|Russell Means, |
Barnaby at 93,
Bichon Frisé Trial,
|Russell Means Announces Candidacy for Governor |
By DEBORAH BAKER
Associated Press Writer
SANTA FE, NM May 31, 2001 (AP) — American Indian activist Russell Means said he will run for governor of New Mexico in 2002 as a Libertarian, even though a felony conviction could block his candidacy.
Means, who made his announcement Monday, said he would challenge a new state law that prevents felons from holding office unless they have been pardoned.
"I've already committed my felonies, so people won't have to worry about me as governor,'' Means said.
Means, convicted in a 1975 clash with police in South Dakota, will register as a Libertarian under the same law, which allows felons to vote after completing their sentences.
Gov. Gary Johnson cannot pardon Means for his South Dakota conviction, but could issue a certificate that would allow Means to hold office, a spokeswoman said.
But Means said Wednesday he has no plans to request such a certificate.
"I don't have anything to worry about, because the law ... is unconstitutional,'' Means said. "I believe the Libertarian Party will certainly challenge it, if it becomes an issue.''
The Libertarians contend that because the state constitution specifies only that candidates must be U.S. citizens, state residents and at least 30 years old, any requirements beyond that are unconstitutional.
Means, 62, was a leader of the American Indian Movement and led the 1973 uprising at Wounded Knee, S.D. He ran unsuccessfully for the Libertarian nomination for president in 1988.
Johnson, a Republican, cannot run for re-election in 2002 under term limits.
|Brown Dwarfs Could Be Stars |
|PASADENA, CA June 7, 2001 (AP) -- New evidence suggests that brown dwarfs -- the hulking celestial bodies that have stumped scientists since they were first observed less than two decades ago -- are more closely related to stars than planets. |
An international team of astronomers presented evidence Thursday that not only do the faint, cool bodies form like stars, but they may be orbited by planets of their own.
"Like stars, brown dwarfs are born surrounded by disks, which may be capable of forming planetary systems,'' said Charles Lada, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass.
Lada presented the results on behalf of his colleagues at the 198th meeting of the American Astronomical Society.
Brown dwarfs are objects with masses that range between 10 and 70 times that of the planet Jupiter. Though enormous compared to planets, the gaseous bodies are not large enough to shine like stars because their masses are too low to ignite and sustain nuclear burning.
Bedeviled by the ambiguity of brown dwarfs, astronomers have wavered between calling them super planets or failed stars. Lada said the new observations could put them firmly in the star camp.
The observations last year at the European Southern Observatory in Chile revealed a group of brown dwarfs in a cluster of young stars in the constellation Orion, about 1,200 light years from the sun.
The infrared observations suggested that about 60 of the roughly 100 brown dwarfs were ringed by disks of material. Another 20 are thought to have disks too dim to detect.
Disks are a hallmark of young stars and are believed to be regions of planet formation. While planets -- such as Earth -- can form from these disks, planets do not feature disks of their own.
Geoffrey Marcy, a University of California, Berkeley, astronomer who was not part of the team, called the results "the most compelling evidence that brown dwarfs do indeed form as stars do.''
But he cautioned that what astronomers have called "brown dwarfs'' since the mid-1980s may actually encompass a variety of objects that could form in different ways, including as planets. At least one brown dwarf orbits a star.
Should Earth-size planets orbit brown dwarfs, they are likely cold, dark and inhospitable to life. Temperatures would hover around minus 423 degrees Fahrenheit.
"They would be very strange worlds,'' Lada said.
|New Nuclear Waste Regulations |
By H. JOSEF HEBERT
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON June 6, 2001 (AP) — The Bush administration agreed to tougher health protection requirements for a proposed nuclear waste site in Nevada, ignoring pleas from the nuclear industry and Republican allies in Congress.
The requirements announced by the Environmental Protection Agency on Wednesday would limit radiation exposure from the Yucca Mountain site to no more than 15 millirems a year for people 11 miles away, including no more than 4 millirems from groundwater.
A millirem is a measurement of the biological effects of radiation on human tissue. According to the EPA, the standard would mean a person living 11 miles from the waste site would absorb every year a little less radiation than a person would get from two roundtrip transcontinental airline flights.
By comparison, background radiation exposes people to about 360 millirems of radiation annually. Three chest X-rays expose a person to about 18 millirem, the agency said.
The Nuclear Energy Institute responded with separate lawsuits in two federal courts challenging the EPA standard. The industry had sought less stringent standards, arguing that recommendations from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission of a 25 millirems overall limit and no groundwater standards would provide safety to people living near the site.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, who has favored the NRC proposal, said the EPA standards were "tough and challenging'' and that "we believe we can meet the requirements.''
The government's health standards for the Nevada site have been considered crucial in determining whether the federal underground storage facility at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas, can be built.
The scientific review of the site has not been completed. Abraham is expected to make a recommendation to President Bush this year with a final decision by the president likely in early 2002. The plan is to keep 70,000 tons of used reactor fuel now at commercial power plants in canisters 600 feet below the surface.
Nevada officials say the federal government has failed to prove that the waste, which will stay highly radioactive for tens of thousands of years, would not contaminate an aquifer running through the area and surrounding countryside. The state also has protested transportation plans for thousands of shipments of waste, including some traveling near Las Vegas.
The EPA standard is designed to limit public exposure to any contamination over the next 10,000 years.
"Under these standards, future generations will be securely protected,'' Christie Whitman, the EPA administrator, said in a statement. She said the limits were designed "to ensure that people living near this potential repository will be protected now and for future generation.''
The nuclear industry moved quickly to challenge the standard, suing in U.S. District Court and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
"The nuclear industry is extremely disappointed,'' said Marvin Fertel, director of business operation at the NEI, the industry trade group. He said the added groundwater exposure limits "will cost taxpayers and electricity consumers billions of additional dollars to license and build the repository without making the facility any safer.''
Some environmentalists and nuclear watchdog groups said the standards were inadequate.
"The EPA has create an exclusion zone to safe drinking water,'' said Arjun Makhijani, a nuclear physicist involved in the anti-nuclear movement. Makhijani said that people live within several miles of the site, but the groundwater tests will be taken 11 miles away.
Also, he and other critics said, the standard would apply for 10,000 years, while the maximum radiation exposure from decaying isotopes is projected to be many years beyond that.
In a related development, a National Academy of Sciences report Wednesday said deep geological disposal "remains the only long-term solution'' for dealing with nuclear waste despite the difficulty in winning public support for a repository.
The report said wastes can be kept above ground safely, but that the major uncertainty would be "in the confidence that future societies will continue to monitor and maintain such facilities'' for tens of thousands of years.
On the Net:
Energy Department's Yucca Mountain project: http://www.ymp.gov
National Academy of Sciences: http://www.nas.edu
|Judge Limits Depositions in Lee Case |
|By ROBERT GEHRKE |
Associated Press Writer
ALEXANDRIA, Va. June 4, 2001 (AP) — Citing a need to protect national security, a judge drew strict limitations on depositions Monday in a defamation lawsuit filed against Wen Ho Lee by the Energy Department's former intelligence chief.
