|Kesey Dead at 66! |
and Galactic Rings!
|Ken Kesey Dies at Age 66 |
By JEFF BARNARD
Associated Press Writer
GRANTS PASS, OR November 10, 2001 (AP) — Ken Kesey, whose LSD-fueled bus ride became a symbol of the psychedelic 1960s after he won fame as a novelist with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' died Saturday morning. He was 66.
Kesey died at Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene, two weeks after cancer surgery to remove 40 percent of his liver.
"He's gone too soon and he will leave a big gap. Always the leader, now he leads the way again,'' said Ken Babbs, a longtime friend.
After studying writing at Stanford University, Kesey burst onto the literary scene in 1962 with "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,'' followed quickly with "Sometimes a Great Notion'' in 1964, then went 28 years before publishing his third major novel.
In 1964, he rode across the country in an old school bus named Furthur driven by Neal Cassady, hero of Jack Kerouac's beat generation classic, "On The Road.''
The bus was filled with pals who called themselves the Merry Pranksters and sought enlightenment through the psychedelic drug LSD. The odyssey was immortalized in Tom Wolfe's 1968 account, "The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test.''
"Anyone trying to get a handle on our times had better read Kesey,'' Charles Bowden wrote when the Los Angeles Times honored Kesey's lifetime of work with the Robert Kirsh Award in 1991. "And unless we get lucky and things change, they're going to have to read him a century from now too.''
"Sometimes a Great Notion,'' widely considered Kesey's greatest book, told the saga of the Stamper clan, rugged independent loggers carving a living out of the Oregon woods under the motto, "Never Give A Inch.'' It was made into a movie starring Henry Fonda and Paul Newman.
But "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest'' became much more widely known, thanks to a movie that Kesey hated. It tells the story of R.P. McMurphy, who feigned insanity to get off a prison farm, only to be lobotomized when he threatened the authority of the mental hospital.
The 1974 movie swept the Academy Awards for best picture, best director, best actor and best actress, but Kesey sued the producers because it took the viewpoint away from the character of the schizophrenic Indian, Chief Bromden.
Kesey based the story on experiences working at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., while attending Wallace Stegner's writing seminar at Stanford. Kesey also volunteered for experiments with LSD.
While Kesey continued to write a variety of short autobiographical fiction, magazine articles and children's books, he didn't produce another major novel until "Sailor Song'' in 1992, his long-awaited Alaska book, which he described as a story of "love at the end of the world.''
"This is a real old-fashioned form,'' he said of the novel. "But it is sort of the Vatican of the art. Every once in a while you've got to go get a blessing from the pope.''
Kesey considered pranks part of his art, and in 1990 took a poke at the Smithsonian Institution by announcing he would drive his old psychedelic bus to Washington, D.C., to give it to the nation. The museum recognized the bus as a new one, with no particular history, and rejected the gift.
In a 1990 interview with The Associated Press, Kesey said it had become harder to write since he became famous.
"When I was working on `Sometimes a Great Notion,' one of the reasons I could do it was because I was unknown,'' he said. "I could get all those balls in the air and keep them up there and nothing would come along and distract me. Now there's a lot of stuff happens that happens because I'm famous. And famous isn't good for a writer. You don't observe well when you're being observed.''
A graduate of the University of Oregon, Kesey returned to his alma mater in 1990 to teach novel writing. With each student assigned a character and writing under the gun, the class produced "Caverns,'' under the pen name OU Levon, or UO Novel spelled backward.
"The life of it comes from making people believe that these people are drawing breath and standing up, casting shadows, and living lives and feeling agonies,'' Kesey said then. "And that's a trick. It's a glorious trick. And it's a trick that you can be taught. It's not something, just a thing that comes from the muses.''
Among his proudest achievements was seeing "Little Tricker the Squirrel Meets Big Double the Bear,'' which he wrote from an Ozark mountains tale told by his grandmother, included on the 1991 Library of Congress list of suggested children's books.
"I'm up there with Dr. Seuss,'' he crowed.
Fond of performing, Kesey sometimes recited the piece in top hat and tails accompanied by an orchestra, throwing a shawl over his head while assuming the character of his grandmother reciting the nursery rhyme, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.''
Other works include "Kesey's Garage Sale'' and "Demon Box,'' collections of essays and short stories, and "Further Inquiry,'' another look at the 1964 bus trip in which the soul of Cassidy is put on trial. "The Sea Lion'' was another children's book, telling the story of a crippled boy who saves his Northwest Indian tribe from an evil spirit by invoking the gift-giving ceremony of potlatch.
Born in La Junta, Colo., on Sept. 17, 1935, Kesey moved as a young boy in 1943 from the dry prairie to his grandparents' dairy farm in Oregon's lush Willamette Valley. He earned a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Oregon, where he also was a wrestler.
After serving four months in jail for a marijuana bust in California, he set down roots in Pleasant Hill in 1965 with his high school sweetheart, Faye, and reared four children. Their rambling red barn house with the big Pennsylvania Dutch star on the side became a landmark of the psychedelic era, attracting visits from myriad strangers in tie-dyed clothing seeking enlightenment.
The bus Furthur rusted away in a boggy pasture while Kesey raised beef cattle.
Kesey was diagnosed with diabetes in 1992.
His son Jed, killed in a 1984 van wreck on a road trip with the University of Oregon wrestling team, was buried in the back yard.
Ken Babbs, Kesey's friend an fellow adventurer made this statement on the Official Kesey site - http://www.intrepidtrips.com
"Kesey's belly was hurting and the docs did a scan and found a black spot on his liver. It was cancerous but encapsulated which meant there was no cancer anywhere else. They decided to cut it out and the surgery went okay. He had sixty percent of his liver left to carry the load but in one of those dirty tricks the body can play on you everything else went to hell and this morning at 3:45 AM his heart stopped beating.
"A great good friend and great husband and father and grand dad, he will be sorely missed but if there is one thing he would want us to do it would be to carry on his life's work. Namely to treat others with kindness and if anyone does you dirt forgive that person right away. This goes beyond the art, the writing, the performances, even the bus. Right down to the bone."
|Sunspots Exposed! |
Sunspots Take Stranglehold On Our Sun
November 6, 2001 (NASA) - Scientists now have the first clear picture of what lies beneath sunspots, enigmatic planet-sized dark areas on the Sun's surface, and have peered inside the Sun to see swirling flows of electrified gas or plasma that create a self-reinforcing cycle, which holds a sunspot together.
The new research, gathered from the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) onboard the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) spacecraft, will deepen understanding of the stormy areas on the Sun in which sunspots appear. Vast explosions associated with these active magnetic regions occasionally affect high-technology systems.
Sunspots have fascinated people since Galileo's observations of them contradicted the common belief that heavenly objects were flawless. Sunspots remain mysterious because at first glance, it seems they should rapidly disappear. Instead, they persist for weeks or more.
"They obey what is a fundamental finding of observational science: Anything that does happen, can happen," said Philip Scherrer of Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif., Principal Investigator for SOHO's MDI. "We now have a hint at 'how.'"
