Return To Space:
Saturn, Pluto, Io!
Sioux Code Talkers,
God Particle & More!
Outer Space: Saturn, Pluto, Io, Mars, Dark Matter and the Moon!
Seven Years to Saturn

Pasadena December 10, 2001 (NASA/JPL) - As if going to Saturn wasn't hard enough, deciding what science to collect once in orbit around the giant planet is a logistic maze.

Launched in 1997, the international mission Cassini-Huygens will take almost seven years to reach the planet famed for those amazing rings that puzzled generations of astronomers. To save fuel and to travel the huge distance, more than 3 billion kilometers so far, the spacecraft used a technique called gravity assist. It looped around Venus twice, then flew past Earth and finally around Jupiter. The slingshot boost from these passes will deliver the Cassini orbiter and its probe, Huygens, to Saturn in July 2004. The probe will later descend to Titan, the biggest of some 30 known moons orbiting Saturn.

The Huygens probe will provide information on Titan, which has an atmosphere that extends about 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the surface. Because of its distance from the Sun, its surface is frozen and its temperatures are extremely low. Compared to Earth, Titan receives only one percent of the Sun's light.

Choosing what data to collect with the spacecraft's many instruments once at Saturn is keeping scientists busy these days, as they are planning a minute-by-minute timetable for the four-year mission. The challenge is caused by the abundance of interesting science targets along the planned 74 orbits around Saturn, and the wealth of instruments onboard the spacecraft.

"There is a lot of intriguing science with Titan, the most Earth-like world out there, and we want to know a lot more about Saturn," says Dr. Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at JPL involved with the science timetable. "The rings are sitting there, shining away. They are mysterious and we are going to look at those and also the icy satellites."

Logistic issues complicate the planning task.

One matter is downloading the information collected by the data recorder on board. Once it is full, the spacecraft must turn toward Earth and begin downloading the data. Because of the great distance, the signal takes about an hour and 15 minutes to reach the Deep Space Network's antennas. Downloading the data takes up to 9 hours. When Cassini is collecting data, scientists have to make hard choices on which instrument to use. In order to save money, Cassini's instruments are all fastened in fixed positions and cannot be pointed independently of another.

"We have all these mutually exclusive desires," explains Baines. "We have different targets and when we get to a particular target there are a lot of different things we want to do. All the scientists involved must collaborate with each other."

Eager to decode the many mysteries of Saturn and its moons, scientists are painstakingly examining each of the 74 planned orbits around the planet, trying to include as many unique and relevant observations as possible, without compromising each other's instruments and goals.

The complicating factor is that of the 265 scientists involved with the mission, only 125 live in the U.S. This translates in teleconferences across 12 time zones, with scientists in Hawaii getting up early while their colleagues in Europe are putting their kids to bed. Through tons of emails, web charts and conference calls, scientists from 16 countries have 30 months to come up with an integrated time chart that will provide the best plan to gather as much information as possible about the sixth planet from the Sun, the second largest in our solar system.

Mission to Pluto Edges Closer to 2006 Liftoff

By Peter N. Spotts

EARTH December 10, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - Alan Stern hunts for ancient relics.

No picks, shovels, or dusting brushes fill his tool kit, however. His lost city of Troy is Pluto - the only planet in the solar system that a spacecraft has yet to visit.

Little wonder then that when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration recently hired his team to help flesh out its concept for a mission to Pluto, Dr. Stern was delighted.

"It's the dream of a lifetime," says Stern, lead scientist for the Pluto-Kuiper Belt Mission, which he describes as "the first mission to the solar system's last planet."

Since its discovery in 1930, Pluto has been "an enigmatic spit of an ice ball" in the solar system's planetary line-up, says Stern, director of the space-science program at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colo. But Pluto's importance rose dramatically after 1992, with the discovery of a belt of planet wannabes beyond Neptune called the Kuiper Belt.

Pluto and its moon, Charon, are the largest objects in the Kuiper Belt region, which scientists believe served as the nursery for fledgling planets. In this area, planets still in the formation stages sometimes smashed together in spectacular collisions, halting their "normal" path of development. Indeed, says Stern, Pluto and Charon are viewed as chunks of a larger planet whose growth ended when it collided with another large body.

In Pluto and the Kuiper Belt, Stern says, "we have this equivalent of an archaeological dig into the history of the solar system." It's the "only place we have," he adds, that can give scientists a window on that period of time.

Beyond Pluto's role as a planetary pot shard, its scientific allure stems from the fact that so little is known about its basic physical characteristics compared with the rest of the solar system's major bodies. Charon was discovered only in 1978, allowing researchers to get a better handle on the mass and density of the Pluto-Charon system.

Seen from Earth, Charon and Pluto appear to sometimes hide each other as they orbit. By carefully tracking these disappearances and reappearances, or occultation, astronomers have been able to map rough differences in brightness across the faces of both bodies.

Using the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories, "we're starting to get enough information to point to a particular place on the surface and detect differences," says Marc Buie, an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory in Flagstaff, Ariz., where Pluto was discovered. For example, observations have pinpointed a spot on the surface unusually rich in carbon-monoxide ice.

This could be a carbon-monoxide deposit bared by an impact crater, he says, or the result of cryovulcanism - the frosty equivalent of volcanic activity on Earth.

"What the heck is going on at the surface? There's no way of knowing without a mission to the planet," he says.

As currently envisioned, the Pluto-Kuiper Belt mission would launch in 2006 and fly by Pluto and Charon before 2020. Timing is important, because planetary alignments will be most favorable during this period for using Jupiter's gravity to sling the spacecraft toward Pluto.

The timing also is urgent because Pluto is heading for the solar system's outskirts. The planet's orbit traces an oval around the sun, and Pluto has just finished its closest approach. Astronomers estimate that by 2020, much of the planet's atmosphere will have frozen and fallen to the surface, preventing scientists from getting a handle on Pluto's tenuous envelope of gas and how it interacts with the solar wind, a stream of charged particles constantly flowing from the sun.

"This is a very ambitious mission," acknowledges Colleen Hartman, director of NASA's solar-system exploration division.

For all the scientific interest, the mission's finances may be as ephemeral as Pluto's atmosphere. The project is funded only through the end of the current $30 million mission-design study, a condition that Dr. Hartman says "is very unusual for a planetary mission."

Until November 2000, CalTech's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena spearheaded the project. But cost estimates ballooned to nearly $1 billion, threatening to become one of the Battlestar Galacticas that former NASA administrator Daniel Goldin fought to ground in favor of smaller, more frequent missions.

Last fall, NASA directed JPL to stop work on the project. When President Bush submitted his fiscal 2002 budget, a mission to Pluto was nowhere to be found.

But a trip to Pluto quickly became the people's mission. When the project was canceled, Stern says, "a 19-year-old space buff set up a website and triggered an avalanche of 10,000 letters to Congress in two weeks flat."

Groups such as the Planetary Society, headquartered in Pasadena, threw their weight behind a Pluto mission. When the smoke of budget battle cleared, Congress had added $30 million to NASA's budget to keep a Pluto mission alive.

But it's a one-year reprieve. The project's progress beyond blueprints hinges on a favorable review of the design, regulatory approval to use plutonium-driven generators for electrical power, and availability of money.

If planners must go back to Capitol Hill, Stern says, they will be armed. This week, a NASA planetary science advisory committee said that a Pluto mission should be given the highest priority in NASA's planetary exploration program.

"The space program been lacking the kind of first-time exploration that was popular with Apollo, Voyager, and Viking," Stern says, adding that the Pluto mission can fill that void.

