|Star Wars Rapped, |
Supreme Court Probe,
Monks Lift Curse,
and Alien Hunters!
|Canada Raps US Missile Strategy |
By Allan Thompson
OTTAWA July 26, 2001 (Toronto Star) - The United States poses a threat to global security if it insists on going it alone on such issues as arms control, missile defence and weapons in space, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Manley says.
If the U.S. acts unilaterally, it "will lead to confrontation. And that is a cause of greater insecurity for (the United States) and for the rest of the world,'' Manley told reporters yesterday in a conference call from Vietnam where he was attending a regional forum.
Canada is willing to lead the charge in negotiating an international convention banning all weapons in space in the wake of signals the Pentagon is already planning to test lasers in space, Manley said.
"I've made the point as strongly as could possibly be made that Canada is unalterably opposed to the weaponization of space,'' he said.
"We think it's a very dangerous direction to be moving in and it would incite proliferation and responses that are difficult to pre-determine, but which are not likely to be favourable to global security.
"We want to see a convention that would ban weapons orbiting or sort of attached to outer space,'' he said.
The minister said he was disturbed by reports last week that the Pentagon was planning space-based laser tests as early as 2008 and testing space-based missile interceptors as early as 2005.
The Pentagon's successful missile defence test this month has bolstered the Bush administration's hopes for building at least a rudimentary defence against ballistic missile attack by 2004.
Manley's tough talk came on the same day that the U.S. refused to support a draft accord negotiated at the United Nations to give teeth to the treaty banning biological weapons - yet another example of the American administration bucking the world trend on a major issue. The U.S. in March rejected the Kyoto agreement on climate change. This week in Bonn, Germany, 180 nations - including Canada - endorsed the deal.
Manley is stepping up the rhetoric after using a closed-door meeting of G-8 foreign ministers in Italy last week to give U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell a stern warning that Canada fears an increasing trend toward U.S. unilateralism on arms-control issues.
While Canada has still taken no formal position on the question of whether it would join a missile defence plan, Ottawa's position has been hardening.
"We don't want militarization of the air,'' Prime Minister Jean Chrιtien said prior to last week's G-8 summit in Genoa, where he met with U.S. President George W. Bush.
But Manley conceded that Canada has no choice but to juggle its concerns about America's foreign policy with Canada's paramount interest in promoting good relations with its biggest trading partner.
"We can't withdraw from North America . . . the United States is our best friend whether we like it or not. We have no choice but to work very closely with them,'' Manley said.
"We've got more influence over the United States as an ally than we would if we were seeking some kind of independent course.''
Manley said a top priority right now is working on the U.S. to ratify the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty
He said based on Powell's previous statements "we have an ally in the secretary of state'' on this issue, "but clearly the administration requires more persuasion.''
Manley said that while it is difficult for him to evaluate whether there is a split in the U.S. administration, he said he always gets a sympathetic hearing from Powell - if not the Pentagon and defence officials.
"When we raise these issues with Colin Powell, we get a sympathetic and comprehending response from him. But we clearly haven't been satisfied by the administration's actions on all of these things,'' Manley said.
The Pentagon said recently the planned missile defence system would eventually include a mix of land, sea and space-based weapons. The plan would use satellite lasers to incinerate attacking missiles as they climb into space, or send so-called kill vehicles to collide with the missiles as they fly through space.
Deployment of such weapons is still years away, a senior U.S. official said recently, Canadian Press reports.
Pentagon Revives Reagan-Era Proposal
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
HUNTSVILLE AL July 17, 2001 (AP) The Pentagon's blueprint for expanding missile defense research includes the first-ever test of a space-based interceptor by 2005-06, according to a senior defense official.
Details of the test are not yet worked out, and space-based weaponry though a long-range possibility is not the Pentagon's first priority for missile defense, said Robert Snyder, executive director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, which manages the Pentagon missile defense research.
Speaking to reporters at an Army-sponsored briefing on missile defense, Snyder said the experiment would be designed to prove the concept of hitting a ballistic missile early in its flight with a projectile launched from space.
This is a concept first pursued in the 1980s as part of President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative, which aimed to create an impenetrable shield against attack on the United States by thousands of Soviet missiles. It never progressed to an actual test in space and was shelved in the early 1990s.
The Bush administration has not publicly emphasized the space-based weapon concept because it recalls the "Star Wars'' tag that Reagan's critics attached to his Strategic Defense Initiative. The administration is focusing most of its missile defense efforts on antimissile weapons based on land, at sea and in the air.
Snyder said that although the space-based concept is unproven, it has certain attractive aspects.
"There's an advantage to global satellites and global interceptors in the sense that they're always there'' in orbit, he said.
