it is prescribed by a doctor.
A government statement recognized that some patrons of coffee shops use marijuana to alleviate pain.
"An increasing number of patients suffering illnesses such as cancer, AIDS and multiple sclerosis receive medicinal cannabis," it said.
The law is needed to remove an "undesirable" contradiction between practice and law "despite lack of scientific evidence" of the effects of marijuana use, the statement said.
Many patients using the drug without professional assistance have had successful results, it added. "Experiences are positive: less pain, less nausea after chemotherapy, less stiffness with MS," the statement said.
The prescription marijuana would be grown along government guidelines. As is selling, growing marijuana is illegal but tolerated in small quantities, and the Netherlands produces some of the most potent varieties in the world.
Though several countries tolerate marijuana use by medical patients, only Canada licenses them to legally grow and possess it, said Paul Armentano, a spokesman for the Washington-based National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. The Canadian government is also growing marijuana and plans to create a government-run system to distribute it.
Britain has licensed a company, GW Pharmaceuticals, to grow large amounts of marijuana to develop a medical extract, such as a spray that patients can spray in their mouths. However, smoking marijuana remains illegal there.
In the United States, nine states have exempted medical patients from prosecution under state laws, but they can still be arrested under federal laws, Armentano said.
|Executives Plead Guilty To Supplying Meth Labs |
|LOS ANGELES October 24, 2001 (AP) - A Montana pharmaceutical company and two of its executives pleaded guilty in federal court to distributing more than a billion pills that were used to make methamphetamine. |
Spectrum International Inc. will pay $2.2 million in fines. The company's president, Charles G. Eisele, 43, and his brother, Richard D. Eisele, 42, the company's vice president, entered their pleas Monday. They face up to four years in prison.
Spectrum sold tablets as Ephedrine Release and Ephrin Release that contained pseudoephedrine, a chemical used in over-the-counter cold medications but also used to manufacture meth.
The company and the two brothers were charged with distributing a chemical while having reason to believe it would be used to make a controlled substance.
Defense attorney Donald Re, who represented Charles Eisele, denied that the brothers knew the shipments were destined for drug labs.
"This is not a case where the defendants had actual knowledge of a crime. It only says they should have known," he said.
Spectrum's pills were found in 35 illicit meth labs across the country. Officials said the tablets could have been used to produce more than 100,000 pounds of methamphetamine with a street value of more than $500 million.
The case followed a four-year investigation by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the Internal Revenue Service that led to 34 people being charged and 27 convicted. Sentencing for the Eiseles is set for Feb. 7.
The company continues to operate from its headquarters in Billings, Mont., but no longer distributes pseudoephedrine, Re said.
|Black Hole Monster May Release Energy |
Germany October 22, 2001 (ESA) - Black holes may be worse monsters than we thought. Not only do they inexorably devour matter around them, but they may also be able to steadily belch out energy. This is the conclusion of a European-led team of astronomers whose work with ESA's XMM-Newton X-ray observatory has produced surprising new results.
Black holes are extremely compact celestial objects with gravitational fields so intense that nothing - not even light - can escape their attraction. They have inspired much science fiction - "She's breaking up Captain, I can't hold her!" - and their complex mechanisms still fascinate astronomers.
Such objects can contain the mass of a billion Suns compressed into a space the size of the Solar System. If material falls upon them, black holes have a real feast! Before being swallowed, the gas and dust takes the form of a fast rotating accretion disc where friction causes it to glow strongly in X-rays.
The spiral galaxy MCG-6-30-15, situated 100 million light-years away, was targeted by XMM-Newton in June 2000 for a team of astronomers led by Dr. Jörn Wilms, from the Astronomy and Astrophysics Institute at the Eberhard-Karls University in Tübingen, Germany. The data obtained has led them to conclude that energy is not only going in to the galaxy's black hole, but is also escaping.
"With XMM-Newton's great collecting power we have discovered something never observed before in a black hole," explains Jörn Wilms. "The observatory's EPIC cameras have obtained a spectrum, a kind of chemical fingerprint of the elements present. This graph displays an unusually broad 'line' for the X-ray emission corresponding to the presence of iron in the accretion disc. This broad line had first been detected in 1995 with the ASCA satellite but we had never seen it so clearly. And, it is full of surprising features."