Astronomers know sunspots are regions where magnetic fields become concentrated. Yet, anyone who played with magnets as a child has felt how magnetic fields of like polarities repel each other. The strong solar magnetic fields should naturally repel each other also, causing the sunspot to dissipate. In fact, observations show that surface material clearly flows out of the spots.
Alexander Kosovichev and Junwei Zhao of Stanford University and Thomas Duvall of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md., used MDI's unique ability to look just below the sunspot's surface and clearly observed inward-flowing material for the first time. The Astrophysical Journal published their research August 10.
"We discovered that the outflowing material was just a surface feature," said Zhao. "If you can look a bit deeper, you find material rushing inward, like a planet-sized whirlpool or hurricane. This inflow pulls the magnetic fields together."
Solar astronomers have long known that the intense magnetic field below a sunspot strangles the normal up-flow of energy from the hot solar interior, leaving the spot cooler and therefore darker than its surroundings. The suppression of the bubbling convective motions forms a kind of plug that prevents some of the energy in the interior from reaching the surface.
The material above the plug cools and becomes denser, causing it to plunge downward at up to 3,000 miles per hour, according to the new observations. That draws the surrounding plasma and magnetic field inward toward the sunspot's center. The concentrated field promotes further cooling, and as that cooling plasma sinks it draws in still more plasma, thereby setting up a self-perpetuating cycle. As long as the magnetic field remains strong, the cooling effect will maintain an inflow that makes the structure stable. The superficial outflows seen right at the surface are confined to a very narrow layer.
Since the magnetic plug prevents heat from reaching the solar surface, the regions beneath the plug should become hotter. A June 1998 observation provided evidence for this also.
"We were surprised at how shallow sunspots are," said Kosovichev. Below 3,000 miles the observed sound speed was higher, suggesting that the roots of the sunspots were hotter than their surroundings, just the opposite of the conditions at the surface. "The cool part of a sunspot has the shape of a stack of two or three nickels."
"The cool downward flows dissipate at the same depth where the hot upward flows diverge," said Duvall. "With these data one cannot get a sharp enough picture to really explain the details. Until now we've looked down at the top of sunspots like we might look down at the leaves in treetops. For the first time we're able to observe the branches and trunk of the tree that give it structure. The roots of the tree are still a mystery."
MDI explores beneath the surface of the Sun by analyzing sound-generated ripples at its surface using a technique called acoustic tomography -- a novel method similar to ultrasound diagnostics in medicine that use sound waves to image structures inside the human body. SOHO continues to mark an era of successful partnership between the European Space Agency and NASA within the Solar Terrestrial Science program.
Sunspots Act Like Planet-Sized Hurricanes
By Claire Soares
WASHINGTON November 06, 2001 (Reuters) - Sunspots act like planet-sized hurricanes that suck in as much material as they spew out, temporarily overriding the laws of magnetic fields, scientists said on Tuesday.
A team of researchers from NASA and Stanford University said by peering into the Sun for the first time, they discovered how the magnetic fields, which make up the cool dark sunspots on the surface, clump together instead of dispersing.
Scientists had previously observed gases pouring out of the sunspots, and thought this was the product of the various magnetic fields repelling each other, in the same way magnets repel each other when brought together.
But the researchers said the outflowing matter is just a surface feature that occurs while the sunspot sucks in new material to hold itself together.
"If you look a bit deeper, you find material rushing inward, like a planet-sized whirlpool or hurricane. This inflow pulls the magnetic fields (back) together," said Junwei Zhao, one of the Stanford researchers.
The pressure in this sunspot hurricane is about 10 times higher than a tropical hurricane on Earth, scientists said.
"Without this flow, a sunspot would not last a day. With it, it lasts for weeks. In the end, the sunspot does get torn apart -- but we still don't know how yet," Stanford colleague Philip Scherrer said at a news conference.
A BETTER UNDERSTANDING OF THE SUN
To get this deeper knowledge the team used sound wave technology, which they likened to the ultrasound doctors use to capture images of unborn babies.
The research showed the magnetic field below a sunspot would cut off the spot's supply of energy from the Sun's hot core, turning it into a plug. Any matter above the plug would then cool and become denser, until gravity dragged it and any surrounding gases into the center of the spot at 3,000 miles per hour.
"As long as the magnetic field remains strong, the cooling effect will maintain an inflow that makes the structure stable ... thereby setting up a self-perpetuating cycle," the team said in its report.
British scientist Douglas Gough from Cambridge University, described the group's findings as the solution to a 400-year-old riddle. Understanding the sunspot component would help scientists gain a global knowledge of the Sun, he said.
"Take a TV set. It is not simply the sum of its components. And trying to understand the whole requires a greater global knowledge, but you can't build a TV set unless you know how the components work. It's the same with the Sun and its components," Gough said.
The findings are the latest in a long line of sunspot research, which stems back to the early 17th century, when Italian astronomer Galileo used sunspots to calculate the speed of the Sun's rotation.
His hand-drawn renditions of sunspot locations contrasted sharply with the computer-generated multicolored models of sunspots on display at NASA's Washington headquarters.
"Imagine yourself flying over a lake, you can see the surface but you don't know how deep it is, how the temperature varies with depth. It was the same with sunspots until now," NASA's George Withbroe said.
|Britain and France Work On Post-Taliban Plan |
By RANJAN ROY
UNITED NATIONS November 7, 2001 (AP) - France and Britain are working on a plan for a post-Taliban government in Afghanistan built around the former king and United Nations backing, French President Jacques Chirac said Tuesday.
After a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, Chirac told reporters the Security Council resolution would be "very close" to a French proposal early last month which included former king Mohammad Zahir Shah as a central figure in a transitional government to bring together tribal factions.
Annan and the Security Council are waiting for a recommendation from U.N. special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi, a former Algerian foreign minister, who just visited Pakistan and Iran and is heading to Rome for talks with the former king.
Brahimi is to see Chirac in Paris later this week.
The 87-year-old former monarch, who has lived in exile for 28 years, is believed the best hope for rallying the varied factions fighting the harsh Taliban rule in Afghanistan.
The French president, who was in Washington earlier Tuesday for talks with President Bush, said the U.S. president and Annan agreed with the British-French framework.
Chirac said the Security Council will open debate on Afghanistan on Nov. 13, with the adoption of the post-Taliban government plan expected within days.
Chirac said he had proposed the United Nations urgently host a meeting of donor countries to insure delivery of money promised for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan.
He said Annan agreed on the need to create a coordinator for humanitarian relief in Afghanistan to give "impetus and organization" to the aid effort.
While Afghanistan's neighbors like Iran favor an interim government led by former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani to pave the way for a coalition of all Afghan ethnic factions, Pakistan on the east opposes such a move and wants the dominant Pashtuns in Afghanistan to play a leading role in any alternative regime. The Taliban is made up primarily of Pashtuns.
|Bin Laden's Sons at Site of US Helicopter Wreck |
DUBAI November 7, 2001 (Reuters) — Hamza Osama bin Laden read poetry while his brother Mohammad strolled carrying a rocket launcher near the wreckage of what Afghanistan's ruling Taliban said was a downed U.S. helicopter.