In the suit, Notra Trulock contends Lee and two investigators accused Trulock of racial profiling in an investigation of security breaches at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where Lee was a nuclear scientist.
The two investigators, former Los Alamos counterintelligence chief Robert Vrooman and Trulock's predecessor, Charles Washington, also are named in the suit.
Government attorneys asked U.S. District Judge Thomas Jones to postpone a deposition of Lee and limit the discovery process while officials determine what classified information might be involved and how nuclear secrets should be handled.
"This is some of the most sensitive classified information the government holds — its nuclear weapons and comparable information,'' said Justice Department attorney Anne Weismann. "That, in our view, compels the court to go carefully.''
The judge said he was sensitive to the national security interests but said fundamental issues could be dealt with without risking the disclosure of nuclear secrets.
Vrooman and Washington allegedly stated in depositions that Trulock had singled out the Taiwanese-born Lee because of his race. Lee's supporters then posted the depositions on a Web site.
"At its base, ... this is a pair of lawsuits in which the plaintiff alleges that these defendants called him a racist,'' said Jones. "The truth or falsity of the statements are what this case is all about.''
Jones said he would allow attorneys to begin building their cases on whether the statements by Vrooman and Washington were defamatory, what Lee and his backers did to spread the statements and whether Trulock is a public figure who would enjoy less legal protection from slanderous statements.
He said they had to avoid specifics of how the investigation was conducted and any queries that might draw in classified nuclear secrets. He also granted the government's request to postpone a deposition of Lee until at least next month.
Lee was indicted on 59 felony counts for transferring nuclear weapons information to portable computer tapes, charges stemming from an investigation into possible Chinese espionage. Lee was not charged with spying and denied giving information to China.
Lee eventually pleaded guilty to one felony count of downloading sensitive material. The judge in that case said he was misled by prosecutors and apologized to Lee for nine months he spent in solitary confinement.
Lee has sued the government for allegedly leaking information to the media to portray the Taiwan-born scientist as a Chinese spy.
|Is Lieberman Running for President? |
WASHINGTON (AP) — Six months after losing in the closest presidential election in U.S. history, Joe Lieberman is re-establishing his stance in the Senate's middle ground while, many believe, setting his sights on a White House run in 2004.
The Connecticut Democrat isn't saying much, but his actions indicate he's at least considering a run. He's formed a political action committee to raise money for fellow Democrats — important should he run and need their support — and has traveled to important presidential states like California.
In the Senate, Lieberman has returned to his moderate roots after a summer and fall of campaigning for the platform of his more liberal presidential running mate, Al Gore.
"It looks like Lieberman is trying to tiptoe back to the center but doing so in a way that doesn't antagonize Democratic loyalists,'' Brown University political scientist Darrell West said. "He really faces a major strategic choice in how he positions himself, whether he's a true-blue Democrat or a centrist.''
Among his issues is a gun control bill co-authored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. The National Rifle Association says it goes too far and gun control advocates say not far enough.
Then there's the subject of marketing sex and violence to young people. Lieberman is lead sponsor of a bill that would mandate government regulation of the entertainment industry, which traditionally is a target of conservatives and major contributor to Democrats.
But Lieberman also has been among the harshest critics of President Bush's environment and energy policies. He became chairman of the Government Affairs Committee when Democrats took control of the Senate and immediately announced he would look into why federal regulators have refused to impose price caps to control power prices in California.
Lieberman, 59, dismisses talk he's positioning himself for a run for the presidency after losing as the Democrats' vice presidential candidate.
"The fact is, I'm not a candidate for any other office,'' said Lieberman, now in his third Senate term. "I'm not being cute about it. I'm not closing any doors, but 2004 is a long, long way away.''
Last fall some critics accused Lieberman of abandoning the middle ground for political expediency — the frequent critic of the entertainment industry was suddenly quiet, they said, and helping to raise millions of dollars from Hollywood. He also modified his support of school vouchers to jell with Gore's opposition.
McCain said he doesn't detect much difference in Lieberman now.
"I think he's the same Joe Lieberman I worked with for many years,'' McCain said. "I always thought he had the middle ground. I think he changed a little bit during the campaign, but not significantly.''
While saying his focus is representing Connecticut, Lieberman has traveled to many other states this year. At a stop in Florida in February, he tantalized his audience at a Jewish temple by remarking, "I think we won Florida. Who knows? We may be back in 2004.''
He hasn't made it to New Hampshire or Iowa, which respectively play host to the earliest presidential primary and caucus, but he has been to New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona and Washington, among others.
He also has turned up in California, as have Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Evan Bayh of Indiana, and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt of Missouri — all potential 2004 Democratic presidential candidates.
In a four-day swing through California, Lieberman discussed the state's energy crisis with state leaders, gave speeches and schmoozed with high tech executives at the home of Joel Hyatt, former finance chairman for the Democratic National Committee.
He also raised funds for his new political action committee, called the Responsibility, Opportunity, Community PAC. The idea, he said, is to use the prominence he gained as a vice presidential candidate to help Democrats around the country.
But it also could prove a launching pad for a presidential campaign; McCain used his Straight Talk Express PAC to boost his presidential campaign last year.
While Lieberman has sought the middle ground, Connecticut voters see him in a more partisan light since the election. A recent Quinnipiac University poll found that while Lieberman's job approval rating is high — 71 percent — support among independents and Republicans has dipped.
"The vice presidential campaign ... hurt his image of being in the middle,'' poll director Douglas Schwartz said.
Lieberman maintains he's the same Joe.
"What I was doing was very much what I've done for a lot of years in Connecticut and through the Senate, but now I have an opportunity to do it nationally, which is to take the same kinds of positions I've taken — independent, moderate, Democratic — and I've found people respond,'' he said.
On the Net:
NAME — Joseph I. Lieberman
AGE-BIRTH DATE — 59; Feb. 2, 1942
EDUCATION — Yale College, B.A., 1964; Yale Law School, 1967
EXPERIENCE — U.S. Senate (1989-present), Connecticut attorney general (1983-88), Connecticut Senate (1971-81)
FAMILY — Married (Hadassah Freilich). Four children.
QUOTE — "I'm not closing any doors, but 2004 is a long, long way away.''
|Woman to Be Stoned to Death for Murder |
|TEHRAN May 17, 2001 (Reuters) - A 38-year-old Iranian women is to be stoned to death under Iran's Islamic law for murdering her husband, a newspaper reported Wednesday. |
An accomplice, a 24-year-old man, will be hanged for the killing of the woman's 42-year-old husband, who was stabbed to death and buried alongside a cow's skull in a fruit garden outside Karaj, a town close to the capital Tehran, Hambastegi daily said.
It did not say when the sentences would be carried out, but public executions normally take place where the crime occurred. Stoning is relatively rare in Iran, where drug smugglers and murderers are regularly hanged under strict Islamic Sharia law.
Men who are stoned to death are first buried waist-deep in the ground. If they manage to escape, they can go free. Women are buried deeper to stop stones hitting their breasts.