During the administration of President Bush's father, the Pentagon briefly pursued a version of space-based missile defense that it called Brilliant Pebbles. It was based on the notion of building a constellation of 3,600 to 4,000 orbiting satellites from which antimissile projectiles could be launched.
In the experiment planned for 2005-06, the projectile would not be based on a satellite because it would be intended only to prove the basic concept; instead it would be launched into space aboard a rocket, oriented as if it had been stationed in space and then released to chase down its target, Snyder said.
|US Experimental Pigs Turned Into Sausages |
LONDON July 25, 2001 (Reuters) - Three genetically modified pigs were turned into sausages after being stolen from a U.S. university, New Scientist magazine said on Wednesday.
The pigs, which had been modified to carry a copy of a gene involved in eye function, had already been killed and were meant to be destroyed.
But they were stolen by an employee at the University of Florida and turned into sausages by an unsuspecting butcher.
"This is the only case of its kind we know of," Donald Ralbovsky, of the National Institutes of Health, told New Scientist weekly magazine.
None of the nine people who ate the meat has reported health problems, but officials are still taking precautions to make sure it does not happen again.
According to the magazine, Florida prosecutors have launched an investigation into the incident and all genetically modified animals at the university were to be spray-painted after being killed to make sure they are not eaten.
|UFO News |
Shuttle's Rare Night Landing Causes Alarm
PUERTO BARRIOS, Guatemala July 26, 2001 (AP) - Emergency switchboards were jammed by dozens of callers reporting strange lights in the sky as the U.S. space shuttle Atlantis re-entered the atmosphere before landing in Cape Canaveral, Fla. on Tuesday, police said.
It was only the 18th space shuttle touchdown in darkness in 20 years. Infrared cameras showed the incoming spaceship as a ghostly white blur. Many people called in to report the sound of an explosion.
''It caused bursts of lights and a boom that alarmed people,'' said Capt. Mario Velez, head of military intelligence at the Guatemalan Navy base in Puerto Barrios. ''They could have given us some advance notice.''
In neighboring El Salvador, officials also received multiple reports of an explosion. A search turned up nothing unusual.
The search was much wider in Mexico's southern state of Quintana Roo.
There, near the state capital of Chetumal, dozens of soldiers and sailors were sent out in motor boats to isolated stretches of mangrove swamps to search for the wreckage of "an aircraft'' that residents said had burst into flames and crashed.
Search teams found nothing.
Fireball Leaves Burnt Rock
By MARTHA RAFFAELE
Associated Press Writer
HARRISBURG PA July 24, 2001 (AP) People looking for evidence of a meteoric fireball that lit up the evening sky across the Northeast may be able to find souvenirs of burnt rock, experts said Tuesday.
The bright lights and loud noises were reported from Virginia to New York Monday evening. Experts said the cause was likely a "bolide,'' a brilliant, exploding meteor.
"It may have broken up into a number of small pieces as it entered the earth's atmosphere,'' said Charles Liu, an astrophysicist with the American Museum of Natural History in New York. "Most of the pieces would be smaller grains of sand, just ash, but there may be some larger nuggets the size of ... golf balls.''
Most of the fireball's fragments probably descended near the New York-Pennsylvania border; several witnesses there reported hearing noises like sonic booms.
"Sonic booms mean that it's really close. The thing to look for is dark rocks,'' said Ron Baalke, a software engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.
Often, meteors are hundreds of feet in diameter before the rock burns up in the atmosphere, said Alexander Wolszczan, an astronomy professor at Pennsylvania State University. But large meteors can hit the earth.
The object appeared to be so close in Berkeley County, W.Va., that a deputy went into a field Monday to make sure it did not start a fire, said Kenny Lemaster, of the county Sheriff's Department.
"It just looked like a bright flare,'' he said.
|Callisto's Icy Secrets |
By Dr. David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor
Madrid July 26, 2001 (BBC) - Jupiter moon Callisto may not be a boring lump of rock and ice after all.
A new study, by Javier Ruiz at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain, suggests that the cratered and pitted surface of Callisto may conceal a deep ocean.
Ruiz employs a more sophisticated analysis of ice than previously used, showing that ice in the moon's outer layers would not freeze solid.
His calculations suggest that a 20-kilometre- (12-mile-) deep ocean of water could exist some 150 km (93 miles) below Callisto's surface. Two other Jupiter moons, Ganymede and Europa, are also thought to have subsurface oceans.
Ruiz's conclusion is based on a reappraisal of data from a flyby by the Galileo spacecraft, which surprised astronomers by detecting a magnetic field around the moon.
Because Callisto does not have a metallic core - the usual source of a magnetic field - excited researchers believed that this field was caused by an ocean of salt water whose currents were conducting an electric current.
But these hopes seemed dashed when calculations, based on the rate at which Callisto's surface convects heat, seemed to show that any subsurface ocean would have frozen solid long ago.