Analysis of this iron line has led the team to deduce that this broad line arises from X-ray emission stemming from the innermost areas of the accretion disc, just before matter disappears into the black hole. But the number of photons and their energies measured by XMM-Newton far exceed what could be expected from the established models for accretion discs of supermassive black holes.
"It is like a rubber ball that you bounce on the ground," says Wilms. "You know the surface composition and can guess how and when the ball will come back. But here the ball returns much faster, as if there were a spring where it bounced. For our black hole, this means that something else is 'powering up' the iron atoms which glow in X-rays."
The hunt was on for a suitable explanation for the origin of this extra energy. The work involved intensive spectral modelling and theoretical mathematics, one of whose parameters included the fact that the data shows that the black hole itself is rotating.
According to the team, one model fits the XMM-Newton data well. It corresponds to a theory proposed over 25 years ago by two Cambridge University astronomers. Roger Blandford and Roman Znajek had suggested that rotational energy could escape from a black hole when it is in a strong magnetic field which exerts a braking effect. This theory fits the physical laws of thermodynamics which state that energy released should be absorbed by the surrounding gas.
"We have probably seen this electric dynamo effect for the very first time. Energy is being extracted from the black hole's spin and is conveyed into the innermost parts of the accretion disc, making it hotter and brighter in X-rays," says Jörn Wilms.
Co-investigator Dr. Christopher Reynolds at the University of Maryland and other American members of the team contributed greatly to the theoretical interpretation of the data. "Never before have we seen energy extracted from black holes. We always see energy going in, not out," says Reynolds, who performed much of the analysis whilst at the University of Colorado. Other scientists involved in this work are James Reeves of Leicester University, United Kingdom, and Silvano Molendi of the Instituto di Fisica Cosmica "G. Occhialini", Milan, Italy.
The team's paper to be published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society, is already provoking intense debate. Many other black hole experts feel that the observation does not provide incontrovertible evidence. Other factors may be present and the 'magnetodynamic' explanation may not be the only one.
"We recognise that more observations, scheduled by ourselves and other teams around the world, are required to confirm our conclusion," says Jörn Wilms. "But there is no disputing the presence of this exceptionally strong iron line in the spectrum of MCG-6-30-15. It is extremely puzzling and an explanation must be found."
One thing is sure: only a couple of years ago, before operations with the European X-ray observatory began, no one would have dared propose such interpretations. Sufficiently detailed spectra of the kind today provided by XMM-Newton were just not available.
|Uncle Sam Carved In Soap |
WASHINGTON October 24, 2001 (AP) - A six-foot head of Uncle Sam was carved in soap Wednesday inside the main entrance of the National Museum of American History.
The sculpture was commissioned by Procter & Gamble Co. as it made a donation of 120 years worth of Ivory soap advertisements to an effort by the museum to compile a record of U.S. ad history.
Sculptor Gary Lawrence Sussman labored for seven hours, achieving an image akin to Uncle Sam's stern "I want you'' from the World War I recruiting poster by James Montgomery Flagg.
But Sussman lopped off most of Uncle Sam's trademark top hat, dubbing it "too cartoonish.''
Afterward, the floor outside the museum's old-fashioned ice cream parlor was littered with slippery gray waste from the 6,000 pounds of soap used to create the sculpture.
Procter & Gamble is giving the museum more than 5,000 ads dating to Ivory soap's first campaign, an $11,000 buy in 1882. The current advertising budget of the firm, which markets 300 brands in more than 140 countries, is over 200 times that much, according to company archivist Ed Rider.
After a few days at the museum, Sussman said Uncle Sam will go to company headquarters in Cincinnati.
The museum's Archives Center has been collecting similar material from well-known American companies, including the makers of Pepsi-Cola, Cover Girl cosmetics, Simmons mattresses, Nike athletic equipment and Krispy Kreme doughnuts, since 1983.
The materials are available for use by scholars of advertising history and filmmakers. For all, they furnish vivid snapshots of bygone eras, said John Fleckner, the museum's chief archivist.