The last time two Iranians were stoned to death was for adultery in June 1996.
|Most Wanted Anti-Abortion Extremist Still At large |
|By CHARLES SHEEHAN |
Associated Press Writer
PITTSBURGH June 5, 2001 (AP) — An escaped convict who once said he was on a mission from God to kill abortion doctors has dodged police for more than three months and federal agents worry he may become a folk hero to fringe groups.
Clayton Lee Waagner, 44, who is on the U.S. Marshal's Service 15 Most Wanted List, has been profiled four times on "America's Most Wanted'' television show but his improbable escapes, uncanny timing and luck have enabled him to avoid capture.
The National Abortion Federation has warned health clinics and abortion providers to be on their guard. The U.S Marshals Service has assigned several agents to track Waagner full time.
"He is probably one of the smartest fugitives we have ever tracked and undoubtedly the luckiest,'' said Deputy U.S. Marshal Bruce Harmening.
Waagner is one of several high profile anti-abortion extremists who have left abortion providers shaken.
James Charles Kopp was captured March 29 in France after a two-year manhunt. Kopp has been charged with the 1998 killing of Dr. Bernard Slepian, a Buffalo, N.Y., obstetrician who performed abortions. Kopp faces life in prison in America.
Abortion providers believe they may also have reason to fear Waagner, who previously testified that he has staked out at least 100 clinics in 19 states.
"Waagner doesn't have anything to lose at this point. He could go into hiding or he could finish what he's planned to do all along,'' said Vicki Saporta, executive director of the National Abortion Federation.
Waagner escaped from the Dewitt County Correctional Center in Clinton, Ill., on Feb. 22 where he was being held on a federal weapons conviction.
Sheriff Roger Massey said Waagner used a plastic comb to spring the lock on a plumbing maintenance door, went to the attic and escaped through a roof drain. He wriggled out through a 17 1/2-inch hole, walked to the nearby parking lot of a sandwich shop, hot-wired a truck and drove away.
"Every police cruiser in central Illinois was on the road and looking for one truck, one man,'' Harmening said. "The odds of someone avoiding that kind of pressure boggles the mind. We have no theories.''
While in jail, Waagner corresponded with several individuals and groups that advocate stopping abortion by any means.
The Rev. Donald Spitz, a Pentecostal minister who now heads Pro-Life Virginia, was one of several people in contact with Waagner.
"There is little doubt in my mind that God opened the door for Clayton Waagner so he could complete his mission,'' Spitz said.
Waagner is originally from Kennerdell, about 60 miles north of Pittsburgh, and is described as having long brown hair with gray streaks, a mustache and blue eyes.
Little is known about his whereabouts since February although some believe he may have returned to his old stomping grounds in western Pennsylvania and the Allegheny National Forest.
Last month, police said a security camera recorded Waagner in a daring, daylight bank robbery outside Harrisburg in which several thousand dollars were stolen at gunpoint.
The robbery came almost two years to the day after Waagner first came to the attention of police. Waagner and an accomplice, Jason Miller, robbed a Lexington, Ky., convenience store in May, 1999.
Miller was captured but Waagner escaped into a wooded area, climbing a tree to hide. Then, with a state police helicopter overhead, he climbed down and walked away. Waagner later said God had made him invisible.
Four months later, Pennsylvania State Police were chasing a stolen Chevy Tahoe near the Allegheny National Forest. Waagner disappeared into the woods and later told police he stayed there for five days.
In the truck, authorities found weapons, explosives and a list of abortion providers.
On Sept. 12, 1999 he was arrested in Illinois with his wife and eight children in a stolen Winnebago with four stolen handguns under the driver's seat.
During his two-day trial, Waagner used an insanity defense. In early 1999, Waagner's daughter suffered a miscarriage, an event that Waagner said resulted in God ordering him to hunt down and kill doctors who perform abortions.
He was convicted on federal weapons charges but escaped from prison before sentencing. Officials later said both the cell door and the roof hatch he slipped through were faulty.
"It was one-in-a-million that this guy would be in this cell that gave him access to two doors with flawed specifications,'' Massey said.
On the Net:
National Abortion Federation: http://www.prochoice.org
|Cow News: Police Recover $100,000 Faux Cows |
SCARSDALE, NY June 7, 2001 (AP) - A couple of cows that were part of last year's "Cows on Parade" exhibit in New York City are now safe and sound in a police evidence locker after being stolen.
A group of Eastchester High School students is accused of stealing two life-size fiberglass cow replicas from the front lawn of a man who had paid $105,000 for them. The replicas, from last year's "Cows on Parade" exhibit in New York City, were pilfered over Memorial Day weekend.
One of the faux cows looks like a school bus; the other has blue and orange stripes.
They were recovered last week and five boys, ages 16 and 17, were charged with grand larceny and possession of stolen property. A younger teen was sent to Family Court.
The school-bus cow was found outside the high school, and the other one was found in the bedroom of one of the suspects. The students allegedly transported the statues using a truck belonging to a student's relative. A neighbor took down the license plate number.
"This looks to me like a prank gone wrong," said Police Chief Donald Ferraro. "I don't believe they had any idea how much these cows were worth."
|German WWII Sub Found in Gulf |
|NEW ORLEANS June 8, 2001 (AP) — The wreckage of the only German submarine sunk in the northern Gulf of Mexico during World War II has been found, two oil companies announced Friday. |
The wreckage of the U-166 was found during surveying for a planned underwater pipeline route, BP Amoco PLC and Shell Oil Co. said at a news conference at the national D-Day Museum in New Orleans.
The sub lies not far from the wreckage of the American passenger freighter S.S. Robert E. Lee, which the U-166 sank on July 30, 1942. The U.S. military sank the German sub shortly after that attack.
The sub was found about 45 miles from the mouth of the Mississippi River in about 5,000 feet of water by an underwater robot, the companies said.
|Humans Linked to Animal Extinction |
WASHINGTON June 7, 2001 (AP) -- For more than a century, scientists have debated what killed off the big animals in Australia and the Americas. Now, two studies blame ancient human hunters equipped with fire, spears and an appetite for meat.
The studies, appearing Friday in the journal Science, conclude that after early humans migrated into Australia and the Americas, the heavyweight animals of these new continents were driven to extinction within a few thousand years.
In the Americas, 73 percent of the large plant-eaters, along with the saber-toothed cat, were gone within 1,200 years after humans migrated to the continents about 13,600 years ago. Wiped out were animals like mammoths, camels, mastodons, large ground sloths and the glyptodont, a strange armored creature the size of a small car and weighing more than 1,400 pounds.
In Australia, researchers precisely dated bone specimens of elephant-sized marsupials, giant snakes, huge lizards and other extinct animals. They found that the wildlife disappeared within 10,000 years after humans arrived at the down-under continent.
The research contributes powerful new evidence to a century-old debate among scientists intrigued by the question: What killed off the big animals in newly settled continents of the world?
Some have long blamed humans, but other experts say it could have been climate change, disease or a gradual change in habitat.