But, Ruiz, writing in the journal Nature, now shows those calculations to be flawed.
"His analysis brings into question our understanding of ice and water in the outer Solar System, and will force a re-evaluation of the thermal and structural models of the largest 14 or so moons of Jupiter," comments Kristin Bennett of Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, US.
|Oregon Democrats Call For Probe of Supreme Court |
PORTLAND Oregon July 23, 2001 (AP) - Delegates from the Oregon state Democratic Party have approved a resolution calling for Congress to investigate five U.S. Supreme Court justices for their role in the last presidential election.
The resolution targets Anthony Kennedy, Sandra Day O'Connor, William Rehnquist, Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas, who all voted last December to stop hand recounts of Florida ballots as sought by Democrat Al Gore.
The court's 5-4 decision effectively decided the bitterly contested 2000 election for Republican George W. Bush.
Neel Pender, executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon, said the group hopes the measure will spark a nationwide call for an investigation into the justices' actions.
"We're taking a step that is within our legal and constitutional guidelines to ask for an investigation that would lead to impeachment" of the justices, Pender said.
The state's delegates allege that several of the justices should have recused themselves from the recount deliberations because of conflicts of interest. For example, Pender said, some justices' relatives worked for Bush's legal team.
The delegates voted on the resolution Sunday while at a state meeting in Cornelius. About 125 people attended the meeting, but only 66 were voting delegates. The state party plans to forward the resolution to the Democratic National Committee and to the state's congressional delegation.
Party chairman Jim Edmunson said the resolution might not have any effect but was important nonetheless.
"We just felt that while it may be a gesture, it's important that someone, somewhere stand up and demand an investigation," he said.
|Beatle News |
Paul and Heather Will Get Hitched
London July 25,2001 (BBC) - Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney and his girlfriend, model and landmine campaigner Heather Mills, are engaged to be married. They said will wed "sometime next year".
The pair became engaged during a short break in the Lake District, and the millionaire rock star proposed on Monday. The singer and songwriter is thought to have gone down on one knee to Mills, 33.
A statement on behalf of the couple said: "Paul McCartney and Heather Mills are pleased to announce their engagement.
"Paul and Heather said today they would like to thank their relatives and friends for all the great support they have shown them since they met two years ago."
Sir Paul's spokesman said the sapphire and diamond musician bought the ring in India earlier in the year.
Asked whether the pop legend's proposal was on one knee, he said: "I think it was."
The spokesman added: "They are both delighted, as are the kids and as is everyone."
Sir Paul, 59, was married to Linda McCartney from 1969 until her death from cancer in 1998. The former Beatle first declared his love for former model Mills last year - but rumours of their involvement had been circulating since they worked on a charity single together in 1999.
Mills' modeling career was cut short when she lost part of her left leg when after being hit by a police motorbike in 1993. She then became a campaigner against landmines.
Sir Paul and Mills became close after recording the single to raise money for people who had lost limbs in war zones. At the time, the two refused to pose for photographs together and Sir Paul denied that their relationship was anything more than professional. But he later said he had been instantly smitten.
With the Beatles, McCartney was a member of arguably the most successful and most popular band in musical history.
He and Linda had three children - Mary, Stella and James, who is the youngest, born in 1978. They also brought up Heather, Linda's daughter from a her previous marriage. Stella has gone on to have a highly successful high-profile career as a fashion designer.
Mills attracted publicity in the mid-1990s for battling back to health after her accident, and devoted much of her time to helping others who had lost limbs. She has also worked as a television presenter and appeared in a BBC detective drama, Streetlife. She was previously married in 1989 - but that was short-lived. She was due to marry documentary cameraman Chris Terrill last summer, but the ceremony was called off with just two weeks to go.
Last year, she told reporters that she wished she had been able to meet Linda.
"To keep any marriage going for 30 years is a fantastic achievement, but to keep a rock and roll marriage going for that long is unbelievable," she said. "She did a wonderful job with Paul and her family and I have got nothing but admiration for her."
Ringo Sez More Fab Four Hits Album Under Discussion
LOS ANGELES July 25, 2001 (Reuters) - An album of more Fab Four hits is being considered by the surviving members of The Beatles following the worldwide success of their "1" compilation album, drummer Ringo Starr said on Tuesday.
Starr told "Access Hollywood" in an interview that he, Paul McCartney and George Harrison expect to discuss a "2" album later this year.
"There's a couple of projects in the works. Nothing will be out until next year and we're all going to meet up again in October and finalize what it will be. I mean, everybody wants the number twos," Starr told the syndicated TV show.
The "1" album of 27 old Beatles hits has topped the music charts in more than 34 countries since its release last December. Some 7.5 million copies have been sold in the United States alone.
McCartney earlier this year described the album as "a big healing, a big Band-Aid", saying it brought back great memories of the warm friendship between The Beatles before their acrimonious split in 1970.