The world of Pluto
  • One trip around the sun takes Pluto 248 years; a season lasts 62 years.
  • Pluto is half the size of the second-smallest planet, Mercury. Pluto's moon, Charon, is half the size of the planet.
  • Pluto's composition is unknown, but its density indicates that it is probably a mixture of 70 percent rock and 30 percent water ice.
  • Pluto and Mercury are the only planets that have elliptical, not circular, orbits.
  • In Roman mythology, Pluto is the god of the underworld. The planet got its name - after suggestions such as Atlas, Cronus, Minerva, Artemis, Vulcan, and Perseus - perhaps because it's so far from the sun that it is in perpetual darkness.
  • At Pluto's farthest point from the sun, sunlight takes seven hours to travel the 4.6 billion miles. Sunlight reaches Earth in eight minutes.
  • Scientists estimate surface temperatures on Pluto can reach minus 400 degrees F.

Io: Power and Noise But No Magnetic Field

Pasadena December 10, 2001 (NASA/JPL) - A great roar of acoustic waves near the north and south poles of Jupiter's moon Io shouts about the power of the volcanic moon.

The wave data, new pictures and other information collected recently by NASA's Galileo spacecraft provide insight into what happens above Io's surface, at its colorful volcanoes and inside its hot belly. Scientists presented the findings Monday at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco.

Galileo, managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has been orbiting Jupiter for six years. As it flew near Io's poles in August and October, the density of charged particles it was passing through suddenly increased about tenfold when the spacecraft crossed the path of a magnetic-field connection between Io and Jupiter, reported Dr. Donald Gurnett of the University of Iowa, Iowa City. The waves, indicating the density, travel in a plasma of charged particles, and would be silent to the ear, but Iowa researchers converted them to sound waves to make the patterns audible.

"You hear a whistling sound from Jupiter's radio emissions, then, just when you go over the pole, you hear a tremendous roar that starts abruptly, then stops abruptly," Gurnett said. "It's like the noise from a huge electrical power generator." Io actually generates as much wattage as about 1,000 nuclear power plants.

The region of increased density is where electrons and ions come up from Io's tenuous atmosphere and follow a "flux tube" where field lines from Jupiter's strong magnetic field intersect Io. In a 1999 flyby of Io, Galileo had provided some indication of the higher density over the moon's poles. This year's two Io flybys were the first to show that those denser areas coincide with the magnetic-field flux tube, Gurnett said.

Recent magnetic-field measurements tell us something new about the plumes erupting from Io's volcanoes and about the moon's molten core, said Dr. Margaret Kivelson of the University of California, Los Angeles.

Galileo detected electrical currents flowing along magnetic field lines above two areas of volcanic activity on Io, Kivelson said. Material shot high from eruptions is apparently affecting conductivity more than 100 kilometers (about 60 miles) above the surface.

"If this is the mechanism that's producing the currents, it may help us in the search for active plumes," she said.

Galileo's routes near Io's north pole in August and near its south pole in October were chosen for gaining measurements to determine whether Io generates an intrinsic magnetic field of its own within the greater magnetic field generated by Jupiter.

"There's no intrinsic field," Kivelson said. "We can put that question to rest." That means Io's molten iron core does not have the same type of convective overturning by which Earth's molten core generates Earth's magnetic field. Lack of that overturning fits a model of Io's core being heated from the outside, by tidal flexing of the layers around it, rather than being heated from the center.

The heat generated inside Io by the tidal tug of Jupiter makes this moon the most volcanically active world in the solar system. A new color picture of one large volcanic crater, Tupan Patera, shows various red, green, yellow and black surface materials laid down by volcanic interactions of molten rock and sulfur compounds, said Dr. Elizabeth Turtle of the University of Arizona, Tucson. Tupan, named for a Brazilian god of thunder, is one of Io's most persistent volcanoes. Another new image reveals roofed-over portions of a long lava channel, indicating that insulation provided by the cover helped lengthen a large lava flow.

New infrared imagery from Galileo shows that darker areas at Tupan correspond to hotter surface materials, said Dr. Rosaly Lopes of JPL. The infrared data also confirm sulfur- dioxide deposits near the source of a tall plume seen in August above a previously inactive volcano.

VR Emergency Medical for Manned Mars Mission

By Patricia Reaney

LONDON December 9, 2001 (Reuters) - If astronauts ever make it to Mars, chances are that before they blast off on their epic journey they will be trained on a virtual reality simulator to mend broken bones.

The first manned mission to the Red Planet isn't expected until about 2020, but Swiss surgeons and NASA scientists have already cemented a deal to make sure if limbs are smashed on the way there or during a walkabout they will be able to fix them.

With little room for outer space operating rooms in the cramped confines of the interplanetary express, it will be a case of heal thyself, or each other, for astronauts expected to make the round trip journey that could take two years or more.

So NASA and the Swiss-based Association for the Study of Internal Fixation (AO-ASIF) are developing a computer-based surgical simulator to train surgeons on Earth and astronauts with tickets to Mars in the fine art of trauma surgery.

A prototype for various operations will be available in around 2005.

"If we have simulators, not only orthopedic surgeons can be trained, but NASA could use the simulators to train astronauts, because a journey to Mars will be at least six months. So if they have any injuries another person will have to help their colleague,'' said Dr. Andy Weymann, of the AO foundation, who is working with NASA on the project.

The foundation, a non-profit organization of surgeons, pioneered internal fixation -- using internal stainless steel or titanium plates, nuts and bolts -- instead of plaster casts to heal fractures 40 years ago.

NASA is at the cutting edge of virtual reality technology, so the match seemed a natural one.

"We are pretty sure that within the next three or four years we will have a good simulator to train (surgeons and astronauts) with the procedure,'' Weymann told Reuters in an interview.

Unlike casts, which immobilize broken bones and joints for many weeks and can cause swelling, pain and redness, internal fixation prevents stiffness of joints, ligaments and tendons and offers the possibility of pain-free mobilization quickly after surgery.

Weymann said the operations, which can take from one to four hours depending on the place and type of fracture, are cheaper and offer a quicker recovery time than casts.

The plates and bolts can also be placed on the outside of the limb in a procedure called external fixation.

Since the AO developed the method, it has trained more than 300,000 surgeons worldwide in the technique, which is used to treat up to 80 percent of fractures in some countries.

"It is not a cast. The bones are fixed with pins and these pins are connected by bars,'' explained Dr. Christian Rys, the head of surgery at Davos Hospital in Switzerland.

In addition to fixing limbs, the technique can also be used for osteoporosis patients and in facial surgery.

"I don't believe they (NASA) will be able to take an operating room into space, so they must use several procedures which can be performed in a normal room, like an external fixation which is minimally invasive,'' said Rys.

First Pix of Dark Matter

EARTH December 6, 2001 (NASA/ESA) - Astronomers have observed a Dark Matter object directly for the first time. Images and spectra of a MACHO microlens - a nearby dwarf star that gravitationally focuses light from a star in another galaxy - were taken by the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope and the European Southern Observatory's Very Large Telescope. The result is a strong confirmation of the theory that a large fraction of Dark Matter exists as small, faint stars in galaxies such as our Milky Way.

The nature of Dark Matter is one of the fundamental puzzles in astrophysics today. Observations of clusters of galaxies and the large scale structure of individual galaxies tell us that no more than a quarter of the total amount of matter in the Universe consists of normal atoms and molecules that make up the familiar world around us. Of this normal matter, no more than a quarter emits the radiation we see from stars and hot gas. So, a large fraction of the matter in our Universe is dark and of unknown composition.

For the past ten years, active search projects have been underway for possible candidate objects for Dark Matter. One of many possibilities is that the Dark Matter consists of weakly interacting, massive sub- atomic sized particles known as WIMPs. Alternatively Dark Matter may consist of massive compact objects (MACHOs), such as dead or dying stars (neutron stars and cool dwarf stars), black holes of various sizes or planet-sized collections of rocks and ice.