The two new studies pin the blame firmly on humans.
"Human population growth and hunting almost invariably leads to major mass extinctions,'' said John Alroy of the University of California, Santa Barbara, author of the study of the American extinctions.
"The results show how much havoc our species can cause, without anyone at the time having the slightest idea of what is going on, much less any intention of causing harm,'' Alroy said.
Linda Ayliffe of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City said precise dating of rocks and fossils from 27 sites in Australia and West Papua New Guinea clearly show that large animals there disappeared around 46,000 years ago, or about 10,000 years or so after the arrival of humans.
The rapid demise during that time of 55 species -- every land animal, reptile and bird in Australia weighing more than 220 pounds -- is strong evidence for human involvement in the extinctions, said Ayliffe.
"It is clear that the downward spiral of these animals was after the arrival of humans,'' she said.
Ayliffe said the dating is significant because some researchers have blamed the extinctions on extended droughts that occurred later. But she noted that the animals had withstood climate changes previously; so it is unlikely they all would have succumbed to natural forces. Also, disease is improbable since so many different species of reptiles, birds and mammals disappeared at about the same time. Diseases are unlikely to affect all species the same way.
Among the Australian victims was the largest known bird, a flightless, ostrich-like creature that is thought to have weighed about 220 pounds. Another victim was a claw-foot kangaroo that weighed more than 600 pounds, and still another was a 20-foot-long lizard.
Ayliffe said it is unlikely that hunting alone led to the disappearance of so many large animals. She said there is evidence that humans 55,000 years ago used fire as a hunting tool, burning vast areas of Australia.
Such fires would change the habitat, which would make it difficult for large animals that required plenty of forage to survive, she said.
In his study, Alroy created a computer model that factored in such elements as the number of hunters, the number of animals, distribution of prey species and competition among prey for food.
He found that with man in the equation, virtually every combination was bad news for the big animals of America.
"In fact, it is hard to find a combination of ... values that permits all species to survive,'' he said in the study.
Alroy said since the animals evolved in the Americas before human habitation, they probably had no fear after the hunters came and were easy prey.
"Their strategy for dealing with predators was to stand and fight, and that is the last thing they should do when dealing with humans,'' Alroy said.
Bison, elk and moose probably escaped extinction because they lived in areas, such as the central plains, with fewer humans and vast tracts of open land, he said.
Paul Martin of the University of Arizona, Tucson, a leading authority on extinctions, said the two papers "strengthen the case for human involvement in all these extinctions.''
On the Net: Mass extinctions: http://museum.state.il.us/exhibits/larson/LP_extinction.html
Science journal: http://www.eurekalert.org
|Buddy Ebsen Becomes First-time Novelist at 93 |
PALOS VERDES ESTATES, CA June 6, 2001 (AP) - At 93, Buddy Ebsen still moves with the grace of a vaudeville hoofer, which he once was. With his dancing and acting days behind him, he has found a new occupation: author.
A voracious reader, Ebsen has published a novel of his own, "Kelly's Quest," which made No. 3 in the Los Angeles Times paperback best-seller list in mid-May, with a little help from bookstore signings in the Los Angeles area. It's a slender volume - Buddy is parsimonious with words - about a feisty young woman named Kelly Ryan who is fired from her movie job and flees Hollywood in search of "a man who will make her feel like a woman." Her journey leads her to a minister, a filmmaker, a bad guy, a millionaire and a cowboy.
Ebsen and his wife, Dorothy, live in a spacious house overlooking a green sweep of golf course in this upscale coastal suburb south of Los Angeles. The house boasts a six-car garage even though the Ebsens have only one auto. The rest of the space is jammed with his books and memorabilia.
The star of TV's "Davy Crockett," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Barnaby Jones" still looks every inch the Hollywood celebrity. Flowing, silvery hair, ruddy face, clear eyes. Silk scarf at the neck, black velvet jacket, gray flannel slacks, black loafers. Tall and erect and elegantly thin.
His hearing may not be the best, but his memory is plenty OK; he can recount incidents, including names of people, that happened 75 years ago.
And Ebsen hasn't lost the dancing skill he showed in 1930s MGM musicals and duets with Shirley Temple. He demonstrated how he learned his first tap steps (front, back, step) out of a book his father bought. And he tapped the "shim-sham-shimmy" he had learned in New York from Bill "Bojangles" Robinson.
Speaking of his new career, Ebsen explains that he's been writing since high school. "I've written some plays, and some of them have been staged. But this is the first novel I've attempted. I read 'The Bridges of Madison County,' and I said, 'I can write that well.' So I started to write this notion I'd had for 20 years.
"I have this faculty- or weakness- that when I see a face in a crowd or walking down the street or driving by, I can think about their whole life and what has happened to them. When I was playing in vaudeville, I'd go to a restaurant between shows and look at people and figure out their lives."
He worked out a regimen of rising at 4 a.m. and writing five pages in longhand until sunrise or when the phone started ringing. During the day, he would correct the pages. He discovered as most authors do, that producing a book is not about writing, but rewriting. He admires the spare prose of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, and much of the rewriting was "crossing out words I didn't need."
After his handwritten manuscript was corrected and typed, he showed it to "my teacher about novels," Darlene Jack, who made suggestions for additions or deletions. He followed her ideas, and "Kelly's Quest" was ready for publication.
Then Ebsen discovered another lesson of first-time authors: finding a publisher is harder than writing. Nine publishers rejected "Kelly's Quest," some with sympathetic comments, some with form letters. Buddy was undeterred: "Somebody told me Margaret Mitchell had 23 rejections before 'Gone With the Wind' was accepted."
He decided to self-publish. They used to be called vanity books, but now they have a modern twist. 1stBooks Library, based in Bloomington, Ind., offers to publish books online for $459. Authors also have the option of having the books printed - either in hardcover or paperback - and made available to bookstores for the additional fee of $350, plus a charge for each book printed. The company also gets a 20 percent royalty on all books sold. Unlike normal publishers, 1stBooks proclaims that it "does not make value judgments about the literary merit of books, nor edits manuscripts for style or content."
Ebsen seems exhilarated by his new career and is contemplating three other ideas for novels. His last TV series, "Barnaby Jones," ended in 1980, and he last appeared in a movie in 1993 - a clever cameo as Barnaby in the otherwise anemic feature "The Beverly Hillbillies." Does he miss the studios?
"No," he quickly responds. "I was 50 percent in show business and 50 percent in sailing. I really only worked so I could buy better sails to make my catamaran go faster. The studios helped me put both of them behind me. They don't hire anybody of my age anymore, because they have to pay too much (insurance) premium. I don't know how George Burns got away with it, but he did."
Ebsen became a star in every entertainment medium he entered. He and his sister, Vilma, played the New York Palace, vaudeville's Valhalla. They danced in hit Broadway shows, including "The Ziegfeld Follies of 1934." Ebsen went on to Hollywood and appeared not only in musicals but in dramas such as "Breakfast at Tiffany's."