Starr also commented on doom-laden media reports about Harrison's health, which have been denied by Harrison himself. Harrison, 58, underwent surgery for lung cancer earlier this year and has also recently completed radiation therapy reportedly for a brain tumor.
"I did see George three weeks ago and he was fine. If it had been bad, he would have told me. And all these years we've been around, you have to watch what's in the press," Starr said.
Harrison issued a statement in London on Monday saying that he was "active and feeling very well", adding that he was "disappointed and disgusted" at media reports suggesting he is at death's door.
|Queen's Cygnets Face Swansong |
|By Paul Majendie |
LONDON July 26, 2001 (Reuters) The British monarch's Swan Marker once counted the plump birds for the royal cooking pot. Now he sails up the River Thames as a devoted conservationist fighting to defend the gliding swan.
But the message Wednesday after his annual Swan Upping census was a depressing one: Humankind is a big enemy to cygnets, with vandals stoning and shooting them.
The ancient task, dating back to the 12th century, is one of the most enduring rituals of the British monarchy. Swan Marker David Barber dressed in scarlet and white livery for his stately progress up the river in a pennanted skiff. As his team rowed past Windsor Castle, they hailed "Her Majesty the Queen, Seigneur of the Swans."
Swan Upping began when the crown claimed ownership of all swans, a prized delicacy at medieval banquets. Swans' down feathers were also treasured for plumping up royal mattresses.
"It has turned full circle," Barber told Reuters after completing his annual swan count. "We are there to fight for the swan. We are concerned about its natural habitat disappearing. We are there to ensure they will survive. The crown can still claim ownership of any swan in the United Kingdom. But this is mainly exercised on the Thames," he said.
Despite the pomp and ceremony of this ancient pageantry, there is a serious environmental message behind the census. Barber insists he is not just swanning about on the river on his week-long odyssey up the Thames. Buckingham Palace invited six schools along to witness the swan count. "We are trying to educate young children," Barber said.
This year's swan census revealed 132 cygnets on the 80-mile stretch they covered of the River Thames, which passes Windsor on its way east from the Cotswolds to London.
"It is more positive than we thought," said Barber. "There was a slight increase in the population." But vandals are a major problem. "We have had air rifle shooting and the stoning of young cygnets," he said. "It has been quite horrendous. The police have been called many times but we have not been able to catch (the vandals)."
Also, foxes, mink, and dogs attack the nests, especially when they are stranded inshore after heavy flooding.
"We lose about 30 to 40 percent every year," said Barber. "But I would say about half of that is down to vandals."
|Monks to Lift Century-Old Curse |
ATHENS July 23, 2001 (Reuters) - Greek monks have agreed to lift a century-old curse on an island village to "never sleep again" for bringing the wrath of the Ottoman empire on their monastery, the village's mayor said on Monday.
"This will be a relief for many people here, who did not want the curse still hanging over their heads," Kostas Adamidis, mayor of the Moudros village on the Aegean island of Limnos, told Reuters.
Monks in the Mount Athos monastic community have been chanting the curse on August 23 every year since Ottoman forces killed almost all their brothers on the island, blaming them for attacks actually launched by the villagers.
While most of Greece revolted against the Ottomans in the 1820s, Limnos remained a part of the empire for about another century.
"Villagers had killed some Turks and threw them down a well on the property belonging to the Mount Athos monastery. The Turks, believing it was the monks who did it, took revenge by slaughtering them and torching all buildings," Adamidis said.
Two monks managed to escape and return to the Koutloumousi monastery, where they imposed a curse on the villagers to "never sleep again."
A delegation of villagers now living in Athens recently visited the monastery and asked its leaders to lift the curse.
"On August 23, a delegation from the monastery will come to the village of Moudros to lift the curse," the mayor said. "Villagers here as well as those living away from Moudros will be happy when this happens."
Tremor Hits Greek Isle
By Karolos Grohmann
ATHENS July 26, 2001 (Reuters) - A strong earthquake shook central Greece on Thursday, damaging dozens of houses and cars on the Aegean island of Skyros and shaking Athenians from their sleep some 124 miles away to the south, officials said.
Tourists on Skyros ran out of their hotels and many residents of the capital Athens took to the streets when the quake hit at 3:22 a.m. A seismologist at Athens Geodynamic Institute, George Stavrakakis, said the quake measured 5.7 on the Richter scale and that there were several aftershocks, including one of 5.3.
"There are no deaths or even injuries," government spokesman Dimitris Reppas told reporters.
The quake prompted a sympathy telegram from Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, Reppas said. Both countries were hit by disastrous earthquakes two years ago, unleashing a mutual wave of sympathy between the traditional foes across the Aegean sea.