In 1986, Bohdan Paczynski from Princeton University realised that if some of the Dark Matter were in the form of MACHOs, its presence could be detected by the gravitational influence MACHOs have on light from distant stars. If a MACHO object in the Milky Way passes in front of a background star in a nearby galaxy, such as the Large Magellanic Cloud, then the gravitational field of the MACHO will bend the light from the distant star and focus it into our telescopes. The MACHO is acting as a gravitational lens, increasing the brightness of the background star for the short time it takes for the MACHO to pass by. Depending on the mass of the MACHO and its distance from Earth, this period of brightening can last days, weeks or months. The form and duration of the brightening caused by the MACHO - the microlensing light curve - can be predicted by theory and searched for as a clear signal of the presence of MACHO Dark Matter. MACHOs are described as `microlenses' since they are much smaller than other known cases of gravitational lensing, such as those observed around clusters of galaxies.

Astronomers from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the Center for Particle Astrophysics in the United States and the Australian National University joined forces to form the MACHO Project in 1991. This team used a dedicated telescope at the Mount Stromlo Observatory in Australia to monitor the brightness of more than 10 million stars in the Large Magellanic Cloud over a period of eight years. The team discovered their first gravitational lensing event in 1993 and have now published approximately twenty instances of microlenses in the direction of the Magellanic Clouds. These results demonstrate that there is a population of MACHO objects in and around the Milky Way galaxy that could comprise as much as one half of the Milky Way total (baryonic/normal-matter) Dark Matter content.

In order to learn more about each microlensing event, the MACHO team has used Hubble to take high-resolution images of the lensed stars. One of these images showed a faint red object within a small fraction of an arc-second from a blue, main sequence background star in the Large Magellanic Cloud. The image was taken by Hubble 6 years after the original microlensing event, which had lasted approximately 100 days. The brightness of the faint red star and its direction and separation from the star in the Large Magellanic Cloud are completely consistent with the values indicated 6 years earlier from the MACHO light curve data alone. This Hubble observation further reveals that the MACHO is a small faint, dwarf star at a distance of 600 light-years with a mass between 5% and 10% of the mass of the Sun.

To further confirm its findings, members of the MACHO team sent in a special application for observing time on the FORS instrument on the European Southern Observatory's (ESO) Very Large Telescope (VLT)) to make spectra of the object. ESO responded swiftly and positively to the request. Although it was not possible to separate the spectra of the MACHO and background star, the combined spectrum showed the unmistakable signs of the deep absorption lines of a dwarf M star superimposed on the spectrum of the blue main sequence star in the Large Magellanic Cloud.

The combination of the microlensing light curve from the MACHO project, the high-resolution images from Hubble and the spectroscopy from the VLT has established the first direct detection of a MACHO object, to be published in the international science journal Nature on 6 December. The astronomers now have a complete picture of the MACHO: its mass, distance and velocity. The result greatly strengthens the argument that a large fraction of the `normal' Dark Matter in and around our Galaxy exists in the form of MACHOs and that this Dark Matter is not as dark as previously believed!

Future searches for MACHO-like objects will have the potential to map out this form of Dark Matter and reach a greater understanding of the role that Dark Matter plays in the formation of galaxies. These efforts will further strengthen the drive to reveal the secrets of Dark Matter and take a large step towards closing the books on the mass budget of the Universe.

Mars Probe Sees Possible Mars Climate Change

MARS December 7, 2001 (NASA) - The planet Mars we know today is a cold, dry, desert world, but suppose the Martian climate is changing even now, year to year and decade to decade?

New observations by NASA's Mars Global Surveyor spacecraft are expanding our understanding of the Martian climate and may indicate the climate is changing significantly even today. This suggests even larger climate changes have occurred during the planet's recent history and may again in its future. The observations were made during a full Martian year, 687 Earth days.

If this is so, Mars might someday become warmer and wetter, as some scientists suggest it was during its early history. Papers detailing these observations are published in the Dec. 7, 2001, issue of Science magazine.

"If the environment of Mars has really changed by as much and over as short a time-scale as our observation implies, there should be attributes of Mars reflecting these changes that may be measurable by landers," said Dr. Michael Malin, principal investigator for Global Surveyor's camera system at Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego. "If Mars had a higher atmospheric pressure in the not-too-distant past, it is more likely that water was present as a liquid near the surface."

Liquid water is required to support known forms of life, and the presence of liquid water on Mars would make it more likely life may once have existed there.

"Detecting evidence of climate change and variability on Mars using Mars Global Surveyor data is an important aspect of telling us where to go on the surface this decade," said Dr. James Garvin, lead scientist for Mars exploration, NASA Headquarters, Washington, D.C. "Clearly, the polar regions are a good place where we would like to look for hydrothermal vents to see if they exist on Mars."

Images from Global Surveyor's camera system show that pits -- often referred to as the "Swiss cheese" terrain -- at the southern polar ice cap of Mars have dramatically increased in diameter, indicating the material has evaporated rapidly compared to last year.

"The amount of change is much larger than any previous change we've seen on Mars, and it is much larger than can be explained by the evaporation of water ice. We have calculated the only material that could have changed this much is carbon dioxide ice, what we know as dry ice," said Malin. "This means the Mars environment we see today may not be what it was a few hundred years ago, and may not be what will exist a few hundred years in the future."

A separate observation is providing more detail about the behavior of carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is a "greenhouse gas" believed to warm climates when its atmospheric concentration increases. The spacecraft's laser altimeter and radio tracking system have made precise measurements of the amount and density of carbon dioxide snow in both polar regions. This information gives scientists the first global measurement of the seasonal exchange of carbon dioxide between the atmosphere and surface.

Due to the tilt of the planet, Mars has seasons just like Earth. Scientists have long known the most important seasonal change on Mars is the autumn and winter "freezing out" of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in the form of dry-ice frost and snow. The evaporation of the surface frost in spring and summer returns carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Over the course of a Martian year, as much as a quarter of the atmosphere freezes out, but until now scientists didn't know precisely where and how much dry-ice frost and snow would pile up on the surface.

"We have measured how deep the dry-ice snow got on Mars over the course of a year. We have also measured the corresponding tiny change in the gravity field due to carbon dioxide being transported from one pole to the other with the seasons," said Dr. Maria Zuber, deputy principal investigator of the laser altimeter, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, and NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md.

"Snow on Mars is denser than snow on Earth and is really more like ice than snow. Understanding the present carbon dioxide cycle is an essential step towards understanding past Martian climates," Zuber said.

X Prize Space Race Heats Up

ST. LOUIS December 4, 2001 (PR Newswire) - X PRIZE competitor Steven Bennett of Cheshire, UK recently completed an unmanned launch of his Nova spacecraft, becoming the fourth X PRIZE entrant to successfully fly a spacecraft prototype that eventually will take citizens to space. Bennett is planning a piloted launch in Spring 2002, the next step in his quest to capture the $10 million X PRIZE.

The St. Louis-based X PRIZE Foundation is awarding $10 million to the first privately funded person or team to fly a three-person spacecraft to 100km on two flights within two weeks. The first space-based incentive prize of its kind, the X PRIZE is modeled after the Orteig Prize, won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for his historic transatlantic flight in the Spirit of St. Louis. Bennett is one of 21 registered competitors from five countries vying for the X PRIZE.

"The goal of the X PRIZE is to open space to tourism. Steve Bennett's successful test flight puts our dream of getting to space one step closer," said Peter H. Diamandis, founder and chairman, X PRIZE Foundation. "His flight demonstrates the ability of small, entrepreneurial teams from the private sector to successfully build technology which was previously only possible by large governments."