Yet his greatest fame came with television: Walt Disney's "Davy Crockett" (1954-1955), in which he played the frontiersman's sidekick; "The Beverly Hillbillies" (1962-1971), as clan patriarch Jed Clampett; and the title role in the detective drama "Barnaby Jones" (1973-1980). All are among TV's most successful shows.
Ebsen missed becoming a movie icon, all because of misapplied makeup.
"I was scheduled to play the Scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz,"' he recalls. "Then one day Ray Bolger walked on the set with his agent. I said, 'There goes my part!' I had seen Bolger do the Scarecrow dance in vaudeville, and he did it perfectly. They switched me from the Scarecrow to the Tin Man. It almost killed me.
"We rehearsed for two months and shot 10 days. (For the Tin Man makeup) they powdered me with aluminum dust; you breathe some of that and it's no good for your lungs."
One night he woke up screaming. His legs and arms were cramped, and he had trouble breathing. Aluminum dust had coated his lungs. He spent weeks recovering; meanwhile MGM cast Jack Haley as the Tin Man. Sixty-three years later, Buddy Ebsen has something to remember the experience by: a persistent bronchial cough.
|Former Colorado Pot Farmer to Offer Consulting Services |
By KEVIN FLYNN
Scripps Howard News Service
DENVER CO June 5, 2001 (Scripps Howard) - Drawing on his past experience of growing marijuana in his closet, Charles Alcon sees a growth industry in Colorado's new medical marijuana program, figuring he can be a consultant to Coloradans for whom it is now legal to possess a small amount of marijuana.
"Everybody's trying to get on the bandwagon and trying to figure out how they can sell medical marijuana," said Alcon, 39, of Aurora, Colo. "But I'm going to show them how to grow it."
For a fee of $100, he'll provide several consultations and a home visit.
"When you're alone with no resources and no one wants to talk to you, you're left with the books and the magazines," he said. "That's where I would fill in."
Under a new program authorized by Colorado voters last fall in a constitutional amendment, people with illnesses that bring chronic pain or nausea can possess up to two ounces of marijuana and up to six plants, no more than three in flower at a time.
To be eligible, the person must obtain a doctor's signature on an opinion that using marijuana might help ease the pain or increase the appetite. While disputed by the mainstream medical community, many patients say smoking marijuana helps mitigate their pain and nausea.
Some AIDS patients, for example, report that marijuana helps increase their appetites, which suffer from side effects of AIDS treatments.
Under the new law, while it is legal to possess marijuana if approved for the state registry, it is still illegal to buy it. It is against federal law to possess even a small amount, though prosecutions are rare.
Alcon grew his own marijuana with a two-chambered hydroponic system with lights and a nutrient flow set on timers.
He said it took several years to get it right, but the result was better stuff than he could get on the street. He said he no longer grows it, but he would give that knowledge to medical marijuana users for his fee.
"I'll go over a few things I think are important," he said. "Special lights, ebb-and-flow reservoir. I may help them choose what seeds to use."
Ken Lane, spokesman for Colorado Attorney General Ken Salazar, said people who help marijuana growers could be charged with aiding and abetting a crime. But since a person on the state registry has an affirmative defense against a marijuana possession charge, it's unclear whether a "consultant" could be charged with a crime.
|Researchers Monitor Two Large Meteors |
Los Alamos NM June 5, 2001 (ENVIRONMENTAL NEWS NETWORK) — Two large meteors entered the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean during the past nine months, said researchers at the Department of Energy’s Los Alamos National Laboratory who, at the time, were monitoring an infrasound system set up to detect covert nuclear weapons tests.
Hundreds of miles from the entry points, Los Alamos researchers Rod Whitaker, Doug ReVelle and Peter Brown heard the two meteors entering the atmosphere - one on April 23 of this year and the other on August 25, 2000.
The meteors were very large, measuring about six and ten feet in diameter. They appeared as huge fireballs in the sky. Such large, fiery meteors are called bolides, or fireballs.
The April 23 meteor plunged into the atmosphere above the Pacific Ocean several hundred miles west of the northern Baja California region of Mexico. The August 2000 meteor entered the atmosphere off the coast of Acapulco, Mexico.
Based on the energy and speed of the bolides, ReVelle and Whitaker estimate the first was six feet in diameter. The second meteor probably was at least twice as large.
“Had anyone seen the April 23 event, they would have seen quite a show,” ReVelle said. “That meteor was one of the five brightest meteors that have ever been recorded. It was a very large bolide.”
Bolides produce their brilliant light shows miles above Earth’s surface. Most meteors explode into thousands of tiny pieces or burn up completely before they hit the surface.
When they do hit the ground, their destructive power is unmistakable. The remains of a very large bolide collision with Earth can be seen at the Barringer Meteor Crater in Arizona.
An enormous bolide fell to Earth about 35 million years ago on the Atlantic coast of North America near the Delmarva Peninsula. It carved a roughly circular crater twice the size of the state of Rhode Island, and nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon. Researchers believe the impact crater determined the present day location of Chesapeake Bay.
When a bolide enters the atmosphere - or when a large explosion such as a nuclear test is detonated - it creates a sound, or pressure wave, that at long range is below the levels of human hearing.
This infrasonic wave travels through the atmosphere and can be detected by special microphones that are configured in an array. Los Alamos operates four arrays located throughout the United States. Sandia National Laboratory, another U.S. Department of Energy lab, monitors five arrays located in the Pacific Northwest and western Canada.
By looking at the arrival time of the sounds at different array stations and at the frequency of the infrasonic signal, researchers can pinpoint the location of the source and determine the amount of energy that created it.
The Los Alamos researchers were using listening stations designed to alert international authorities to clandestine nuclear weapons tests that may be conducted by rogue groups or nations that do not abide by international nuclear non-proliferation agreements.
Data from orbiting space platforms confirmed their observations. Infrared sensors aboard U.S. Department of Defense satellites detected the bolide’s impact over the Pacific Ocean on April 23. The object was observed at an altitude of 17.6 miles above the Earth’s surface.
Its impact was simultaneously detected by space-based visible wavelength sensors operated by the U.S. Department of Energy and by the Los Alamos researchers monitoring their infrasound system. A similar set of observations confirmed the entry of a meteor last August 25.
Each year a number of large meteors enter the atmosphere and are detected by the Los Alamos arrays which operate in addition to satellite detection systems. “Infrasound is very simple, inexpensive and easy to operate as a backup system,” said Whitaker.
ReVelle said that at least 10 meteors that are six feet or greater in diameter enter the atmosphere each year. Larger bolides entering the atmosphere occur less frequently, but they do occur nevertheless.
The meteors of April and August played an important role in improving the accuracy of nuclear non-proliferation technology.
“Because those two events were detected by our four arrays and by five other arrays operated by the International Monitoring System, we are able to use the space platform data to calibrate our instruments, and analyses, to make them better able to pinpoint the exact location where these events occurred,” Whitaker said. “Every time we hear a bolide, we learn something about this technology and are better able to fine-tune it.”