For instance, an ad in the Procter & Gamble collection shows a young woman, caught up in the 1890s' bicycle craze, consoling herself after a fall in the mud that Ivory will cleanse her huge skirt.
|'Golden Girls' Thwart Armed Car Hijacker |
|BY HELEN STUDD |
Calais October 20, 2001 (The Times UK) - Three pensioners have been commended for their courage in thwarting an armed car hijack during a day trip to Calais.
Joan Windsor, Anne Aylward and Jean Douglas, all in their seventies, wrestled a loaded gun from the man before pistol-whipping him into submission. Although he managed to drive off with their Rover leaving two of them on the kerb, the third woman left in the back seat continued to tackle him on her own.
After forcing him to crash she got out of the car, put her handbag over her shoulder and, wiping the blood from her face, walked back to join her friends.
The women, who refer to themselves as Golden Girls, had been on a shopping trip to the French port when they were attacked by the man as they pulled up outside a chemist’s shop. He poked the gun through the window of the car and tried to grab the keys out of the ignition. Miss Douglas, from Hove, East Sussex, who was in the driver’s seat, said that she “heard two clicks” from the gun as it was pointed at her head.
“It was like a silent black-and-white film with no one saying anything, until one of us shouted ‘hit him over the head with the gun’,” Mrs Aylward, from Littlehampton in West Sussex, said.
Mrs Windsor, from Hove, grabbed the gun, which she later discovered was fully loaded with six bullets, and thumped him over the head with it. However, she was unable to get the power needed to knock him out from the angle at which she was sitting in the passenger seat. Despite their efforts, the gunman managed to push both of the women in the front of the car out on to the pavement and drove off with Mrs Aylward still in the back seat.
She said: “He pushed hard on the accelerator and I realized that if I didn’t stop him I would probably be dead. We were probably doing around 90mph when I put my arms around his neck and tried to throttle him.
“I yanked his head from side to side and he eventually lost control of the car. The car swerved and crashed into a concrete flower tub at the side of the road. I got out of the car, reached for my handbag, put it over my shoulder and tottered back towards the others with blood spurting everywhere. I always thought I was a bit of a wimp. I don’t know where my strength came from. We all just did what we had to do in the heat of the moment.”
Mrs Windsor said: “I got the gun so he couldn’t shoot us. I then started hitting his neck with the butt, which was really heavy. I could hear Anne in the back seat, shouting ‘hit him Joan, hit him with the gun’.”
She was taken to hospital where she received several stitches to a gash in her head. Miss Douglas and Mrs Windsor, who were still holding the loaded gun when gendarmes arrived, were escorted to the police station where they attempted to identify their attacker from a list of suspects. All three women, who caught the ferry home, said the incident would not prevent them from returning to Calais for future shopping trips.
“This won’t stop us enjoying ourselves. We are Golden Girls,” Mrs Windsor said. The American sitcom The Golden Girls was a comedy based around three feisty elderly women who were determined to make the most of their later years.
The Foreign Office said yesterday that British tourists had recently become the target of several robberies in the French port. Hijackings, however, are extremely rare. They commended the women for their bravery but recommended that other victims of similar attacks do not attempt to tackle their assailants without help from the French police. A spokesman for British police said that although the outcome this time was “a happy one” it could easily have been tragic.
Police in Calais said last night that they were investigating the incident.
|WWI Spy Plotted Reindeer Anthrax Attack |
STOCKHOLM October 24, 2001 (Reuters) - A Swedish spy helped sow the seeds of today's anthrax bio-warfare scare as long ago as World War One when he plotted to poison reindeer and horses with anthrax-laced sugar cubes.
In mid-winter 1917, Germany sent Baron Otto Karl von Rosen, a mercenary from neutral Sweden, on a mission to sabotage British Arctic supply lines to its ally Russia, a crime historian told Reuters Wednesday.
Norwegian police arrested von Rosen with 19 sugar cubes containing tiny glass vials of anthrax -- the same lethal germ that has killed three people in the United States this month after being sent through the mail to officials and journalists.
The baron's co-conspirators had planned to spread an anthrax epidemic by feeding the poisoned treats to army horses and reindeer. The animals were pulling sledges laden with arms and supplies across the frozen tundra to Russia from the port of Skibotn in northern Norway. They would have broken open the vials when chewing the sugar cubes and contracted the intestinal form of anthrax, had the plot not been discovered in time.