"Following our success with Nova we will push ahead with a full-scale test launch of our X PRIZE vehicle, Thunderbird, next year with the goal of making an assault on the X PRIZE within 18 months," said Bennett. "We intend to win the X PRIZE and open space for everyone."

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India Considers Unmanned Mission to the Moon

NEW DELHI, India December 12, 2001 (Reuters) - India's state-run space program has begun a feasibility study for an unmanned mission to the moon, the government said on Wednesday.

The four-decade-old Indian space program has been successful in making communication and earth imaging satellites and launch vehicles for them, but no exploratory missions into space have ever been launched.

"The trip to (the) moon will be entirely based on the conclusions of the (feasibility) study," the government said in a statement.

No time-frame was given for the feasibility study.

The statement said the scientists of the Indian Space Research Organization wanted to conduct experiments aimed at understanding the lunar surface.

"India is embarking on the program in the backdrop of self reliance achieved in the design, development and commissioning of communication as well as launch vehicles and rockets," the statement said.

ISRO scientists have in the past said it could take them five to six years to launch the mission, once the government gave the go-ahead.

Norton Contempt Trial Opens Over Indian Trust


WASHINGTON December 11, 2001 (LA Times) - Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton went on trial Monday on charges of contempt of court, accused by a federal judge of lying to him about her efforts to clean up the long-mismanaged Indian trust fund system.

U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth ordered testimony to begin about the Interior Department's mishandling of the multibillion-dollar fund, held in trust for 300,000 Native Americans. The trust holds and distributes fees for 54 million acres of land leased for drilling, grazing and logging. The fund, the department acknowledges, has been mismanaged almost since its inception more than a century ago.

The Interior secretary, whose presence is not required at the civil proceeding, did not attend the first day of the trial. She is expected to testify later this month that she has made a good-faith effort to correct decades of fund mismanagement and tried to submit accurate reports to Lamberth, who has sought for five years to straighten out the tangled system. The trial could last for several weeks. Mark Nagle, an assistant U.S. attorney representing Norton, told Lamberth: "Evidence will demonstrate that contempt of court is not warranted." Nagle said he would provide a fuller explanation of Norton's case later.

Thomas M. Thompson, the congressional overseer of the fund and the trial's first witness, said he found records in disarray dating back more than 100 years. The Bureau of Indian Affairs, a division of Interior, has been trying to establish an accurate database, "but it's pretty clear there wasn't anyone managing the process on a day-to-day basis," Thompson said. He began looking into the trust fund at the request of Congress in January 1999.

The government has admitted that it cannot determine how much money is involved because the records are, in Thompson's words, "jumbled and confused." About $500 million in royalties is believed to be deposited into the fund each year. Many documents were mishandled, destroyed by floods or simply lost, and Thompson said he found a lack of security for records stored electronically, leaving them open to tampering.

Besides money owed to living Native Americans, there is a backlog of 15,000 probate cases in which Interior officials have not been able to determine how much is owed to the heirs of deceased Indians, he told the court. These probate accounts, which may total as much as $100 million, have been locked up for as long as six years awaiting determination of who owns the leases, Thompson said.

To protect the trust-fund records, the judge last week ordered all Internet and computer connections in the Interior Department shut down after finding them particularly vulnerable to hackers.

But after protests of the U.S. Geological Survey, a division of Interior, that its Web site was needed for public information in event of a major earthquake, Lamberth issued a formal order Monday that any connections not related to the trust fund could be restored.

Crediting Norton's actions since she took office early this year, Thompson told the court that she had instructed her aides to undertake a historical accounting of trust-fund money and to consider how to "prioritize" this work.

More recently, Norton announced she was reorganizing management of the fund under one official and would consult with representatives of Native Americans and other interested parties on reform efforts. An initial meeting is to take place Thursday in Albuquerque.

Judge Shuts Down Native American Trust System
By Brian Stockes

WASHINGTON December 07, 2001 (Indian Country Today) – Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the Interior Department to shut down the access to the accounting system that manages the Individual Indian Money accounts.

One day after an investigative report, unsealed by the court, revealed a breach in security in the computer system, Judge Royce Lamberth ordered the system shut down. The report unsealed by Lamberth in Cobell vs. Norton characterizes the lack of computer security as "deplorable and inexcusable," recommending that the court seize control of the system.

Special Master Alan Balaran’s report documents serious breaches in computer security and efforts to mislead the court and American Indian beneficiaries with accounts in IIM.

"Interior has demonstrated a pattern of neglect that has threatened, and continues to threaten, the integrity of trust data upon which Indian beneficiaries depend," Balaran said. "Rather than take any remedial action, its senior management has resorted to the condescending refrain that has consistently insinuated itself into the federal government’s relationship with Native Americans, in general, and with IIM holders, in particular."

The report cites an incident where Balaran, with permission from the court, hired a computer security firm in June and July to hack into the Interior’s system and created a false account in Balaran’s name. Balaran says the action went undetected by BIA employees. Balaran also criticized Interior for misleading the court about the status of security within the system, after knowing for years there were major problems protecting important trust data. Balaran said that despite numerous warnings that system was not secure and concerns voice by Judge Lamberth in 1999 that he was "alarmed and disturbed" by the lack of a plan to fix security breaches, nothing has changed.

"After 10 years of blistering reviews generated by federal agencies and private contractors, this deplorable condition is inexcusable," Balaran said. "And most significantly, why was the court not informed, via quarterly reports, that trust data was virtually unprotected?"

In concluding his report, Balaran said Interior repeatedly failed in its efforts to reform the trust process and fix computer security problems. He said stakes are simply too high and promises of future compliance should not be believed. He also said the court should strip Interior’s authority to handle the process on its own.

"It is the recommendation of the Special Master that the Court intervene and assume direct oversight of those systems housing Indian trust data," Balaran said. "Without such direct oversight, the threat to records crucial to the welfare of hundreds of thousands of IIM beneficiaries will continue unchecked."

Balaran cited Interior in the past for violating court orders. Just last year, he found the court was misled by government attorneys which constituted an "ethical breach" that "could be construed as the perpetuation of a potential fraud upon the court.

"It is disgusting and shameful that Secretary Norton and her predecessors have allowed this situation to exist and have done nothing," said Elouise Cobell, lead plaintiff in the case. They should be in jail. They’re treating money that belongs to individual Indians, some of the poorest people in this nation, like it’s a candy store."

Cobell, a member of the Blackfeet tribe, and a group of other Indian plaintiffs, initiated the class action lawsuit in 1996 to force the federal government to account for millions of dollars in unreconciled individual Indian accounts.

Interior Secretary Norton, along with Assistant Secretary Neal McCaleb went on trial before Judge Lamberth on Dec. 10, charged with contempt of court for allegations which include false reports about trust reform and computer security.
American Indians on The Rise

By Sara Steindorf
Christian Science Monitor Staff Writer

Washington December 6, 2001 (Christian Science Monitor) - Prejudice against American Indians in the early 1960s kept his father from ever mentioning - even to his family - what tribe they were from. But when James Fortier's own son was born in 1993, he vowed it was time to break the silence. So the San Francisco filmmaker not only searched out his Ojibway relatives, but became a member of the tribe - and in 2000 identified himself for the first time on the United States Census as part American Indian.

Stories like Mr. Fortier's were repeated again and again in the 2000 Census, which for the first time allowed people to mark down more than one race.

Some 4.1 million Americans said they were at least part American Indian, more than double the 1990 figure, and 2.5 million identified themselves only as American Indian, a 26 percent increase. Both alone and in combination with another race, American Indian figures "are rising beyond anything that can be explained by birthrate," says Gabrielle Tayac, a sociologist at the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of the American Indian.