A 5.9 Richter tremor hit Athens in 1999 killing 143 people, while two massive quakes in Turkey killed about 18,000 people. Officials on the popular tourist island of Skyros said they had received reports of 143 damaged houses and around 30 cars that had been destroyed by falling rocks.
"The St. George monastery built in 963 has also been damaged," mayor Dimitris Angelis told Reuters.
The quake drove islanders and tourists out into the street.
"The guests started running out of the hotel and within minutes the building was empty," a hotel manager on the island told Greek television.
Thursday's quake was the second measuring over 5.0 on the scale to hit the island in the past five days. The quake was also felt hundreds of miles to the north in the city of Thessaloniki and to the south on the Peloponnese peninsula.
|Families Subpoena DNA in Boston Strangler Case |
By DENISE LAVOIE
BOSTON July 25, 2001 (AP) - The family of the man who confessed to being the Boston Strangler and the family of one of his alleged victims said Wednesday they will subpoena DNA evidence in the decades-old case in an effort to prove Albert DeSalvo was not the legendary killer.
Attorney General Thomas Reilly has refused to share evidence with the families of DeSalvo and Mary Sullivan, believed to be the last of the strangler's 13 victims.
Both families have started private investigations to prove someone else committed the crimes. They exhumed Sullivan's body earlier this year in search of new DNA evidence.
Attorney Dan Sharp said subpoenas would be served Thursday on both the attorney general and Boston police, demanding that officials turn over DNA samples taken from Sullivan's body and other evidence.
Neither Reilly nor a police spokeswoman immediately returned calls Wednesday.
DeSalvo is blamed for the string of murders that spread fear throughout the city between 1962 and 1964.
He claimed to be the strangler while he was serving a life sentence for unrelated crimes. He was never charged in the strangler murders and recanted his confession before he was stabbed to death in prison in 1973.
See previous story on this case.
|Lobbyists Make Millions Off Seniors |
|By SHARON THEIMER |
WASHINGTON July 25, 2001 (AP) - With ominous mailings warning retirement money may be in jeopardy, AARP and other lobbying groups are raising millions of dollars from senior citizens and then renting the elderly donors' names and addresses to third parties.
Six seniors groups collected at least $18.8 million last year by renting out their mailing lists, a review of tax records shows.
Of that, roughly $16 million went to a for-profit subsidiary of AARP, which charges to share the names of its more than 34 million members with mutual fund, credit card and insurance companies that it endorses.
But it's hardly alone.
Robert Mahaffey, a spokesman for the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, which raised $27.6 million from donors last year, said the group's mailing list rentals are an important revenue source.
The rentals generated $1.3 million in the 1999-2000 fiscal year, according to the group's tax forms. Mahaffey declined to identify the parties renting the donor lists.
"We make it clear to our members that they have a very clear option to inform us that they do not want their names used in any other fashion, and we honor all those requests," he said.
A recent mailing campaign by his group, which opposes private investment of Social Security funds, provides an example of how some of the solicitations work.
"THE PUSH TO PRIVATIZE SOCIAL SECURITY IS UNDERWAY," the group declares in bold black print on the envelope of a recent mailing.
"Privatization would put retirement security at real risk," the six-page letter says, asking members to donate $10 or more to authorize a media campaign "to counter all those who would tear down Social Security."
In smaller print on the back page of one of the inserts is the offer to let seniors opt out of having their names and addresses shared with others. "If you do not wish to participate in this program, please let us know by calling (800) 966-1935," it said.
A House subcommittee on Thursday will examine the fund-raising tactics of groups that target seniors. Its chairman said older Americans need to do their homework before donating.
"If they're talking about representing them on matters of congressional interest, talk to your congressman or congresswoman to see if these people are in fact coming into their offices, talking to them," said Rep. E. Clay Shaw, R-Fla., chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security.
"The bottom line is if you don't know anything about them and you don't want to bother learning anything about them, don't send them anything," Shaw said.
AARP doesn't conduct fund-raising solicitations for specific issues, but rather charges members an annual membership fee to help fund its lobbying activities. It rents its member list to endorsed companies that provide services to its members, and informs members that their names may be shared, according to general counsel Joan Wise.
"I think it goes back really to our fundamental social welfare purpose ... that is providing benefits to fit an unmet need for the 50-plus population," Wise said.
An Associated Press review of tax forms found at least four other seniors lobbies made money renting donor lists last year: the Senior Citizens League generated $417,161; United Seniors made $614,587; the Seniors Coalition took in $481,335 and 60 Plus earned $35,110.
United Seniors President Charlie Jarvis said his group's mailing list is only rented to other nonprofits with an interest in health care, like the American Red Cross and American Heart Association.
Other groups declined or did not respond to requests to reveal the renters of their lists.
The money the groups raise is helping fuel lobbying this summer over the makeup of federally financed retiree programs.