Von Rosen insisted he was an activist for Finnish independence, though police at the time and historians now believe he worked for Germany. He was imprisoned and deported to Sweden, where his aristocratic status helped secure his release.
Two of the contaminated cubes lay undisturbed in a police museum in Trondheim, Norway, until 1997 when a concerned official sent them to a British biological warfare laboratory for tests. The spores were still alive, museum registrar Lars Koen told Reuters in a telephone interview. They have now been sterilized and sent back to the museum, where they are on display.
The failed plot was one of very few confirmed attempts to actually use biological warfare, though several major powers developed germ stockpiles during the 20th century. Germany and perhaps also France developed modern disease warfare techniques, including anthrax, as early as World War One, according to a Swedish parliamentary defense commission report.
|Blair Shines in War and Peace - Future Less Clear |
By Mike Peacock
LONDON October 25, 2001 (Reuters) - British Prime Minister Tony Blair is riding high -- feted for helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland and lauded around the Western world for his efforts to justify the United States' "war on terror."
But political experts say pride comes before a fall.
Blair has laid out a highly ambitious agenda, any part of which could turn around and bite him. His relief was tangible when he addressed reporters on Tuesday shortly after the Irish Republican Army said it had begun to put its arms beyond use. Blair had invested huge political capital into achieving peace in Northern Ireland, through 3-1/2 years of twists and turns in a tortuous process aimed at ending 30 years of violence.
"This is the day we were told would never happen, and it has," a jubilant David Trimble, leader of the province's main pro-British party, said.
Few will begrudge Blair his moment. Time and again he has intervened personally to refloat the listing peace process.
"Blair was equal to the heroism of the hard grind that it demanded," said Hugo Young, veteran political commentator for the Guardian newspaper.
The danger, though, is that the still-youthful premier's ambitions are spiraling. In his Downing Street office Tuesday night, Blair said he hoped the Northern Ireland peace process could be held up as a template for resolving conflict situations around the world.
In a keynote speech to his ruling Labor Party's annual conference three weeks ago, he was even bolder. He said the world had changed since 5,000 lives were lost in New York and Washington on September 11, offering a chance to restart the Middle East peace process, make lasting deals on climate change, even to end poverty in Africa.
His speech was praised by most onlookers. But others ridiculed it.
"Tony Blair left the runway on a limited strike to remove one individual from a hillside in Afghanistan and veered off on a neo-imperial mission to save the entire planet," former MP Matthew Parris, the Times newspaper sketch writer, said.
Afghanistan is even trickier than Northern Ireland. Blair is the West's outrider in the propaganda war against Osama bin Laden, pitting himself against the United States' prime suspect for the suicide hijack attacks of September 11, striving to ensure the Saudi-born militant does not whip up the Afghanistan campaign into a war between Islam and the West. He has earned praise and respect from many corners of the globe but it remains a U.S. battle first and foremost.
"He could get the worst combination in politics which is responsibility without power," said Paul Whiteley, Professor of Government at Essex University.
There is little sign of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban crumbling so far. The Pentagon has expressed surprise at their tenacity. And there is absolutely no trace of bin Laden.
HIGH APPROVAL RATING
A recent MORI poll of British public opinion gave Blair 72 percent approval for his actions. But if British troops begin coming home in body bags, if it becomes clear that thousands of innocent Afghans died of hunger during the looming harsh winter, all that could change.
"Blair has really committed himself. If it works out, great. But if we do get bogged down the luster will quickly fall off him," Whiteley said.
Opposition could come first from close to home, from traditionally war-wary Labor members.
"If the war goes on, I could well imagine a peace movement growing and the Labor Party grassroots would be strongly represented in it," Whiteley said.
Blair does not face re-election for four years or more. He admitted last week the issues that will win or lose that battle will be domestic: schools, hospitals, policing and transport. All require billions of pounds investment at a time when Treasury's coffers are shrinking as the global economy slows. And Blair's eye cannot be fully on that ball.
"Blair has run a centralized ship. If the top guy is not paying attention there is bound to be an effect," Whiteley said.
In Northern Ireland too, problems remain. Hard-line pro-British loyalists are refusing to put down their guns and the Real IRA, a Republican splinter group, is vowing to "pick up the mantle" of armed opposition to Britain.
But for now, it seems Blair can do no wrong.