Experts and tribal officials cite several reasons for the jump: Soaring casino revenues and benefits from affirmative action and minority status, enticing more tribal enrollees; a growing interest in genealogy, spurred largely by the Internet; and an erosion of the American Indian stigma.

"It's cool to be an American Indian now," says Cherokee spokesman Mike Miller, who has watched his tribe more than double to 230,000 members over the past decade, rivaling the Navajos as the country's largest tribe.

"Wanting to identify with our heritage, people have gone back to their roots to find some kind of Cherokee ancestry to qualify for membership," he says, adding wryly that his tribe has no casinos.

There's no official figure available, however, for the increase in membership of all 561 federally recognized tribes, leaving the census as the most accurate count. And while a person's bloodline may be too thin for tribal enrollment, it is no barrier to self-identification.

"It's the increase since the 1990 count that is so striking," says Dr. Tayac.

For decades, it was embarrassing and shameful to be considered American Indian, says Joely De La Torre, a professor of American Indian studies at San Francisco State University. American Indians avoided US Census forms, largely because of their historical mistrust of federal officials who expropriated their land. But in the late 1960s and early 1970s, civil rights and Indian pride movements prompted many to embrace their roots for the first time, she says.

More recently, sociologists refer to the effect of Indians portrayed in a nobler light by popular culture. Movies such as "Dances With Wolves," with Kevin Costner (1990), and Disney's "Pocahontas" (1995) cause more people to acknowledge their ancestry, the theory goes.

And Indians have "received more respect from society as they become more professionally and economically developed," says Dr. De La Torre, who is writing a book titled "American Indians: Political Power in the New Millennium."

Fortier, for example, produced a movie on American Indians that aired this year at the Sundance Film Festival, and he is working on another six-part documentary for PBS. "I'm hoping to better educate the public so that people can make their own informed decisions about the history of US treatment toward American Indians," he says.

Last year, American Indians had more than 90 representatives at the Democratic National Convention - the first time ever for any representation at a presidential convention, De La Torre says.

This year, the Grammy Awards added a category for traditional native American music. In 2004, the National Museum of the American Indian is to move into new quarters in on the National Mall in Washington.

But what has fueled American Indians economically has also earned them much criticism. Since 1988 - the year the US government allowed casino gambling on reservations - 309 gaming operations have popped up. Gaming revenue has soared from $212 million in 1988 to nearly $10 billion in 2000.

Many Americans disapprove strongly, but American Indians counter that casino revenues have allowed them to accumulate capital for the first time, enabling them to fund better schools, hospitals, and other enterprises. The new revenue also entices those of Indian blood to enroll in the tribe - and receive a share of casino stipends - and encourages members to move back to reservations for the jobs and community.

The latest census also highlights the "millions of Americans who can trace at least one root of their family tree to an American Indian," says Matthew Snipp, a sociology professor at Stanford University and member of the Census Bureau's advisory committee on American Indians. In the past, those with any hint of Indian ancestry often identified themselves as of another race to escape discrimination. "Now, there is less discrimination, and Americans can choose more than one race to mark down," says Dr. Snipp.

But the new choice also raises questions about who has the right to claim Indian status. There are those like Ten-nia Thomas, a full-blood Seneca, who feels that being an American Indian has everything to do with blood and lineage, even for those who know nothing of their traditional culture.

Others, such as Amber Arrow, who traces her roots to several tribes, point to the vast numbers of American Indian children adopted out, or to lost paperwork that could have verified a lineage.

"It's just one big mish-mosh now, but as long as you have it in your heart and follow what your elders taught you, you're an Indian," she says.

In coming years, federal and state agencies will also have to wrestle with the daunting question of how to count mixed-race American Indians for purposes of distributing federal money and enforcing minority rights, from voting to the workplace.

Writing a fair funding formula based on the new census data will be difficult, says Jay Mosa, research director at the Minnesota Department of Economic Security.

He admits there's some frustration among his colleagues. But for the most part, experts and tribal officials say the new census options are an improvement, because they allow Americans to acknowledge a fuller, multiracial heritage. Speaking for many, Fortier says: "Once I discovered my American Indian family, I couldn't let go of it. Now it's a real important part of my life."

Sioux Code Talkers to Be Honored

By Kay Humphrey
Today Staff

HURON, SD December 09, 2001 (Indian Country Today) — Two South Dakotans are sponsoring legislation to recognize efforts of the Sioux Code Talkers.

Congressman John Thune introduced legislation to honor American Indian war veterans who have never been publicly recognized for their vital service in World War II. Thune is pushing for the United States to fully recognize and award Congressional Gold Medals to the Sioux Code Talkers.

State Sen. Ron Volesky, D-Huron, is sponsoring a bill to honor them on a state level.

The Sioux Code Talkers were overlooked until just a few years ago. They were honored as part of the unveiling of a Veteran’s Memorial on the grounds of the state capitol earlier this year.

"It’s long overdue and they should be honored," Volesky said.

The Congressional Gold Medal is considered the nation’s highest and most distinguished civilian award given by Congress. It recognizes a lifetime contribution or a singular achievement.

The federal government has not publicly honored the Sioux Code Talkers for their heroic duty because of security concerns. However, recently declassified information now makes it possible. During World War II, about a dozen known Sioux Indians were Army radio operators who used their native Nakota, Lakota and Dakota dialects to transmit strategic messages to foil enemy communications. They served in both the Pacific and European theaters.

"It is important for us to honor these veterans whose contributions have, until recently, been ignored," Thune said. "Often sent out on their own to provide communications with headquarters on enemy location and strength, they sometimes spent 24 hours in headphones without sleep or food. Many endured terrible conditions without protection from the enemy. Using three Sioux languages Lakota, Nakota and Dakota, the Sioux Code Talkers were able to communicate messages the enemy was unable to crack."

Military commanders credit the code with saving the lives of countless American soldiers and being instrumental to the success of the United States in many battles during World War II.

Charles Whitepipe of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and Clarence Wolfguts of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who served in the South Pacific still live in South Dakota.

The medals also would be awarded posthumously to a surviving family member of Sioux Code Talkers Phillip "Stoney" LaBlanc and Eddie Eagle Boy of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Edmund St. John of the Crow Creek Sioux Tribe, Walter C. John of the Santee Sioux Tribe, Guy Rondell of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Sioux Tribe, John Bear King of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and Iver Crow Eagle Sr. and Simon Brokenleg of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe.

"As a member of the House Native American Caucus, I want to honor and recognize these brave, dedicated and talented men for providing a service to our country that was invaluable," Thune said. "By embracing the differences between Indians and non-Indians in language and culture, the U.S. armed forces were able to mesh the heritages to overcome oppressors and save thousands of lives.

"These American Indian service men performed a critical service to this country and to the Free World. Their unique skill was given freely and their service was full of courage and ingenuity."

It took an act of Congress and a ceremony by President George W. Bush to honor Navajo Code Talkers this summer. Thune is pushing for the same honor for the Sioux Code Talkers. In 1989, the French government awarded Native American Code Talkers its highest honor.

More than a half-century after they helped win World War II, the nation has paid tribute to the 29 original Navajo Code Talkers who invented a code in their language that the Japanese could not break.

Sioux Code Talkers were among 44,000 Native Americans who served in World War II. More than 12,000 Native Americans fought in World War I. Thousands more served in each conflict since. Today thousands continue to serve as the nation took its forces to Afghanistan.

Genre News: Dr. Who, Iron Man, Rings and T3

Head To Play Who

London December 11, 2001 (SciFi) - Anthony Stewart Head, who played Giles on UPN's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, will voice Doctor Who in three segments of the BBC's radio series, coming in February, Big Finish Productions announced. Head has already recorded his performance for the segments of the Excelis series of Doctor Who radio plays.