Whitaker said, “Infrasound arrays are listening 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Sometimes other technologies miss events that infrasound arrays detect. Consequently, infrasound is inexpensive insurance for cost effective monitoring, and it is something that’s available to the entire international community - which isn’t the case with some other technologies.”
Los Alamos National Laboratory is operated by the University of California for the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration. The Los Alamos team waited until the space platform data were released publicly last week before releasing their own data.
|Groups Band Together to Fight Montana Oil Drilling |
|By CHRISTOPHER THORNE |
WASHINGTON June 6, 2001 (AP) - A coalition of American Indian tribes and environmental groups said Wednesday they will fight a federal permit that will allow oil drilling in a pristine Montana valley considered sacred by American Indians.
Prehistoric drawings adorn the sandstone faces of cliffs and slopes in Weatherman Draw, called Valley of the Chiefs by area tribes. The site is considered one of the most significant collections of Indian art on the Northern Plains.
Last month, the Bureau of Land Management gave Denver-based Anschutz Exploration Corp. permission for exploratory drilling in the valley, near multicolored drawings of shields, animals and human figures.
Anschutz is owned by Philip F. Anschutz, a majority stockholder in the telecommunications giant Qwest, owner of the National Hockey League's Los Angeles Kings and a prominent Republican donor.
A donation of $100,000 was made to the Republican National Committee in 1999 by the Anschutz Corp., a parent company to the oil exploration subsidiary. In 1999 and 2000, Anschutz and his wife, Nancy, wrote checks to the campaigns of Republicans including Sen. John McCain of Arizona, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and George W. Bush.
Forbes magazine ranked Anschutz as one of the wealthiest men in the United States, with a fortune worth $18 billion.
Weatherman Draw is about 70 miles southwest of Billings. Although it has the potential to hold 10 million barrels of oil, there is only a one-in-seven chance of drilling a productive well there, said Bill Miller, vice president of Anschutz Exploration Corp.
His company holds leases to oil rights on two parcels of land in Weatherman Draw and could start drilling as soon as July 21. Miller said he would know within 10 days of drilling whether there was enough oil in the ground to proceed with a fully productive oil well - a move that would require another permit from the Bureau of Land Management.
Lawyers for the coalition, which includes the Sierra Club, National Trust for Historic Preservation and Indian tribes in five states, plans to file an appeal before the end of the week to the Interior Board of Land Appeals on grounds the drilling violates laws including the National Historic Preservation Act.
Rep. Nick Rahall of West Virginia, senior Democrat on the Resources Committee, said Wednesday he would ask Interior Secretary Gale Norton to use her authority to stop the drilling.
The Bureau of Land Management does recognize the cultural value of the site, said Trudie Olson, spokeswoman for the bureau's Billings office. In 1999, the BLM designed 4,268 acres in and around the valley as an area of critical environmental concern, as much for the recognition of the drawings as for American Indians who still go to the site on "vision quests" and meditate.
But the leases held by Anschutz date back to 1994, before the BLM gave the region its protective designation.
The permit to allow the exploratory well has restrictions designed to appease American Indians, who fear that the area could be disturbed or otherwise damaged by vandals if open to oil workers and the public.
The restrictions require Anschutz to install a locked gate at the entrance to the access road leading to the well site, and requires the company to post a security guard 24 hours a day. The permit also bans oil workers from going near the rock art.
|Nearby Star May Have Asteroid Belt - And Planets |
PASADENA CA June 4, 2001 (Reuters) - In a possible cosmic replay of our own solar system's early times, astronomers said on Monday they have evidence of an asteroid belt around a nearby star, suggesting that planets might be there too.
The suspected asteroid belt around zeta Leporis, a star twice the mass of the sun in the constellation Lepus (the Hare), is wider than the one in Earth's solar system and looks at this point more like a swath of swirling dust than the raw material or remains of planet formation.
Still, conditions may be ripe for planets to form there, if they have not already, researchers said at a news conference at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Pasadena.
"It might be the first detection of a dust disk around a star with a size comparable to the asteroid belt in our own solar system," said Christine Chen, a graduate student at the University of California-Los Angeles.
"We hope to learn from it something about the environment in which terrestrial planets form," Chen said, referring to rocky ones like Earth. "This is in contrast to the Jovian planets that have been discovered around other stars."
In the last five years, dozens of Jovian planets, so called because they are as massive and gassy as the giant Jupiter in our own system, have been detected orbiting other stars. These big planets have been spotted not through direct observation, but by a characteristic wobble in the stars they orbit, caused by the planets' gravitational pull.
Chen and her adviser at UCLA, Michael Jura, tackled the question from a different angle, and found an area where terrestrial planets might form.
DUST COULD HOLD PLANETS
Zeta Leporis was a good candidate for observation because of its proximity to Earth; at about 60 light-years, it is truly a close neighbor in cosmic terms. A light-year is about 6 trillion miles, the distance light travels in a year.
Zeta Leporis is a good age for this kind of observation, the scientists said, being between 50 million and 400 million years old, about the same age the sun was when Earth was forming. The sun is now about 4.5 billion years old.
And the putative asteroid belt is located in what scientists call the terrestrial planet zone, the area closer to the star that is home to planets like Earth, rather than in the far-out region where big planets like Jupiter and eccentric planets like Pluto reside.
Earth and other terrestrial planets in our system probably formed when smaller objects smashed into each other and stuck together; Chen said that might be happening now around zeta Leporis, or might have already occurred.
Mark Sykes, of the Steward Observatory at the University of Arizona, suggested that in addition to possible rocky planets, a bit Jupiter-like planet might also be possible. Big Jovian planets tend to pull belts of dust and debris into elliptical orbits, he said, and this is a possibility here.
None of these theories is confirmed, and it will be difficult to determine whether any terrestrial planets lurk in this system, Jura said.
"Terrestrial planets are very hard (to detect) because there's not very much mass there," Jura said. "It would be hard to directly image a planet immersed in the dust because the surface brightness from the dust would make it hard to see."
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has long-range plans to search for terrestrial planets, but nothing immediate is in the works, the scientists said.
|Gun Control Group Sues Ashcroft |
By SHANNON McCAFFREY
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON June 4, 2001 (AP) — A gun control group filed a lawsuit Monday against Attorney General John Ashcroft, arguing that he is illegally delaying regulations on background checks for weapons purchases.
The Violence Policy Center alleges that Ashcroft intends to eventually toss the regulations out.
"They are trying to sneak under the radar screen and avoid the public scrutiny that would come if they were to do this up front,'' Violence Policy Center litigation director Mathew Nosanchuk said.
The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Washington.
The Clinton administration regulation would require that records from background checks be kept for 90 days after a handgun purchase is attempted. The idea is to give the FBI time to check for fraud and abuse in the system, supporters say.
But the National Rifle Association said keeping such records raises privacy concerns. The NRA filed a lawsuit against Attorney General Janet Reno to dispose of the records immediately after background checks are conducted. The suit was dismissed in U.S. District Court in Washington, but it is being appealed to the Supreme Court.