The two were among four youths shown Wednesday in exclusive footage from Afghanistan by Qatar's al-Jazeera television, which identified them as sons of Osama bin Laden -- Hamza, Mohammad, Khaled and Laden.
The four appeared to be teenagers and showed no signs of being fazed by U.S. military strikes on Afghanistan aimed at flushing out their father, blamed by the United States for the September attacks on New York and Washington.
Sitting against the backdrop of metal wreckage, Hamza grabbed the attention of several masked gunmen as he recited a poem in classical Arabic hailing the Afghan capital Kabul and praising Taliban leader "our emir Mullah Mohammad Omar, symbol of manhood and pride."
Al-Jazeera said the four sons were among a group of Arab fighters who joined Afghan Arab fighters and Taliban forces inspecting a site where the Taliban had said it downed a U.S. helicopter in Ghazni province Saturday.
The Pentagon has denied an aircraft was downed. It said bad weather forced a helicopter to crash but all its crew were rescued and the craft was destroyed by fighter jets to prevent the Taliban taking sensitive equipment.
Al-Jazeera said the Taliban had deployed some forces, including Afghan Arab volunteers, in the area to study maps and other documents found near the helicopter.
One gunman taunted U.S. troops to come to Afghanistan as he showed bin Laden's sons a picture of U.S. soldiers.
"You see. They are commandos? They are a superpower only in Hollywood and in films," said the gunman in English.
"Their heroes are only mythical like Rambo and they won't come on the land of Afghanistan. And if they do come here, they will end up in pieces like this," he added, pointing to the wreckage.
One gunman carried an automatic rifle inscribed with the Arabic words "Death to Bush."
Bin Laden, one of 57 children of one of Saudi Arabia's richest families, has numerous children from several wives.
|Largest Fossil Cockroach Found |
OHIO November 7, 2001 (BBC) - Nope, sorry folks! They haven't found that insect Bin Laden yet. But...
The largest complete fossil of a cockroach has been found in the United States. The insect, about the size of a mouse, lived 55 million years before the first dinosaurs walked the planet.
The specimen, from a time when the land was a giant tropical swamp, was unearthed in a coalmine in eastern Ohio. Scientists say the discovery could shed light on the diversity of ancient life and how the Earth's climate has changed throughout history.
Cary Easterday, a geologist at Ohio State University, was among the team that found the fossil.
"Normally, we can only hope to find fossils of shell and bones, because they have minerals in them that increase their chances for preservation," he said. "But something unusual about the chemistry of this ancient site preserved organisms without shells or bones in incredible detail."
Scientists are unsure what caused such intricate features to be preserved at the mine, which also contains the fossil of the earliest known conifer in the Appalachian Basin. But they hope it could yield clues to how ancient plants and animals coped with a changing environment.
At the time, 300 million years ago, during the Carboniferous period, the swamp was rapidly drying out.
The cockroach, which is nine centimetres (3.5 inches) long, has visible legs, antennae and mouth parts. Veins can be seen on its wings as well as fine bumps covering the wing surface. The creature is about twice the size of the average cockroach found today in North America. Some modern cockroaches living in the tropics can grow bigger.
The cockroach was found at the mine in 1999 by Mr Easterday and fossil collector Gregory McComas. Details of the find were presented on Wednesday at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Boston.
|Bin Laden Look-alike Told To Get Out of Town |
|BHUBANESHWAR, India November 6, 2001 (Reuters) - An unemployed villager who looks like Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden was ordered out of an Indian town after he started to draw crowds, a local official said Tuesday. |
The 45-year-old man with a flowing beard and slim frame drew attention as soon as he arrived Monday at Daspalla, 60 miles from Bhubaneshwar, the capital of the eastern state of Orissa, seeking work.
"The action was taken in good faith to prevent any kind of communal tensions," the official said.
India, which has one of the world's largest Muslim populations, has been on the alert since the U.S.-led coalition began strikes on Afghanistan's ruling Taliban for sheltering bin Laden, wanted for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.
|New Clues Date 'Modern' Humans 150,000 Years Ago |
Stillbaai November 7, 2001 (BBC) - A collection of bone tools dating back 70,000 years is raising new questions about human evolution. The discovery suggests that our early human ancestors were far more sophisticated than previously thought.
The bone tools and flaked stone points, possibly used as spear heads, were found in a cave on the South African coast, east of Stillbaai. Until now, it was assumed that humans were not advanced enough to make such tools until long after they had emerged from Africa and migrated into Europe.
The appearance of bone, rather than stone tools, and signs of abstract and creative thought in the form of body decoration and art works appeared in Europe about 35,000 years ago. But according to new evidence, published in the Journal of Human Evolution, ancient humans were already making bone tools in Africa more than twice as long ago.
The implications are that humans came out of Africa with fully developed "modern" technology and modes of behavior.
Royden Yates, one of the team that discovered the tools, told the BBC: "Every indication that we have been able to gather suggests that we are looking at something between 80 and 100,000 years old.
"Artifacts very similar to this occur in Europe and they are dated to about 19,000 years ago."
The collection of 28 bone tools and related artifacts were found in Blombos cave, located on a cliff overlooking the Indian Ocean at the extreme tip of South Africa. A yellow sand layer lying above the sediment containing the tools is thought to date to 60,000-70,000 years ago. The tools were found below the sand layer and are thought to be somewhat older.
Bone tools need a high degree of skill and labor to produce, which is why archaeologists consider them a significant indicator of human development.
According to archaeologist Christopher Henshilwood, of the Iziko-South African Museum in Cape Town, the tools show that people in Africa exhibited "modern" behavior as far back as 80-100,000 years ago.
"What has been suggested up until now is that modern human behavior was a very late occurrence," he said. "The implication was that though people were anatomically modern in Africa from about 150,000 to 100,000 years ago, they remained behaviorally non-modern until about 40,000 or 50 000 years ago, when they suddenly changed and then moved into Europe and elsewhere."
There have been a few claims of equally old bone tools found at other African sites, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo. But these have been either single finds or of doubtful authenticity. However, while Europe has been extensively excavated, many sites in Africa have yet to be examined closely.
This find may mark the beginning of a new understanding of the human fossil record.
|Salem Witches Finally Acquitted! |
Salem November 5, 2001 (Reuters) — Descendants of those executed during the infamous 17th century witch hunts in Salem, Massachusetts, were cheering on Thursday after the last of their wrongly accused ancestors were exonerated.
In a move that brings an end to a 300-year controversy haunting the state of Massachusetts, acting Gov. Jane Swift approved a bill that clears the accused witches hanged in 1692 and 1693.
"It's a great thing. They should have been exonerated a long time ago," said Sharon Tirone, whose ancestor Sara Wildes was hanged on Gallows Hill near Salem and then exonerated in 1711.
"These relatives were very distraught about this, they really took it to heart and they fought very hard for this," she told Reuters in a telephone interview.