In the episodes, the Time Lord will face the wrath of the Warlord Grayvorn, who, after meeting the fifth Doctor (Peter Davison) and Iris Wildthyme (Katy Manning) in Excelis Dawns, is touched by an alien artifact known as the Relic and becomes immortal. In the subsequent two Excelis adventures, Grayvorn has to adopt alternate identities in his quest for power over both the city of Excelis and the planet Artaris itself.

Head joins Davison, Colin Baker and Sylvester McCoy for the three stories. Head recently moved back to his native England and has downscaled his role in UPN's Buffy to a recurring character from a regular.

Joss Whedon Considers Iron Man

News Editor

Hollywood December 11, 2001 (CINESCAPE) - Joss Whedon has a number of projects on his plate right now, one of which looks to see him making his feature film directing debut with a certain armored Avenger.

While talking to CINESCAPE magazine, Whedon addressed what projects he's currently looking at, saying, "IRON MAN is a definite possibility, but you know we are talking about a major motion picture, so it won't be any time soon."

He adds, "I'll probably end up doing another series before I do a feature just because of the time a feature will take and my deal with Fox. I'm looking to do a hard science fiction show. I am looking to do some spaceship action. Something very different from what's gone before, but ultimately it will exactly be the same as everything I do - women posing with fisticuffs."

To read what else Whedon had to say about BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and the program's DVD release, check out the upcoming 57th issue of CINESCAPE, on sale on January 8th.

Rings Premieres to Deafening Screams

HOLLYWOOD December 11, 2001 ( – An estimated 2,000 fans greeted the cast of "The Lord of the Rings" in London at the world premiere Monday night.

The enthusiasm for this first live-action adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic novel overwhelmed even the usually jaded cast, who were deafened by the shouts and screams of fans at Leicester Square.

Liv Tyler, 24, who plays the role of the elf-maiden Arwen in all three of the upcoming films, told the Associated Press she was amazed by the thunderous reception.

"I've seen nothing like this ever before," she said.

And co-star Christopher Lee, 79, who plays the 8,000-year-old wizard Saruman told the AP, "No one has ever seen anything like it."

In an interview with last year at the International Press Academy awards, Lee said, "I wasn't aware that playing a role like this would be so important, and as I got into the research and found out more about the lore, I realized that this may be my signature role, and not the horror films I'm now noted for."

Lee and Tyler were joined by Ian McKellen, who plays the wizard Gandalf, and Elijah Wood, who plays the hobbit Frodo Baggins, at the premiere of the first of the three movies titled, "The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.'' The Tolkein novels have all been filmed and will be released over the next few years, each at Christmas time. The 50-year-old trilogy of books has sold more than 100 million copies and has been translated to more than 40 languages.

"Heavenly Creatures" director Peter Jackson is responsible for bringing the three books to life. The reported $300 million project was shot in New Zealand and will be released by New Line.

Although crowds were bigger for the recent Warner Bros. release "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone," it's possible this latest book adaptation could give the boy wizard a run for his money at the box office.

"The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring'' opens Dec. 19 worldwide.

Warner Bros Lands Rights to Terminator 3

By Steve Gorman

LOS ANGELES December 11, 2001 (Reuters) - Warner Bros. Pictures has clinched U.S. distribution rights to "Terminator 3," with Arnold Schwarzenegger returning to his best-known role, capping a bidding war among some of Hollywood's biggest studios, producers of the film said on Tuesday.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but the production and financing team behind the project reportedly had set its asking price at $50 million plus half the gross receipts generated by the film.

For his part, Schwarzenegger, 54, will receive a record $30 million to reprise his signature role as the lead-slinging, leather-clad cyborg from the future in "Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines," a source close to the production has told Reuters.

That would mark the highest up-front fee ever paid to a Hollywood star and would exceed the $25 million Schwarzenegger reportedly made for playing Mr. Freeze in "Batman and Robin."

"T3" is planned for summer 2003 release, giving Warner Bros. a huge "tentpole" film to drive its business during one of the busiest moviegoing seasons of the year.

The deal comes at a time when Warner Bros., a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc., is dominating the U.S. box office with its all-star heist film "Ocean's Eleven" and another key franchise property, the record-smashing fantasy "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone." They were the two highest-grossing films over the weekend.


Production on "T3" is set to begin in April with Jonathan Mostow, who directed the submarine war movie "U-571," succeeding James Cameron behind the camera of the latest "Terminator." Entertainment trade paper Daily Variety has put Mostow's fee at $5 million.

According to Variety, producers have placed the overall cost of bringing "T3" to the big screen at $165 million to $180 million, easily eclipsing the record $135 million it reportedly took to make "Pearl Harbor."

Several major studios, including Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures and the Walt Disney Co., were said to have been vying for rights to the third installment of one of Hollywood's most potent franchises.

Interest was keen, given that "Terminator 2: Judgement Day" grossed more than $500 million worldwide after its 1991 release. Experts say a film franchise with such proven commercial clout normally has a studio home by the time it gets to its third outing.

"It's very uncommon that a major franchise like this would be available to the highest bidder," one knowledgeable industry source said.

"Usually, a major franchise is developed by a studio," he said, citing the "Star Trek" movies at Paramount Pictures and the James Bond films at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. "To be able to buy into an established franchise at any point is very rare."


Indeed, a joint statement issued late on Monday by the producers and studio said "T3" would "set the stage for future 'Terminator' sequels."

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman said the rights acquired by the studio included all forms of domestic distribution, including television, video and DVD release.

While plot details of "T3" have remained a closely guarded secret, the story is reportedly set 10 years after "T2," with a 20something John Connor and his T-800 cyborg pal, Schwarzenegger, battling a female Terminatrix whose powers and morphing abilities exceed that of their previous nemesis.

The film was sold to Warner by the production company C-2 Pictures, whose principals, Mario Kassar and Andrew Vajna, produced "T2," and its financing partner, Intermedia Films. Two other Intermedia-backed films opened at No. 1 earlier this year -- "The Wedding Planner" and "K-PAX."

C-2 and Intermedia expect to close their major overseas distribution deals for "Terminator 3" by year's end.

Ironically, announcement of the Warner Bros. deal came as it was reported that Schwarzenegger broke several ribs in a motorcycle accident over the weekend in Santa Monica, California. But the Austrian-born star's publicist promised, "He'll be back."

Paramount Pictures is a unit of Viacom Inc. . Universal Pictures is a unit of Vivendi Universal.

Schwarzenegger Breaks Ribs in Motorcycle Crash

LOS ANGELES December 10, 2001 (Reuters) - Action star Arnold Schwarzenegger broke some ribs in a weekend motorcycle wreck, but like the leather-clad cyborg he plays in the "Terminator" movies, he'll be back, his publicist said on Monday.

The actor, 54, took a spill from his motorcycle in a "minor" accident Sunday and was treated at a nearby hospital for several fractured ribs, according to spokeswoman Jill Eisenstadt, who added she had no further details.

"He's a very seasoned rider, and very safe rider, but accidents do happen, and unfortunately he did have one yesterday," she said. "He's resting comfortably and plans on coming home today."

Eisenstadt described Schwarzenegger as in "good spirits" and said he planned to go ahead with plans to join his family for a skiing vacation in Sun Valley, Idaho, over the Christmas holiday.

"So as only Arnold could say, he'll be back," the publicist added, referring to Schwarzenegger's most famous line from the original "Terminator" movie.

The Austrian-born actor is said to have recently clinched a record $30 million salary to reprise his role as the unstoppable man-machine from the future for "Terminator 3."

Groom Chokes to Death on Bride's Finger Nail
TEHRAN December 12, 2001 (Reuters) - An Iranian bridegroom bit off more than he could chew when, according to custom, he licked honey from his bride's finger during their marriage ceremony and choked to death on one of her false nails.