Lawmakers are considering major changes, from adding prescription drug coverage to Medicare to letting workers invest part of their Social Security taxes.
David Slautterback, a member of AARP's Wisconsin chapter, said there is nothing illegal about fund-raising targeting the elderly but he fears some of his fellow seniors are being pushed into donating too much.
"I think they count on frightening people," Slautterback said. "It's a small tragedy - sometimes a great tragedy in people's lives - because they get notices from several different agencies and they put up money to several of them and it really gets to be a great financial burden."
Some smaller groups say they are underdogs compared to the well-established AARP and must aggressively raise money to survive.
"We do a lot of direct mail," Senior Citizens League legislative director Virginia Torsch said. "First of all, obviously, it's a fund- raiser. It also is a mechanism for people to send in letters and postcards to their congressmen on specific issues."
The Alliance for Retired Americans, which is mostly funded by the AFL-CIO, is encouraging members to take bus trips to Canada to fill prescriptions. The group wants Medicare to cover prescription drugs and contends U.S. medications are overpriced compared with Canada.
"We're trying to get free ads, if you will, by doing public things that are impressive and/or outrageous so we will get into the news sections of newspapers and TV and radio," legislative director Dan Schulder said.
|Harris Hard Drives To Be Examined |
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. July 26, 2001 (AP) - Florida Secretary of State Katherine Harris said Wednesday she will let the news media examine computer hard drives in her office, though she says she isn't required to by law.
Harris has faced questions about the release of material related to the 2000 Florida election recount that put President Bush in the White House.
In a story two weeks ago about absentee ballots, The New York Times reported that lawyers for Harris said certain records had been erased from office computers and that the lawyers refused requests by the paper to examine the computers' hard drives.
Harris denied in an interview with The Associated Press late Wednesday that her office withheld material from The Times.
"They had access to every document," Harris said. She said the reporters only asked for copies of certain documents and the office provided that material. "We have complied fully with the law."
Other newspapers have requested access to the computers but were refused access to hard drives.
Harris said she doesn't believe that access to the hard drives is covered by the public records law, but that her office would make them available after first hiring its own computer expert.
"We're going over and beyond ... because of our interest in the Sunshine Law ... and the historical significance of this data," Harris said.
Democrats scoffed at Harris' decision, saying it is still possible that material was erased, as The Times reported, and suggested her decision was motivated by reports that she is running for Congress.
|'Eddie Murphy' Escapee Back Behind Bars |
LOS ANGELES July 24, 2001 (Reuters) - A prisoner, whose brazen escape from jail using a fake ID bearing a picture of actor Eddie Murphy embarrassed law enforcement officials, was back behind bars on Monday after more than two weeks on the lam.
Kevin Pullum, 31, who allegedly walked out of a downtown Los Angeles jail on July 6 two hours after being convicted of attempted murder, was found sitting on a milk crate in the city's skid row area on Sunday.
An eagle-eyed police officer, tipped off by local homeless people, spotted Pullum despite the fact that he had shaved his head, his goatee and his eyebrows in a bid to disguise himself. Police said he was nervous and produced another fake ID.
"Every time we put a picture near him, he ducked his head. He wouldn't make eye contact. ... He became extremely nervous," Officer Lee Perry told reporters.
Pullum, protesting and shouting but otherwise putting up little resistance, was taken to jail where a fingerprint check determined he was indeed the escaped prisoner.
Pullum had managed to evade arrest for 16 days, staying first with his girlfriend, then with a number of other friends and relatives and always staying one step ahead of sheriff's deputies and police.
According to a jailhouse videotape and published reports, he strolled out of the prison's employee exit, wearing street clothes he had concealed under his prison uniform and a fake identification card bearing a photo of Murphy cut from an ad for the movie "Dr. Doolittle 2."
He had just been convicted of attempted murder for shooting a man six times in a May 1999 drug deal gone sour. It was his third conviction and he is facing a life jail term.
Los Angeles Sheriff Lee Baca said security measures for both inmates and employees at county jails had been strengthened following Pullum's escape.
|Congressional Pay Raise To $150K Per Year! |
|WASHINGTON July 25, 2001 (AP) - House members on Wednesday managed to avoid a vote on an effort to stop their own cost-of-living pay raise. Unless it is blocked, the 3.4 percent raise takes effect for all members of Congress on Oct. 1. |
Several lawmakers sought to attach amendments stopping the raise to the annual appropriations bill for the Treasury Department, postal service and other government operations. That $32.7 billion bill also includes a 4.6 percent pay raise for civilian federal employees.
But in a 293-129 procedural vote, the House refused to allow the amendments that would stop the pay raise to be considered. Rep. James Matheson, D-Utah, said he had hoped to register "concern about being responsible" with the federal budget, particularly in paying down the federal debt.
"People ought to have an up-or-down vote" on the raises, Matheson said.