Swift signed the bill on Wednesday as the town of Salem, which was rocked by the colonial-era hysteria, was in the midst of its annual celebration of Halloween.
Twenty-four men and women were hanged, crushed to death or died in prison during the witch hunt, which has grown into a symbol of the perils of group-think and superstition. The incidents were used as the basis for Arthur Miller's award-winning 1953 play "The Crucible," which drew parallels between the witch hunt and congressional hearings into perceived subversives and Communists.
The bill exonerates Susannah Martin, Bridget Bishop, Alice Parker, Margaret Scott and Wilmot Redd and was brought to the state legislature by descendants of some of the women accused and executed.
"The governor thought that Halloween was an appropriate day to sign this bill," said Shawn Feddeman, a spokeswoman for Swift.
In 1711, the legislature issued a general amnesty that exonerated all but six of the accused witches. In 1957 the state legislature passed a resolution exonerating Ann Pudeator, who was hanged. This bill finishes the job, said Paul Tirone, who sponsored the bill.
|Rare Sumatran Tiger Dies at New Zealand Zoo |
WELLINGTON, New Zealand November 4, 2001 (AP) - Wellington Zoo officials said Monday that a Sumatran tiger which was invaluable to an effort to save the species from extinction has died after accidentally being fed meat tainted with massive amounts of a tranquilizer.
The breeding tiger, Jambi, died at the zoo late last week after he was fed beef from a cow carcass found to contain the tranquilizing drug Pentabarbitone, zoo officials said.
Already the father of six offspring, the healthy 264-pound tiger was still of breeding age and was important to a breeding program in Australia and New Zealand, said zoo manager Alison Lash. She said the program's organizers want to make sure predictions that the dark-coated tigers will be extinct in the wild in just five years are not borne out.
"I don't know how you put a price on the head of a tiger when there are only 650 or 700 left in the world," she said. "He's priceless."
Some 500 Sumatran tigers exist in the wild on the Indonesian island of Sumatra and 200 are held in zoos, Lash said. The animals are severely threatened in the Indonesian wild because of logging that destroys their habitat and poaching for skins and other parts.
|Songbirds Plucked From Plane |
|HONG KONG November 06, 2001 (Reuters) - Thirteen tiny songbirds stopped a Cathay Pacific Airways jet in its tracks after a flight attendant heard them warbling away in a passenger's hand luggage just before takeoff. |
The unusual passengers, identified later as an endangered species of the thrush family, were discovered in a bag in an overhead bin as the plane was taxiing to the runway at Hong Kong's airport on Monday.
"The birds were all kept in separate cages in a huge nylon bag," a police spokeswoman told Reuters on Tuesday.
The plane turned back and the birds and their owner, a 59-year-old man, were handed over to police, she said. The flight left for New York about 30 minutes later.
"The man said he didn't know he couldn't bring birds onto the plane...he later said he didn't want the birds anymore."
Security at Hong Kong's airport has been tightened following the September 11 attacks in the United States and it was not known how the man managed to get the birds past X-ray machines and other checks.
"This is really not a security issue. We have discussed the matter with relevant parties," a Cathay spokeswoman said.
|Meteor Clue to End of Middle East Civilizations |
By Robert Matthews
November 4, 2001 (Telegraph UK) - Scientists have found the first evidence that a devastating meteor impact in the Middle East might have triggered the mysterious collapse of civilizations more than 4,000 years ago.
Studies of satellite images of southern Iraq have revealed a two-mile-wide circular depression which scientists say bears all the hallmarks of an impact crater. If confirmed, it would point to the Middle East being struck by a meteor with the violence equivalent to hundreds of nuclear bombs.
Today's crater lies on what would have been shallow sea 4,000 years ago, and any impact would have caused devastating fires and flooding.
The catastrophic effect of these could explain the mystery of why so many early cultures went into sudden decline around 2300 BC.
They include the demise of the Akkad culture of central Iraq, with its mysterious semi-mythological emperor Sargon; the end of the fifth dynasty of Egypt's Old Kingdom, following the building of the Great Pyramids and the sudden disappearance of hundreds of early settlements in the Holy Land.
Until now, archaeologists have put forward a host of separate explanations for these events, from local wars to environmental changes. Recently, some astronomers have suggested that meteor impacts could explain such historical mysteries.
The crater's faint outline was found by Dr Sharad Master, a geologist at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, on satellite images of the Al 'Amarah region, about 10 miles north-west of the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates and home of the Marsh Arabs.
"It was a purely accidental discovery," Dr Master told The Telegraph last week. "I was reading a magazine article about the canal-building projects of Saddam Hussein, and there was a photograph showing lots of formations - one of which was very, very circular."
Detailed analysis of other satellite images taken since the mid-1980s showed that for many years the crater contained a small lake.
The draining of the region, as part of Saddam's campaign against the Marsh Arabs, has since caused the lake to recede, revealing a ring-like ridge inside the larger bowl-like depression - a classic feature of meteor impact craters.
The crater also appears to be, in geological terms, very recent. Dr Master said: "The sediments in this region are very young, so whatever caused the crater-like structure, it must have happened within the past 6,000 years."
Reporting his finding in the latest issue of the journal Meteoritics & Planetary Science, Dr Master suggests that a recent meteor impact is the most plausible explanation for the structure.
A survey of the crater itself could reveal tell-tale melted rock. "If we could find fragments of impact glass, we could date them using radioactive dating techniques," he said.
A date of around 2300 BC for the impact may also cast new light on the legend of Gilgamesh, dating from the same period. The legend talks of "the Seven Judges of Hell", who raised their torches, lighting the land with flame, and a storm that turned day into night, "smashed the land like a cup", and flooded the area.
The discovery of the crater has sparked great interest among scientists.
Dr Benny Peiser, who lectures on the effects of meteor impacts at John Moores University, Liverpool, said it was one of the most significant discoveries in recent years and would corroborate research he and others have done.
He said that craters recently found in Argentina date from around the same period - suggesting that the Earth may have been hit by a shower of large meteors at about the same time.
|St. Louis Wrongly Accuses Citizens in Voting Scandal |
|ST. LOUIS November 5, 2001 (AP) - Dozens of people were wrongly accused of voting improperly in the 2000 election because the city had incorrectly classified hundreds of homes and apartments as vacant lots, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Monday. |
City records indicate that 2,214 residents appear to be registered from 1,000 vacant lots. But a St. Louis Post-Dispatch survey found that genuine homes and apartments are at 704 of those addresses.
Even a top city official, Budget Director Frank Jackson, was snared.
Jackson first discovered his 10-year-old condominium was listed as a vacant lot when he voted in the March mayoral primary. He had never been questioned at the polls before. But because of accusations of voting misdeeds last November, federal and state monitors were at the polls in force.
"The people at the polling place had a notation by my name, and said I couldn't vote," Jackson said.
Jackson showed documents to clear his name and got to vote. But the correct information apparently was not sent to Secretary of State Matt Blunt's office, which still includes Jackson on its list of suspect voters.