"Since when is it the federal government's business to be keeping that kind of private information about lawful citizens?'' asked NRA spokesman Bill Powers.
Ashcroft has twice delayed putting the Clinton administration rule in place.
Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden said the delays are allowing a thorough review of the regulation. She added that until a final decision is made the department is adhering to the old guideline of preserving the background check information for 180 days.
In 1998, Ashcroft, then a senator from Missouri, voted in favor of an amendment that sought to instantly destroy background check documents. The amendment was defeated.
Ashcroft stoked concerns last week after it was disclosed that he wrote a letter to the NRA's chief lobbyist, Jim Baker, reaffirming his view that an American's right to bear arms is guaranteed by the Constitution.
"We have great concerns about Attorney General John Ashcroft's commitment to upholding gun laws,'' Nosanchuk said.
On the Net:
Violence Policy Center: http://www.vpc.org
Justice Department: http://www.usdoj.gov
National Rifle Association: http://www.nra.org
|Boys Find Hidden Gun In Experiment |
|By LINDSEY TANNER |
AP Medical Writer
CHICAGO June 4, 2001 (AP) — In a disturbing laboratory experiment in which a gun was hidden in a drawer, many boys found the weapon, played with it and even pulled the trigger without knowing whether it was loaded.
"They did everything from point it at each other to look down the barrel themselves,'' said Dr. Geoffrey Jackman, who led the study. "The scariest thing is when the children picked up that gun and looked straight down the barrel.''
The study involved 64 Atlanta-area boys ages 8 to 12. Seventy-five percent, or 48, found the gun; nearly half — 30 — handled it; and one-fourth — 16 — pulled the trigger.
Many of the boys did not know if the gun was real but played with it anyway, the researchers said. None knew that it was unloaded.
More than 90 percent of the boys who handled the gun or pulled the trigger reported having received some sort of gun safety instruction, ranging from an informal talk with their parents to formal instruction from a teacher or a police officer at school, Jackman and colleagues said in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics.
National Rifle Association spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said the study used a "pretty puny'' sample. "You can certainly assume that the findings are artificial,'' he said.
But psychologist Kevin Dwyer, a child-violence expert who was not involved in the research, called the results "extremely important.'' They suggest, he said, that just telling kids that they should not handle a gun is often not good enough.
"It means that we must have external control rather than education control, such as gun locks and reduced availability of firearms in situations where children can access them,'' Dwyer said.
Jackman conducted the study while at Emory University but now works as a pediatric emergency medicine physician at the University of Utah.
The experiment involved putting groups of two or three brothers or friends in a clinic examining room for about 15 minutes. They were not told there was a .380 caliber semiautomatic handgun in a cabinet drawer. Researchers and parents watched from an adjacent room behind a two-way mirror.
Putting the children in groups was an attempt to duplicate real-life circumstances in which kids might find a gun.
Twenty-one of the boys came from gun-owning families. A sizable number of parents were college-educated, and parents of most of the boys who handled the gun had believed their sons had a low interest in guns, Jackman said.
|Bichon Frisé Killer on Trial at Last |
Santa Clara CA June 7, 2001 (Mercury News) - He did it.
Andrew Douglas Burnett, the man accused of throwing a fluffy white dog named Leo into traffic in an act of road rage last year, will testify in court that he "grabbed the dog and tossed it to the ground,'' his lawyer said Wednesday.
Why? Because the dog bit him.
That startling admission -- after nearly 17 months of investigation -- was one of a series of surprises as Burnett's trial on animal cruelty charges began in Santa Clara County Superior Court.
In opening statements, Burnett's attorney Marc Garcia told a 16-member jury panel of 11 women and five men, including alternates, that his client did nearly everything police have longed claimed he did on the rainy night in question, Feb. 11, 2000.
Garcia failed to explain his unconventional strategy but he could be attempting to build an impression in the jury's minds that his client's actions were justified and the outcome unintentional. Among the admissions were:
Burnett, 27, was behind the wheel of his black 1997 GMC Jimmy sport utility vehicle outside San Jose International Airport when he was involved in a fender bender with another car.
Burnett "was annoyed'' at the other driver following what his lawyer said was two bumps and left his vehicle to confront the other driver. He wanted her to pull over to exchange insurance information, the lawyer said.
"But he had no idea there was going to be a dog in her car and the dog snapped at him,'' Garcia said. "He bit him on the hand.
"He didn't need stitches. It was no big deal. But he jerked back,'' and then threw the dog down.
The other car was driven by Nevada resident Sara McBurnett, 39, who was traveling to the airport with Leo, a bichon frisé, to meet her husband.
Garcia, a onetime prosecutor from Merced, then told the court that Burnett walked back to his vehicle and "never looked back.'' Burnett was unaware of the dog's fate.
The 19-pound animal was struck and run over in oncoming traffic. He later died on the way to an emergency veterinary hospital.
"Unfortunately, the dog died,'' Garcia said.
When asked later to explain his opening tactic, which in legal terms is called a stipulation, Garcia declined to comment.
Why did Burnett fail to come forward and explain his side of the story, despite intense police and public interest, a $120,000 reward fund and heavy local and even worldwide news attention to the case?
"He was scared,'' Garcia told the jury.
Because of the heavy coverage of the story and description of the black SUV -- which bore Virginia license plates -- people began following him on the street and staking out his San Jose apartment, the lawyer explained.
"He decided to clam up, lie low and hope it would all blow over,'' Garcia said.
It did not blow over. Burnett, a former repairman for Pacific Bell, was indicted in April by a grand jury. If convicted, he could be sentenced to a maximum of three years in prison.
Dressed in a black, double-breasted suit and wearing a white shirt with gold necktie, Burnett sat silently fidgeting as the trial opened. He has been in jail since Jan. 4, because of charges unrelated to Leo's death.
The first witness called was an eyewitness who described much of how the incident unfolded at the intersection of Airport Parkway and Airport Boulevard.
John Mora, 29, a computer project manager from San Jose, said he saw Burnett exit his SUV "yelling and screaming, really animated, like he was upset about something.''
Then Burnett, who is 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighs 165 pounds, reached into McBurnett's car with both hands, going "up to his shoulders,'' and pulled out the dog, Mora said. Standing up in the witness box, Mora then demonstrated what occurred next.
"He pivoted and threw the dog in a downward motion,'' Mora said. "He threw him pretty hard. He was not tossed. He was thrown. He was thrown with force.''
He compared it to the follow-through motion of an Olympic hammer throw. He did not say if he saw Burnett being bitten.
Burnett then walked away angrily, jumped into his vehicle and fled the scene, according to Mora. "He was in a hurry to get out of there,'' Mora said.
Mora will return to the stand today when the trial resumes.
The long-awaited trial has attracted a large audience, including a woman wearing a shirt that read "Respect Your Fellow Earthlings.''
Most of the chairs in the 70-seat courtroom were taken with observers, including nearly a dozen reporters taking notes. Judge Kevin J. Murphy has refused to permit cameras in the court, but there are two sketch artists hired by television stations.