Under the scheduled raise, the pay of a rank-and-file member of Congress in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 will rise from $145,100 to about $150,000. Majority and minority leaders in the House and Senate will see their pay go from $161,200 to about $166,700. The speaker of the House will get about $192,800, up from $186,300.
|Whale Meeting Stalemate on Ending Ban |
|By Jeremy Lovell |
LONDON July 25, 2001 (Reuters) - The International Whaling Commission passed a motion on Wednesday criticizing Norway for hunting Minke whales and resuming exports of whale products, but made no progress on ending a ban on commercial hunting.
"The working group has not been able to resolve all the issues," Dutch delegation head Fer Von der Assen told the IWC's annual meeting.
As in the past, the key outstanding issues remain inspections and observers to monitor the whale catch when the temporary total ban introduced in 1985 to protect the 12 species of great whale is finally lifted.
There is also deep disagreement on the creation of a central DNA registry for all whales that are killed.
An important component in lifting the ban is agreement on the Revised Management Scheme to set and police catch quotas. But this has been effectively beached since 1997.
Norway and Japan, where whale meat is a delicacy, have consistently opposed the ban. Norway in 1993 resumed hunting of Minke whales, which it says are in plentiful supply.
"The commission calls upon the government of Norway to reconsider...and to halt immediately all whaling activities under its jurisdiction," said a resolution passed by 21 votes to 15 with one abstention.
It also called on the Norwegian government not to issue any export permits for whale products.
Norwegian delegation head Odd Gunnar Skagested angrily rounded on his attackers, accusing them of hypocrisy and of overstepping their rights.
"We reject the notion that we should be criticized for doing things that are thoroughly within our rights," he said. "We are surprised at anyone bringing a resolution of this kind."
Japan hunts the smaller Minke whales under the guise of scientific research, selling the meat to shops and restaurants.
Britain, the United States, Australia and New Zealand are equally fervent in their defense of the ban.
A three-quarters majority of voting members is necessary to change the rules of the 55-year old organization whose only purpose is the protection of great whales.
Britain's Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food says none of the great whales -- from the gargantuan 150-tonBlue Whale to the relatively diminutive 15-tonMinke -- is now in immediate danger of extinction thanks to the ban.
But the Blue and its 90-tonNorthern Right cousin are classified as endangered, while the Bowhead, Southern Right, Sei, Fin and Humpback are considered vulnerable.
Most were hunted to the edge of extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries for food, fat and oil.
Britain, which ceased commercial whaling in 1963 and fully endorses the ban, last month banned Norwegian whale research ships from its 200-nautical-mile territorial waters in protest at Oslo's resumption of whale product exports to Japan.
During Wednesday's meeting Britain came under attack from the main whaling nations for the decision.
"The United Kingdom has chosen to put its own political considerations above the aims of the International Whaling Commission," Norway's Skagested said.
No one spoke up in defense of the British decision.
Japan Calls Minke Whales Cockroaches of the Sea
By MARI YAMAGUCHI
Associated Press Writer
TOKYO July 19, 2001 (AP) The Japanese government on Thursday stood by its fisheries chief's description of minke whales as the "cockroaches'' of the sea, but denied that Japan bribes poorer nations to support its pro-whaling stance.
The day before, Fisheries Agency counselor Masayuki Komatsu said in an interview with Australian Broadcasting Corp. that "there are too many'' minke whales the species of whale most often killed by Japanese fishermen. His comments came as he denounced efforts to curb Japan's whaling industry.
Japan kills about 500 whales a year, nearly all of them minkes, as part of a scientific whaling program allowed by the International Whaling Commission. Tokyo is pushing for a resumption of commercial whaling, which was banned by the commission in 1986.
Fishing officials in Tokyo on Thursday said there was nothing wrong with Komatsu's comments.
"Apparently he meant to say there are so many minkes and they are fast-moving,'' said Hideki Tanakura, an official at the Fisheries Agency whaling section. Tanakura said the government did not plan to retract the remark.
Komatsu's remarks have not stirred controversy in Japan, where whale meat was served in school lunches in the 1950s and 1960s. The comments were not carried in TV or newspaper reports.
But the country's few anti-whaling activists were angry.
"It's so distasteful,'' said Greenpeace spokeswoman Junko Sakurai, referring to Komatsu's cockroach remark. "The comment shows how he is ignorant about the ecosystem.''
Komatsu's comments come ahead of next week's annual International Whaling Commission meeting in London, where members will consider a proposed South Pacific whale sanctuary. Japan has strenuously opposed the sanctuary.
More controversial appeared to be his comment in Wednesday's interview that Japan uses foreign aid to "get understanding'' of Japan's position on whaling. He said that doesn't mean Tokyo bribes countries to vote with it on the whaling commission.