Elections in the city have been under scrutiny because of a dispute that broke out on Election Day 2000, when a judge ordered the city's polls to remain open past the closing deadline. The judge's order was later reversed. Republicans accused Democrats of conspiring to extend voting hours to encourage ineligible voters to cast ballots. State and federal investigations followed.
Of the 2,214 voters registered with addresses that the city assessor's office has deemed vacant, state and local election officials have targeted 79 for casting possibly illegal ballots last Nov. 7. Most of those people should not be on the suspect voter list, the newspaper reported.
Calling the inaccurate list of vacant lots "shocking," Blunt said he planned to call for the Legislature to take action.
The Post-Dispatch survey found 432 city residents registered from 296 truly vacant lots. But most of those residents haven't voted in years, an indication they may have moved elsewhere.
|X-Files Is Back! |
X-Files Gets 'Very Different'
Hollywood November 7, 2001 (Sci-Fi Wire) - The X-Files executive producer Frank Spotnitz told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming ninth season will feature more gruesome murders, impossible events, thousands of bugs, a possible reunion with Mulder and "some of the comedy that the show did not have last year."
"The X-Files is a very different series this season, because it's become a three-lead show, and two of the leads are basically new characters," Spotnitz said in an interview.
The new season sees Annabeth Gish taking on the regular role of FBI agent Monica Reyes, joining regular cast members Gillian Anderson and Robert Patrick. Last season, Patrick replaced David Duchovny.
The two-part season premiere--"Nothing Important Happened Today" and "Nothing Important Happened Today II"--will revisit the mythology of the show and "deals with Scully's baby and what's become of Mulder," Spotnitz said.
"Now episode three, which airs at the beginning of December, is the first stand-alone [episode] with this new kind of cast, and it's an episode I wrote and directed, called 'Daemonicus.' The guest star is James Remar, who's been in a lot of features. It's sort of a tripartite investigation [that leads] the three agents to what may be a case of demon possession. It involves escaped mental patients, and it has a character who speaks to the psychology of all three characters. The episode really sets up where The X-Files stands as a series at this point."
The new season begins Sunday, November 11 at 9 p.m. on Fox.
Official X-Files Site - http://www.xfiles.com
Nice Alternate X-Files site (ahem) - http://flatdisk.net/keyox
X-Files 2 In The Works
Hollywood November 7, 2001 (Sci-Fi Wire) - Twentieth Century Fox is negotiating with The X-Files creator Chris Carter and executive producer Frank Spotnitz to write and produce a second feature film based on the long-running series, Variety reported. Carter and Spotnitz wrote and produced the 1998 X-Files film together.
Rob Bowman directed the original film, but no director is yet attached to the proposed sequel. Though no cast has been attached, the sequel is being envisioned as a stand-alone vehicle for Mulder and Scully, presumably to be played by original series stars David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson. Both have indicated a willingness to return for the new movie, the trade paper reported.
As The X-Files gears up for its ninth season, Duchovny is no longer with the show, and Anderson has long expressed her desire to leave following the end of the current season, which kicks off Nov. 11, Variety reported.
Carter and Spotnitz are reportedly expected to begin writing the screenplay within the next few months. The second X-Files movie could begin shooting as early as late 2002, with an eye to a Christmas 2003 release.
|Buffy Slays Academics |
|LONDON November 7, 2001 (BBC) - Buffy the Vampire Slayer is more than just a teenage superhero according to a student who has been studying her. Jaq Bayles wrote a dissertation on the television show for her MA in English Literature. |
She says the program - which features Buffy hunting and killing vampires - empowers women and girls by showing strong female role models.
She said: "As a television program it is fantastic because what it does is empower women. It throws up great role models. But on the sub-textual level it actually works to return the gender order by punishing the women for being powerful. Buffy is unusual in that she is a female superhero but she is punished by losing everything she loves."
For the MA - which she took at Sussex University in the UK - Jaq Bayles watched hours of Buffy. Her 17,000 word dissertation was called "Drop-dead monstrous" and dealt with how the women in the series are more monstrous than the vampires and devils they hunt. She examined the idea that the vampires in the stories are allegories of difficult aspects of teenage life.
Jaq Bayles - who is a freelance journalist - is not alone in her fascination with Buffy - who is played by Sarah Michelle Gellar.
"Other academics have written about the battles with monsters being like the troubles teenagers face in adolescence. Quite a few academics are now writing about Buffy. Lots of people see the monsters as allegorical for the teenage condition," she said.
While the show is attracting academic interest, it has angered some Christian groups. Some complain that programmes such as Buffy - and the Harry Potter novels - attract children to witchcraft and paganism.
|Buffy Sang Good! |
"Once More With Feeling"
Original UPN Airdate November 6, 2001 (Full-length version)
Music and Lyrics by Joss Whedon
Written and Directed by Joss Whedon
Executive Producers - Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon
Buffy - Sarah Michelle Gellar
Giles - Anthony Stewart Head
Willow - Alyson Hannigan
Xander - Nicholas Brendon
Dawn - Michelle Trachtenberg
Anya - Emma Caulfield
Tara - Amber Benson
Spike - James Marsters
Devil - Hinton Battle
Hollywood November 7, 2001 (eXoNews) - The advance on Buffy The Vampire Slayer's musical debut included these warnings from Buffy actor (Spike) James Marsters: "[Whedon's] doing a lot of different musical styles -- you might say Stephen Sondheim to Hank Williams.
"Some of Joss's music is surprisingly complicated. Maybe it's a Beatles kind of thing - he doesn't know enough to know what he can't do, and he's smashing rules everywhere."
"Once More With Feeling" certainly broke some rules, both inside and outside the Buffy universe. UPN gave producers Joss Whedon and Marti Noxon an extra eight minutes and hardcore Buffy fans probably cheered the ending scene (no spoilers here, but tongues were involved), which was a good example of how Whedon used the episode to successfully tighten this season's character development. The musical centered on relationships, often Buffy's most endearing asset, but more casual Buffy watchers might have been confused by these complexities served up in song.
The production suffered predictably from the restraints of episodic television. It was ambitious to try to stuff it all into a sixty-minute slot. Budget probably forbade a two-hour or feature-length version. If Whedon is thinking about future expansion for a DVD, he'll be on the right track. It all screamed to be longer, especially the dance numbers.
Whedon's "book" for "Once More With Feeling" was self-satirical - someone has cast an all-singing all-dancing spell on Sunnydale and managed to raise the Devil. Buffy's little sister Dawn, who has become a bit of a delinquent this season, is the main suspect and the Devil kidnaps her with plans for a teenage wedding. Our heroes have to rescue Dawn and end the spell or be cursed with tap-dancing the rest of their careers away.
The songs were good - not Rogers and Hammerstein, but not lemons either. Whedon chose to go with a mix of musical styles, and some worked better than others. There was a notable lack of humorous lyrics, probably due to the concentration on the season's soapy side.