The Jam-e Jam newspaper said on Wednesday the 28-year-old groom died on the spot in the northwestern city of Qazvin while the bride was rushed to hospital after fainting from shock.

Iranian couples lick honey from each other's fingers when they get married so that their life together starts sweetly.
Singapore Fights Swarms of Crows

SINGAPORE December 11, 2001 (Reuters) - Tiny Singapore is fighting an army of crows plaguing its high-rise apartments, in a battle reminiscent of scenes from director Alfred Hitchcock's film "The Birds."

The balmy city state is home to some 98,000 noisy, squawking crows, which feed on garbage and breed quickly. But it will take a decade to bring the pests under control and they may never entirely be stamped out, local biologists have concluded after a two-year study.

"If you are living in a housing block where two or three thousand crows come at night, then the problem could be terms of the nuisance that they cause every night and they don't go away," biologist Navjot Sodhi, who headed the study, told Reuters.

"The crows can double their population every year," Sodhi, an associate professor at the National University of Singapore, said on Tuesday. "They almost breed like flies."

Singapore's crows are a foreign species which biologists believe migrated from Malaysia or Indonesia in the 1940s. Sodhi and his team spent two years tracking their movements and habits in a study released on Monday, whose findings show the number of crows could be reduced to 10,000 within 10 years.

Singapore has shot crows and covered all public garbage gins in its efforts to trim the crow population over the years. Sodhi said the current efforts had to continue.

"There will never be zero crows in Singapore, but we can probably reach 10 percent of the (current) population," he said.

Crows in some countries carry disease but those in Singapore are not known to be a health hazard. Yet their sheer number means that people occasionally get pecked, and they also prey on some native birds.

3D Brain Mappers Scan Thousands

By Maggie Shiels

Los Angeles December 6, 2001 (BBC) - A group of brain cartographers is creating the most detailed and sophisticated computer atlas of the human brain ever assembled. When the $15m (£10.6m) project is completed, the map will display the brain's anatomy and models of how it functions.

"We don't understand the human brain in great detail yet," said Arthur Toga, director of the Laboratory of Neuro Imaging at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), US.

"The objective is to try to create a map that describes not only the brain's structure but its functions in a comprehensive way," he told BBC News Online. "We also have to understand how different brains are across individuals, so that for example we can know when they are pathological versus when they are normal."

Until now, the brain map that has served as a model for the billions of brains on the planet has been based on that of a 60-year-old French woman. Dr Toga said this model was simply inappropriate in terms of representing the entire human population.

"All brains are as different as our faces," he said. "You and I have eyes, ears, nose and a mouth. But the shape and position of each of those features is different and that is just structurally. If we think about how complex the brain is in function, that variation gets even more extreme."

From his fourth floor office in Los Angeles, Dr Toga has enlisted the help of dozens of scientists from around the world, including the UK, to help draw up this new brain map. Brain scans of 7,000 healthy individuals from nine different countries, representing a cross section of the global population, are being put together. When finished, scientists and physicians will be able to use the 3D atlas online to compare, or contrast, all sorts of information about the human brain.

Specialty maps will also be categorized by age, gender, genetic background and family history.

"Many neurological or psychiatric conditions produce subtle differences in the brain and in order for us to be sensitive to those differences we have to fully understand what the brain looks like when it is normal," said Dr Toga. "And in order to do that we have to have examinations of a large population of individuals, and the ability to be sensitive to those potentially slight differences is important."

The brain map has already been used to show how an individual's genes influence their brain structure and intelligence. Scientists at UCLA collaborated with researchers in Finland and used MRI scans to compare the brain matter of 20 identical twins and 20 fraternal twins.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, show that the amount of gray matter - a measure of the density of brain cells found in the outer layer of the cortex where information is processed - seems to be highly determined by genetics. The amount was much more similar among identical twins, who share 100% of their genes, than between fraternal twins who share far less genetic material.

"The frontal cortex and language cortex were very strongly determined by genetics," said Dr Paul Thompson, assistant professor of neurology at UCLA and one of those involved in the brain mapping project. Those areas were almost indistinguishable in identical twins. The frontal cortex is associated with problem solving and IQ, while the language cortex is associated with speech production and language comprehension."

Dr Thompson suggested these results might begin to explain why patterns of intelligence seemed to run in families.

"The puzzle was people knew some features of intelligence were inherited, but no one knows why that is. This builds a bridge between those two observations. "

Dr Toga said this new genetic brain mapping approach was already being used on relatives of schizophrenic patients and individuals at genetic risk for Alzheimer's disease by screening them for early brain changes.

"One of the things we have begun to learn from this map is that there are trends or patterns to brains that allow one to be sensitive to schizophrenia or Alzheimer's. We knew the brain was different but the signature of what that brain looks like has become apparent to us by using these population-based image programmes. Before that we didn't really know. You would see one particular patient that would have this particular problem and another patient that had this particular problem, but by combining all this in a statistical way we almost gain a characteristic of this disease that can be seen with imaging."

It is predicted that in a couple of years, clinicians from around the world will be able to interact with the 3D atlas online in order to diagnose and treat patients with greater speed and accuracy.

Mayans Not Guilty of Routine Human Sacrifice

By Maggie McDonald

Vienna December 5, 2001 (New Scientist) - Ancient Mayan people did not routinely indulge in human sacrifice and ritual decapitation as is commonly believed. And the evidence comes from an unlikely source - the burial practices of the medieval monarchs of Europe.

The Mayans built a stunning dynasty that dominated Meso-America from AD 250 to 1200. They were ruled by nobles and kings under a hierarchical system of government. When scores of incomplete skeletons were uncovered from the graves of wealthy Mayans, archaeologists interpreted the missing bones as proof of dismemberment during ritual sacrifices.

But now Estella Weiss-Krejci of the University of Vienna says the most likely explanation is that the bones simply went missing when the corpses were moved and reburied - a common practice in medieval Europe.

Royal European dynasties routinely kept accounts of their mortuary practices and Weiss-Krejci thought they might shed light on the Mayans. She analysed events after death of members of two dynasties: the Babenbergs who ruled over parts of Germany and Austria from AD 976 to 1278, and the Hapsburgs who succeeded them. Eventually she gathered the burial records of 868 people who died during a period of 1000 years--along with details of 351 of their corpses.

After AD 1000, burial practices in Europe changed. Before that time, Christians were buried where they died, no matter how high their status. For example, Charlemagne lies in a grave in Aachen, rather than beside his royal parents at St Denis, Paris. But the custom changed shortly after, and royal bodies often travelled long distances to their tombs.

Embalming a corpse wasn't enough to prevent it decaying when this happened. So the undertakers used a gruesome practice known as mos teutonicus. This involved disembowelling the corpse, cutting it into pieces, and then boiling it in wine, water or vinegar. The clean bones were then wrapped up and carried to the tomb. For example, when the Babenberg ruler Leopold VI died, his soft tissue was buried at the monastery of Montecassino and his bones taken home to Austria for burial four months later.

But this practice, which continued until the 15th century, disarticulated the bones, destroying the post-mortem appearance of the skeleton. Weiss-Krejci estimates that of the 351 corpses in her sample, over 40 per cent had been tampered with in some way. For instance, 32 were stored and then buried, and 117 had been eviscerated. Ninety-five of the bodies were relocated after the funeral.

Weiss-Krejci says that it is likely that the Mayans also reburied their dead, particularly nobility. The disarticulated bones and incomplete skeletons may simply have been damaged or lost in transit rather than part of a sacrifice. None of them show signs of violent death, she points out.