Japan extends foreign aid to some 150 countries, including supporters and opponents of whaling, Tanakura said. "We naturally ask them for more understanding of Japan's position.''
He added, however, that Japan does not give aid in exchange for votes: "It's impossible,'' he said.
Komatsu's remarks generated more attention abroad. New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark criticized Japan's tactics to get other countries to cast pro-whaling votes.
"I think it is deplorable, frankly,'' to see Japan pouring money into small, poor countries which then "line up at the International Whaling Commission table and block the sanctuary,'' she said Thursday.
"Development aid is for development, not for buying votes,'' she added.
"By publicly admitting that it has used its overseas development aid to gain votes, Japan is bringing into question the integrity of the International Whaling Commission,'' said Cassandra Phillips of The World Wide Fund for Nature.
Japan last year expanded its scientific whaling program from minke whales to Bryde's and sperm whales, a move opposed by the United States and other anti-whaling nations. Japan defends the program as a way of monitoring whale migration, population and feeding habits, but critics call the hunts a disguise for commercial whaling.
|White House Cooperating with Environmental Probe |
|WASHINGTON July 25, 2001 (Reuters) - The White House insisted on Wednesday the Bush administration had been cooperating with a congressional probe into whether industry influenced its handling of environmental regulations amid reported subpoena threats from Sen. Joseph Lieberman. |
"I can't imagine Senator Lieberman wants to return to the old Washington ways that do nothing to contribute to changing the tone, especially after we have been working closely with his staff to provide documents through a recently agreed-to cooperative process all agreed to follow," said White House spokesman Scott McClellan.
The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that Lieberman, a Connecticut Democrat who is chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, will likely subpoena Bush Cabinet agencies over their handling of environmental regulations.
Lieberman, who was Democratic presidential nominee Al Gore's vice presidential running mate in last year's campaign, has said he wants to know whether industry influenced Bush administration efforts to eliminate or suspend Clinton-era regulations on the amount of arsenic allowed in water, road-building in national forests and what level of toxic waste is permitted by companies mining public lands.
The Post quoted committee officials as saying the subpoenas would be issued next week only if administration officials do not drop their objections to the committee's demands for documents after meetings over the next three days.
It would be the Democrats' first use of subpoena power since taking control of the Senate in early June. During the Clinton presidency, Republicans made frequent use of subpoenas for investigations of his administration.
|Alien Hunters Scan the Heavens |
By ANDREW BRIDGES
AP Science Writer
LOS ANGELES July 25, 2001 (AP) Not content to just listen for aliens, a group of California scientists has begun looking for them, too.
For years, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence commonly known as SETI has focused on sifting through the radio or microwave transmissions that stream toward Earth from all quarters of the universe. By crunching the data, scientists hope to detect signals generated by alien civilizations.
Now, scientists at the SETI Institute, the University of California's Berkeley and Santa Cruz campuses and the Lick Observatory have expanded their search to include a hunt for fleeting flashes of laser light. Using a 40-inch telescope at Lick, they are hunting for pulses as brief as one-billionth of a second that emanate from star systems hundreds of light-years away.
"It's a very long shot, but it's very inexpensive to do,'' said Frank Drake, the SETI Institute's board chairman.
The optical hunt requires use of an existing telescope and about $10,000 worth of equipment. In contrast, the group is building a $26 million array to enhance its search for radio signals.
If the optical project does detect a pulse, it's not clear what meaningful two-way communication could ensue. Laser pulses, traveling at the speed of light, can take hundreds if not thousands of years to travel between the stars.
"If you do get in touch, the conversation is going to be tedious,'' said Seth Shostak, a SETI Institute astronomer.
The idea of hunting for alien laser pulses has been around for 40 years, or nearly as long as the laser itself. In the United States, teams based at Harvard University, Princeton University, Berkeley and in Columbus, Ohio, are conducting optical searches.
Unlike radio-focused efforts, a successful optical hunt would require catching an alien civilization deliberately targeting Earth with a laser beacon or pulse.
If radio SETI is listening for a shout from an individual in a crowd, its optical counterpart is looking for a subtle wink.
"With radio, generally speaking, signals tend to spread out more you don't have to target your receiver. With optical receivers, you have to know where the guy is on the other end,'' Shostak said.
The system installed at the Lick observatory uses three light detectors, called photomultipliers, hooked up to its Nickel Telescope.
The telescope is pointed at each candidate star for 10 minutes. The light it gathers is then split and shuttled to each detector. While light from the star itself can also trigger the detectors, the number of photons, or light particles, from a laser pulse would outnumber them 1,000-to-1, Drake said.
So far, the search has examined about 300 stars, as well as a few star clusters. No alien laser pulses have been detected, but the hunt will continue for at least the next year, hitting 1,000 stars.
On the Net:
SETI Institute: http://www.seti.org