The dancing was good, but more West Side Story and less Magical Mystery Tour would have been better here. Sarah Michelle Gellar's solo dance scene was all too brief. Michelle Trachtenberg proved to be a very graceful dancer and she could have been used better.
Yes, Buffy can sing - and so can Spike. Gellar and Marsters, were first class, pretty much as expected. More of each and more together would have been a good thing.
Amber Benson and Anthony Stewart Head have the best voices in the cast, though, hands down. Whedon had Tara doing great harmony with Giles in the big finale. Veteran Buffy fans already knew about Head, but Amber Benson's voice probably came as a surprise.
Guest baddie Hinton Battle threatened to steal more than Dawn with a great number as the Devil.
Alyson Hannigan and Nicholas Brendon, who usually dominate the show's comic lines, seemed less comfortable with their numbers. Emma Caulfield has an excellent voice, (and she simply gets better every episode anyway), so the Xander and Anya duet worked with her support. The same was true of the Willow and Tara scene with Benson helping Hannigan.
The other networks had all of their guns blazing at Buffy this week, with ABC rolling out NYPD Blue's season premiere and Fox premiering Kiefer Sutherland in "24" in addition to all the other shows stacked up this year in the Tuesday 8PM and 9PM time slots. UPN fared as might be expected in the fast affiliate ratings, but Buffy is used to being ignored by the Emmys and Nielsen families.
As Gellar noted at a recent awards show, Whedon and his Scoobies make Buffy for the fans, not for the conservative establishment. For those who missed it, hang in there for the edited rerun or (hopefully) expanded DVD version. "Once More With Feeling" was a fan's delight!
November 7, 2001
|Lego Halts Use of Maori Names |
By RAY LILLEY
Associated Press Writer
WELLINGTON, New Zealand October 30, 2001 (AP) — Danish toy maker Lego has agreed to halt production of a range of toys based on ethnic cultures after protests about its use of indigenous Maori names for some toys, a Maori intellectual property lawyer said Tuesday.
Lego senior executive Brian Soerensen has just returned to Denmark after meeting Maori lawyers in Auckland where he acknowledged that Lego had used Maori words in its Bionicle range of toys.
Lawyer Maui Solomon paid tribute to Lego's decision.
"Lego have independently made a decision to withdraw from the market any future production of Bionicle toys based on Maori knowledge, or indigenous knowledge from any other culture, out of respect for the issues that we've raised with them,'' Solomon said.
"They're not going to manufacture them any more, they're not going to distribute them any more. That, I think, is a fairly significant step on their part,'' he added.
Solomon represents Maori claimants arguing for greater protection for Maori intellectual property.
The products included spiritual people called Tohunga (Maori for priest), face masks called Kanohi (face), a stone warrior called Pohatu (stone) and a tunneling character called Whenua (earth).
Lego executives are expected to visit claimant Maori tribe Ngati Koata in November, to formalize the arrangements.
|2100-year-old Treasure at Mercy of Taliban |
|BY DALYA ALBERGE, ALISON BECKETT |
AND DANIEL MCGRORY
LONDON November 6, 2001 (Times UK) - Art experts fear that even a sealed vault will not be enough to save the 2,100-year-old gold of Bactria from the war. Locked away in a vault underneath the presidential palace in Kabul is a priceless treasure which is at the mercy of the American bombardment and the Taliban’s spite and greed.
Art experts want the UN to rescue this 2,100-year-old hoard of gold antiquities, called the Treasure of Bactria, before it is destroyed or the Taliban melt it down.
What is remarkable is that the 20,000 or more gold statues, necklaces and ornaments set with precious stones have survived for so long in a city scarred by years of war. Rumors swirl around the bazaars of the capital about what the Taliban has done with the treasure, which was excavated in 1978 from a royal burial site in northern Afghanistan by a Soviet team during the Soviet Union’s occupation.
The team recounted how the 20,000 gold pieces included statues, necklaces, dress ornaments, pendants, hairpins and buckles decorated with precious stones. There were also plaques studded with jewels and a crown covered in pearls and turquoise.
The treasure survived until its excavation in 1978 because there was nothing conspicuous about the tomb. After that, to protect the trove dating from 100 BC, the country’s former Communist ruler and Soviet puppet, President Najibullah, sealed it in seven trunks and hid them in a vault carved out of rock and protected by a steel door bolted shut by seven locks with keys held by seven different people. At least three of the key holders are now dead, Mr Najibullah included.
Christian Manhart, a specialist in Asian cultural heritage at Unesco, said: “We are very concerned the Taliban will get in. They have tried to break through the enforced concrete walls, so far without success.”
Another popular fable circulating in Kabul, he said, is that the Russians have a duplicate set of the seven keys. Others claim that a renegade band of Soviet troops broke into the vault in the last hours before they abandoned Kabul and replaced some of the treasure with fakes. Mr Manhart said that all anyone can say for sure is that the treasure was last seen and inspected by international archaeologists in 1993 when the safe was opened for one day to dispel rumors that the Afghans had sold it.
The Russian professor who excavated the tombs, Victor Sarianidi, fears that the treasure must already be in the hands of collectors in Japan, Britain and the United States or has been stolen by warring troops. He said it was impossible to value its artistic and historical value let alone its commercial worth.
Unesco says that it has given the Americans a map so that its bombers can avoid vital cultural sites, which include the vault in the presidential palace and the Ministry of Information and Culture, where other museum treasures are stored. US military chiefs say that if these buildings are being used by the Taliban leadership, then they can make no promises.
There are many in Kabul who say the Taliban have already handed the treasure to Osama bin Laden. Robert Kluyver, of the Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage (SPACH), was told recently that bin Laden had arranged for it to be smuggled across the mountains to Pakistan in March where dealers awaited his orders to sell it. That happened, he said, soon after the Taliban incurred the wrath of the West by ordering its troops to blow up the colossal figures of the Bamiyan Buddhas and declared the country’s art treasures to be idolatrous.
Carla Grissman, who has spent years cataloguing Afghanistan’s disappearing cultural history, believes that the Taliban has resisted the temptation to loot the Treasure of Bactria. Mrs Grissman, who is also with SPACH, helped to salvage what she could from the Kabul museum with the Taliban's help. But she was worried by the regime’s change of heart in March when it blew up the Buddhas and smashed what little remained in the Kabul museum as “infidel idols”. She agrees that “the Taliban could parade the Bactrian treasure and destroy it as a confrontational gesture to the West, but I hope not”.
Mrs Grissman says that nothing from the Treasure of Bactria has so far been offered for sale on the black market.
St John Simpson, the British Museum’s assistant keeper in the Department of the Ancient Near East, said that the destruction or dispersal of these treasures would be a tremendous loss. It was a very important find, he added.
The country’s arts heritage was considered one of the richest in Asia because Afghanistan was the cradle of Greco-Bactrian art. It was there that the Asian art merged with Grecian art to give the Buddha a human form.