"Her work is a timely antidote to the fashionable obsession that there is a ritual explanation for every phenomenon of human burial," says anthropolgist Nicholas Saunders of University College London.

Brazil Ends Illegal Mahogany Trade

Brazil December 6, 2001 (Greenpeace) - Brazilian government puts an end to the illegal mahogany trade following Greenpeace investigations

The mahogany industry drives the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest and is run by a corrupt industry that is undermining traditional cultures, and leading the illegal destruction of the world's most biologically diverse ancient forest.

But thanks to an unprecedented move by the Brazilian government to suspend all mahogany forest management plans in the Amazon and take measures to protect Indian Lands and conservation areas, the illegal mahogany trade is being stopped.

The decision announced by Hamilton Casara , the President of the Brazilian environmental agency Ibama, follows a series of Greenpeace exposés on illegal mahogany logging and trade in the Amazon.

Between September and October Greenpeace exposed rampant illegalities in the mahogany industry on Indian lands in the Amazon. A report, Partners in Mahogany Crime, was delivered to the federal prosecutor and the environmental authorities. The report revealed the existence of a mahogany mafia and its links with the international timber trade.

Based on the information provided by Greenpeace, Ibama conducted an inspection of areas of illegal logging, forest management plans and sawmills. In a joint operation with Greenpeace, Ibama seized the largest volume of illegal mahogany logs in Brazil's history. Over five days, Greenpeace and Ibama seized a total of 7,165 cubic meters of illegal mahogany worth almost US$7 million on the international market.

Paulo Adario, Greenpeace Amazon coordinator says the illegal mahogany industry has been driving the destruction of the Amazon for years. "Mahogany is responsible for thousands of kilometers of illegal roads opening areas of pristine forest to degradation," said Adario. "Today's historic announcement in effect means an end to the illegal mahogany industry in Brazil."

The government decree suspended all the forest management plans of mahogany, approved by Ibama, in the states of Pará, Mato Grosso and Acre. The Brazilian government excluded those mahogany management plans, which are in the process of being independently certified as coming from well managed forest operations. In addition, the government made certification mandatory for all management plans which surround Indian lands and conservation areas.

"This sends a clear message to the Amazon logging sector and the market place, that they stop illegal logging and go to certification or they are out of business," said Adario.

This work is part of an international campaign by Greenpeace to protect the world's remaining ancient forests. Some 80 percent of these forests have already been degraded or destroyed, and time is running out for the last 20 percent.

For more information about Greenpeace's ancient forests campaign, email:

Dying Pot Smoker Sues Store for Reporting Him

LOS ANGELES December 7, 2001 (Reuters) - A terminally ill man who was charged with growing marijuana at his trailer home after a drugstore clerk gave his photos of the plants to police has sued the chain, saying he smoked pot for medicinal purposes.

Glenn Randall Miller, 42, was arrested in October after the Savon Drug Store clerk who was processing a roll of his film saw the marijuana plants and showed them to police in the Los Angeles suburb of Montebello.

He sued Savon, which is owned by No. 2 U.S. supermarket chain Albertson's Inc., in Los Angeles Superior Court, alleging false imprisonment, infliction of emotional distress, negligence and invasion of privacy.

"I've been a loyal customer of Savon ever since I've had physical problems," Miller told reporters at a press conference outside his trailer home, where the plants had been ripped from the garden by police officers with search warrants.

"They've outlawed a substance a lot of people really need for their medical problems," he said.

Miller, an unemployed Air Force veteran who says doctors have given him only about a year to live because he suffers from cardiovascular disease, lung disease, emphysema and stomach disorders, spent a night in jail, his attorneys said.

He faces charges of cultivating marijuana, possession of marijuana for sale and possession of methamphetamine for sale.

Attorney Steven Weinberger said Miller sued Savon because they took his personal property -- the photographs -- and gave them to the police based on suspicions that he broke the law.

Prehistoric Man Had No Teens
By Ania Lichtarowicz

EARTH December 5, 2001 (BBC) - Prehistoric humans did not go through a period of adolescence, according to new scientific evidence published in the journal Nature. Scientists believe that one of our ancestors, Homo erectus, may have developed more like an ape and missed out on adolescence - which evolved in later humans to allow for extra learning time.

Homo erectus roamed parts of Africa about two million years ago and showed many modern human characteristics, such as shorter arms. Scientists had believed these features all evolved simultaneously to create modern man, but a new study on the fossilized teeth of Homo erectus shows he was never a typical teenager.

Teeth are a very accurate way of calculating how old someone is, and how quickly they develop shows how quickly an individual reaches adulthood.

By cutting thin sections of a tooth and looking at it under a powerful microscope, it was possible to count markings in the tooth enamel to determine how long it had taken for the tooth to grow. These markings are like tree rings, and very accurately measure the age of an individual.

It appears that early human ancestors grew up very much like today's great apes - taking about 12 years to reach adulthood. Modern humans on the other hand take much longer - up to 20 years.

The difference seems to allow us to learn how to use our bigger brains. The research carried out on the fossilized teeth suggests that the extended period of adolescence, as we know it, only developed about half a million years ago.

The scientists behind the work say that if Homo erectus did not go through adolescence, then he did not need an extended learning time. This, they say, is because he still had a small ape-like brain.
God Particle May Not Exist

Geneva December 6, 2001 (BBC) - The most sought after object in particle physics, the Higgs boson, may not even exist.

This is the astonishing conclusion of researchers at the Cern nuclear physics lab near Geneva who have just reviewed five years' worth of data from experiments they thought would confirm the legendary particle's role in the construction of the Universe.

The Higgs, according to the Standard Model of particle physics, is the particle that explains why all others have mass. Its importance is so central to current thinking that some have even dubbed it the "God particle".

But the Cern researchers have told New Scientist magazine that studies in its giant accelerator which should have shown up the presence of the Higgs found absolutely nothing - and this could mean particle physics having to revisit some of its most cherished ideas.

Higgs 'shadows'

If there is no Higgs, science will be left totally unable to explain mass.

Physicists at Cern used what was then the largest atom smasher in the world, the Large Electron Positron (Lep) collider, to search for the Higgs boson.

The theory was that if atoms were hurtled into each other at high enough energies, the Higgs would eventually reveal itself in the sub-atomic rubble.

Just before the Lep was due to be closed down and scrapped, one team declared last year that it was within a hair's-breadth of identifying the Higgs - it had seen tantalizing "shadows" of something which could be the sought after particle.

The Lep got a one-month reprieve for follow-up work and was then closed to make way for a much larger machine. Since then, researchers at Cern have been sifting their data.

Higher energies

Their conclusion is that there was nothing in the data at all to suggest the Higgs is out there - certainly not at energy masses of up to 115 Gigaelectronvolts (GeV), way past the level of 80 GeV where the boson was expected to show itself.

The existence of the Higgs is looking "less and less likely," Steve Reucroft of Northeastern University, Boston, US, a member of the working group, told New Scientist.

"We've eliminated most of the hunting area," confirmed Cern scientist Neil Calder.

And John Swain, also of Northeastern University, said: "It's more likely than not that there is no Higgs."

Not everyone is downcast, however. Frank Wilczek, a particle physics theorist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, pointed out that you could take the Lep results as evidence that the Higgs must be sitting at an improbably high energy.
He said he would start to get uncomfortable if the Higgs did not show up by about 130 GeV. "Then I would have a good long think," he said.

And Cern's David Plane is also still hopeful. "It's just at a higher energy than we're sensitive to," he told the magazine.

The Lep is making way for a bigger facility, the Large Hadron Collider, which is due to start crunching particles at even higher energies in 2007.

In the meantime, the baton has been handed to the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory outside Chicago, US. Researchers there are hopeful they can succeed where Lep failed.

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