In his opening statement, Deputy District Attorney Troy Benson played for the jury part of an audio tape made this year where Burnett and his fiancee, a San Jose resident named Jackie Figgins, discuss "the dog incident.'' Figgins also telephoned McBurnett at her Incline Village, Nev., home to discuss the case, Benson said.
|Anti - Fraud Agency Fakes Documents |
|WASHINGTON June 6, 2001 (AP) -- The Pentagon agency charged with rooting out fraud destroyed documents and substituted fakes to win a passing grade in an audit of its own operations, according to an internal inquiry. |
"It's a very sad day indeed when the watchdog gets caught cheating,'' Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, wrote Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld in demanding to know more about the incident.
The document destruction cost the government thousands of dollars last year and "could adversely affect the confidence of the public'' in Defense Department audits, says the report obtained by The Associated Press.
The incident occurred as the Pentagon inspector general's work was about to be reviewed by auditors working for the Internal Revenue Service's inspector general. The review was part of a routine program where one government agency's inspector general's office checks the work of another.
The unsuspecting IRS reviewers found "no problems'' with the Pentagon's audit work after poring over the phony documents, concluded the internal report, written by a Defense Department inspector general's employee assigned to investigate her own agency.
"At some point, the majority of original working papers were destroyed,'' the report said. "The backdating of the re-created working papers misled the ... review team to believe the ... papers were ... done at the time of the audit.''
The inspector general's office and the Defense Department public affairs office refused to discuss the incident.
David Williams, the IRS' inspector general, said, "As soon as we became aware of the allegation and findings, we immediately withdrew our previous opinion'' that gave the Pentagon agency a passing grade. As a result, every Pentagon audit must include a disclaimer that the work fails to meet established audit standards.
Grassley, outgoing chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, began investigating the destruction recently after a Pentagon whistle-blower brought it to his attention.
While the inspector general is supposed to root out government fraud and waste, the report said, the 983 hours spent creating the fake documents cost the government $63,000.
The IRS auditors had selected eight Defense Department audits for review, and senior Pentagon auditors realized that working papers for one of them -- a 1988 audit report -- would not get a passing grade, the report said.
"Instead of submitting it and suffering the consequences, a decision was made to destroy all the original work papers and to re-create an entirely new set,'' Grassley wrote Rumsfeld. He said 12 to 15 officials in the Defense Department inspector general's office were involved, including senior auditors.
Grassley and the internal report said the official who prepared the originals was directed to sign the fake papers even though that auditor did not create the substitutes.
The President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency, an organization of federal inspectors general, is investigating the incident.
The incident "has some negative repercussions to the image'' of inspectors general, said Gaston Gianni Jr., vice chairman of the council and inspector general at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.
Grassley said he's not satisfied with the internal Pentagon review.
He wrote Rumsfeld that it "may have been unwise'' for the Pentagon's deputy inspector general, Robert Lieberman, to have one of his senior deputies conduct the internal investigation and then conclude that Lieberman was not implicated.
The senator also said that disciplinary actions were under consideration only for lower-ranking auditors and their immediate supervisors but not senior officials.
On the Net: President's Council on Integrity and Efficiency: http://www.ignet.gov/pcieecie.html
|Peanut Butter Wars Rage in Schools |
|By JIM FITZGERALD |
Associated Press Writer
RYE BROOK, NY June 8, 2001 (AP) — The stickiest problem at Ridge Street Elementary School this year wasn't discipline in the classroom. It was peanut butter in the lunchroom.
In a situation repeated in schools across the nation, families debated the right to safeguard a profoundly allergic child versus the right to eat a sandwich made with the all-American spread.
"We were obligated, legally and ethically, to be responsive to this child's needs,'' Principal Roberta Kirshbaum said. "I would say 95 percent of our population became educated and supportive and the other 5 percent found it just didn't fit with them.''
The discussion at Ridge Street started when a 5-year-old girl, so allergic she could die if she licked peanut butter from a fingertip, entered kindergarten. Her parents alerted school officials in advance.
"I approached them with my daughter's medical history, and knowing what needed to be done to make her safe,'' said the mother, who asked not to be identified to protect her daughter's privacy. The girl couldn't come into contact with peanut butter or anything with peanut oil.
So the school stopped selling peanut butter sandwiches and other peanut products, set up a "peanut-free table'' covered with medical-exam paper in the lunchroom, and urged parents not to pack peanut-based lunches and snacks. If kindergartners came in with peanut lunches, they were sent to a separate room to eat.
Several parents objected, saying that their kids were being pressured into giving up peanut butter entirely and that they hadn't had time to prepare.
Caryn Furst said her daughter has a metabolic disorder, needs protein at every meal and would eat only peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
"She had to have it,'' Furst said. "A lot of parents are trying to be sensitive, but if you've got a child who wants peanut butter — that's it.''
Ultimately, all sides came to terms. "We did a lot of education,'' Kirshbaum said, "and we tried to compromise to the extent that nobody got hurt.''
Three million Americans are allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, and about 75 die each year from reactions that lead to anaphylactic shock. Thousands of kids now carry EpiPens — emergency doses of epinephrine in a spring-loaded injector — or store them with the school nurse.
The importance of protecting allergic children was vividly demonstrated last month in Spokane, Wash., when a 9-year-old boy, known to be allergic, died after being given a peanut butter cookie during a field trip.
Some other foods can kill, but nuts seem to be a prime danger. And it is peanut butter, long a favorite with kids and the adults who pack their lunches, that has put schools in the middle.
"It's the all-American sandwich,'' said Carla Blaha of Ossining, who founded a support group for parents after her son was diagnosed. "You tell people, `This can kill my son' and still it doesn't click that actually something like peanut butter can kill someone.''
Some schools have declared themselves "peanut-free,'' though most are coming up with a more moderate policy.
Schools that haven't had a dangerously allergic pupil can expect one soon.
"I think every school at some time will be affected,'' said Joseph Rowe, principal of Stedwick Elementary School in Gaithersburg, Md., who was confronted two years ago with a severely allergic first-grader.
Peanut allergies among schoolchildren were "barely on the radar'' a decade ago, said Dr. Robert Goldman, a New York allergist and immunologist who specializes in pediatric cases.
"Now I'm seeing a tremendous number of cases,'' he said. "It seems like the incidence is really increasing. As to why, I don't think anyone in the world could tell you for sure.''
Among the theories offered: Modern agriculture has changed the peanut itself, or the human immune system is trying to find something to attack in an age of vaccinations. Skeptics suggest children are simply being taken to doctors and diagnosed more often.
Some children are so sensitive that they react to vapors from peanut shells. Dr. Clifford Bassett, an allergist at New York University Medical Center, said one-five-thousandth of a teaspoon of a food containing peanuts is enough to kill some people.
On the Net:
American Academy of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology: http://www.aaaai.org
American Peanut Council: http://www.peanutsusa.com
Distributor of EpiPen: http://www.deyinc.com
Family discussion board: http://www.peanutallergy.com/bbpage.htm