About 80 per cent of the Kabul museum collection has been stolen or destroyed. Unesco was accused of failing to protect Afghanistan’s cultural treasures when it blocked an attempt in 1999 to move everything to Switzerland, despite the Taliban and President Rabani, of the Northern Alliance allegedly agreeing to the move. Unesco says there was no deal with the Taliban and it did not trust rival factions in Kabul not to rob the caravan of treasures.
|French Chocolate Bikinis and Edible Lingerie |
|By Nikla Gibson |
PARIS November 5, 2001 (Reuters) - It's slinky. It's sexy. But above all, that side-laced miniskirt and barely-there bustier top being paraded on the catwalk are truly edible. World-renowned French fashion designers indulged in their passion for chocolate this week, ditching their usual chiffons and silks in favor of mouthwatering ingredients in what has become a yearly celebration of the cocoa bean.
Model after model emerged on the catwalk wearing stunning evening dresses, tailored suits, glamorous ensembles and natty beach wear that on first inspection would not be out of place in the world fashion capital's ready-to-wear collections. However a closer look revealed that the cowboy-style chaps were made of dark, milk and white chocolate, the over-sized bows on that bikini were delectable and the delicate beading on that evening dress would make a tasty snack.
In fact, every outfit in the appetizing collection contained some element of chocolate.
For the seventh year, the French passions of food and fashion have combined to showcase the variety and versatility of the cocoa bean and its products at the annual Salon du Chocolat, visited by some 100,000 visitors over its four days.
French designer Chantal Thomass, best known for her sexy lingerie, thrilled the audience with humorous outfits with a nautical theme. Models sported starfish and fish-shaped handbags, chocolate bikinis and even an anchor made of solid chocolate, positioned to maintain a degree of modesty.
"I wanted to create something fun because a chocolate fashion show is a chance to play. My idea was to create pin-ups," Thomass told Reuters Television.
Designer Olivier Lapidus took a more sober approach, creating an evening dress with tiered layers of brown material encrusted with hundreds of chocolate pastilles like diamonds. Meanwhile Paco Rabanne, the 1960s king of chain-mail and plastic, set white and milk chocolate discs into pockets sewn all over a transparent plastic knee-length dress.
For all the tongue-in-cheek frivolity of chocolate couture, the Salon du Chocolat is also a serious commercial event for chocolate-makers large and small and cocoa producing countries.
"Chocolate is the end product. From an economic point of view, the cocoa bean yields some 20 percent of gross domestic product for the Ivory Coast's budget. That's no small thing," said Ivory Coast Agriculture Minister Alphonse Douady.
WHY DOESN'T THE CHOCOLATE MELT?
The issue perplexing the majority of spectators at the fashion show was not one of economics but simple logistics. How was it that the clothes weren't melting off the models under the extraordinary heat generated by catwalk lights?
"For a confectionery chef, it's a challenge to work on a body whose temperature is 37 degrees. It is nearly impossible," Thierry Bridon, the head confectioner at Paris's luxury Lutetia Hotel who worked with Thomass on her designs, told Reuters.
The feat is made all the more exceptional by the fact that these same outfits will be transported across the Atlantic to be worn again in the New York Salon du Chocolat show.
Confectioners use "little cheats" to ensure the clothes withstand the heat, such as substituting cocoa butter with grape seed oil and adding large quantities of sugar and other oils. Teams of confectioners are on hand backstage to carry out last minute repairs.
"The heat is extraordinary. Even with the best preparation there is always a risk the chocolate will begin to melt -- particularly underarm and around the waist as the models walk," said Jean-Luc Decluzeau, who has been a chocolatier since he was 14 years old and who created the skimpy bustier top and mini skirt that graced the catwalk.
"The skirt is a little worse for wear but I will leave it because it looks like old leather now rather than new," he added.
Show site (English version) - http://www.chocoland.com/chocoland_us/default.htm
[Note: Believe me, guys, I tried to get pictures from this event for days, but no chocolate bikinis! Ed.]
|Roman Mosaic Unearthed in Britain |
Somerset November 7, 2001 (BBC) - An ancient mosaic, unearthed accidentally by workmen in Somerset, is being hailed as one of the most important Roman finds of the last 50 years. The 10 by six meter section was discovered when the workmen started digging for a new road at an office near Ilminster.
English Heritage said the find was unexpected as there were no other indications of Roman remains in the field, at Mill House, near the village of Lopen. However the find will have to be buried again to protect it over the winter while archaeologists consider the best way to preserve it.
The 1,640-year-old mosaic, which came to light in October, is made of tiny red, white and blue blocks of Somerset limestone and tiles. Unusually, it depicts a dolphin rather than geometric designs normally seen on Roman mosaics.
English Heritage's Chief Archaeologist David Miles said: "Discoveries of this type are few and far between. When they do turn up it is crucial that bodies such as English Heritage are able to help record and preserve such sites for future generations."
The mosaic is thought to form a floor in a large villa built a mile from the Roman road, the Fosse Way - now the A303. The road stretched from Lincoln to Exeter and was one of the major routes of Roman Britain. Rare fragments of painted wall plaster, tiles from a central heating system and stone roof slates have also been uncovered along the route.
Dr David Neal, a leading mosaic expert who has dated the find to about AD 360 said: "The site was clearly one of considerable status, likely to be a substantial villa."
The 4th Century was the golden age for villas, especially in the prosperous West Country. A mosaic floor was one of the best ways of showing off wealth and status.
About 400 have been discovered in Britain and half of these are in the South West.
|Oil and Ecology News: |
|White House Claims 'National Security' in Arctic Drilling Debate |
By H. JOSEF HEBERT Oil Developers Threaten Wildlife Habitat Near Yellowstone
WASHINGTON November 5, 2001 (AP) - A dispute over oil drilling in an Arctic wildlife refuge is blocking energy legislation and is prompting the White House to link the debate to national security and the September terrorist attacks.
That has some Democrats in Congress and environmentalists accusing the Bush administration and Republicans of exploiting terrorist fears to allow drilling in an area where oil won't actually be pumped for a decade.
"It's in our national interest that we develop more energy supplies at home," President Bush told business leaders recently, demanding that the Senate take up energy legislation "and get a bill to my desk" before Congress adjourns for the year.
Opening the Arctic refuge for oil development remains key to "an independent energy policy for America," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said. He noted that the House already has approved energy legislation, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR.
But in the Senate, an energy bill that six months ago was viewed as a priority has slipped to the back burner, eclipsed by the response to the Sept. 11 attacks and the slumping economy.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D-N.D., has put energy legislation on hold, telling reporters: "The most important focus for us now is the economic recovery plan, the airport security plan and the appropriations bills."
It's clear that energy "is an issue that Democratic leaders want to duck for now," Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, contended.
Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, said the reason is the Arctic refuge. He believes he has the 51 votes needed to lift a 1980 congressional ban on developing the Alaska refuge's millions of barrels of oil.
Key Democrats, however, have promised environmentalists they will protect the refuge. That includes, if necessary, blocking a vote with a filibuster - a parliamentary tactic that requires proponents of a measure to have 60 votes to limit debate. Any debate is likely to be quarrelsome and disruptive, with each side trying to wrap itself in patriotism and hurling accusations at the other. It's a showdown Daschle would like to avoid.
"This is a critical dividing-line issue," said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who has pledged to lead such a filibuster. Among those expected to join in are Democratic Sens. Joseph Lieberman of Connecticut, Hillary Clinton of New York and John Wyden of Oregon, he said.
The events of Sept. 11 and their aftermath have not changed the debate over ANWR, Kerry said. Drilling there "will do nothing to enhance our national security at this moment in time," he said in a recent interview.
Murkowski, contending that oil can be taken from the refuge without endangering the environment, called it a matter of "our national security, as opposed to environmental extremists."
To press the point, he brought representatives from a number of veterans organizations to Capitol Hill last week to deride - as one wrote Daschle - "the heavy reliance of the United States on foreign oil."
Bush administration officials have stressed the same point. Interior Secretary Gale Norton called recently for action on energy at a Capitol Hill news conference, in a speech to an oil conference in Louisiana and in letters to radio talk show hosts.
"Every day the United States imports 700,000 barrels of oil from (Iraq's) Saddam Hussein. ... It's time to start producing that energy in the United States," Norton wrote the radio hosts, volunteering to discuss the issue if invited.
Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, bemoaned "the almost obsessive attention" focused on the Arctic refuge at the expense of other energy matters. There are other places in Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico where domestic oil resources have been ignored, he said. Growth in energy demand "will overwhelm any future domestic production even if ANWR were opened," he added.
The government estimates that at least 5.7 billion barrels - and possibly as many as 16 billion barrels - may be recoverable from the refuge, although how much will be pumped will depend on the price of oil. Environmentalists argue that ANWR has no more than 3.2 billion barrels, not enough to dramatically ease the country's reliance on imports.
"Drilling the Arctic refuge for a speculative six months supply of oil 10 years from now will not do anything to enhance our energy security," said Adam Kolton of the Alaska Wilderness League.
He called the national security drumbeat "an attempt to exploit the tragedy of Sept. 11" to overcome opposition to opening the refuge.
Washington DC November 7th, 2001 (Earthjustice) - A coalition of conservation groups today filed a lawsuit challenging Forest Service and BLM leases of prime wildlife habitat near Yellowstone National Park for oil development. The leases would allow road building and oil drilling in an area of public lands in northwest Wyoming that scientists have shown to provide crucial habitat for the grizzly bear and many other sensitive species.
“The area threatened by these leases is a place where you can hunt elk, watch grizzly bears, and hear wolves howling – all in the same day,” said Dan Heilig of the Wyoming Outdoor Council. “We need to protect this national treasure for future generations of Americans.”
“The Yellowstone area’s importance to wildlife is unparalleled in the lower-48 states,” added Earthjustice lawyer Tim Preso, who is representing the coalition. “It should not be turned into an industrial zone.”
The lawsuit focuses on six leases encompassing 2,080 acres of public lands, including four leases in the BLM's Lander Resource Area and two leases in the Shoshone National Forest. All of the leases are located at the southern end of the Absaroka Mountains in the Brent Creek/Ramshorn Pass area northwest of Dubois, Wyoming.
“You’ll never see a grizzly bear in an oil field,” said Liz Howell of the Sierra Club. “If oil development comes to grizzly country, the bears will lose, and Yellowstone will lose something special.”
The legal challenge specifies violations of the Endangered Species Act by the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management. The agencies issued oil and gas leases in occupied grizzly bear habitat without taking steps required by law to analyze and avoid the adverse impacts of oil and gas drilling on the threatened bears. The Brent Creek area has been identified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as an important wildlife travel corridor, year-round habitat for grizzlies, and an elk calving ground. Perhaps most significantly, it contains low-elevation habitat where bears, after emerging from winter dens, can find food in the spring when high elevations are still covered in snow. A federal study found that 18 radio-collared grizzly bears used the Brent Creek area.
The lawsuit, which has been filed in Washington, D.C., federal district court, could set a precedent that would fix a major loophole in current federal oil and gas leasing policies.
“The Forest Service and BLM have put off their analysis of the impacts on imperiled species until after they sign away lease rights to the public lands,” said Tim Stevens of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. “We want to make sure they look before they leap – not after.”
|Archaeologists Unearth 4,000 Year-Old Egyptian Doctor |
SAKKARA, Egypt November 6, 2001 (Reuters) - Archaeologists sifting through the desert sands near Cairo have discovered the oldest-known tomb of a pharaonic surgeon, dating back more than 4,000 years, a top Egyptian antiquities official said Tuesday.
"For the first time, a discovery has been made of a doctor's tomb dating back 4,200 years," said Zahi Hawass, antiquities chief in the Giza pyramids area.
"We found 30 surgical tools (inside the tomb) used by the ancient Egyptian doctor," he told Reuters at the site in Sakkara, near the Egyptian capital.
Hawass said the grave of Skar, the chief physician of one of Egypt's Fifth Dynasty rulers, contained bronze medical implements such as scalpels, needles and a type of spoon. He said the discovery would help scholars gain new insights into ancient medical techniques.
"Inside, this tomb has a number of beautiful scenes (on the walls) revealing the daily life (of the Fifth Dynasty) ... colored in beautiful colors that are special to the Sakkara area," he said.
Hawass said archaeologists also found an alabaster altar and 22 statues of different gods and goddesses inside the tomb.
|Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Gets New Power |
By MICHAEL DOYLE
WASHINGTON November 4, 2001 (McClatchy Newspapers) - Congress has just given the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court new powers - even as some fear the court's growing power.
"The secrecy surrounding the court's proceedings is a real problem for democratic accountability and for the rule of law," said Lee Tien, senior staff attorney with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
When the Justice Department wants to tap a suspected foreign agent's phone, or secretly send investigators to ransack the suspect's home, it comes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for approval. Meeting in a windowless, soundproof room in the Justice Department, with its members drawn from the nationwide pool of U.S. District Court judges, the court almost always gives the Justice Department what it wants.
Last year, the court received a record 1,005 requests for intelligence gathering operations. All were approved. The previous year 886 applications were received. All were approved. The year before that, 796 applications were received. All were approved.
Since Congress established the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 1978, only one Justice Department application for a wiretap or covert search has been denied. More than 12,000 have been approved. All details are hush-hush. The court's annual reports amount to two rudimentary paragraphs, and congressional oversight is essentially non-existent.
This record of concealment and near-unanimous approvals leaves skeptics worried that the court is a rubber stamp for a Justice Department that now has more leeway than ever before to exploit the secret court's powers.
But for others, intimately familiar with the ways of covert war, the members of the secret court approach their work with just the right amount of discretion.
"The judges take it very seriously," said Stanley Sporkin, a former federal judge who also served as the CIA's general counsel. "They're very careful, and very (legally) conservative. They know the law; they know what can be done, and what can't be done."
All seven members of the court are men, with only one African American. Three of the members are over age 70 and five come from the East Coast. Under a new anti-terrorism law, the court will expand to 11 members.
"It's a workload thing, (and) also a matter of always having a judge available in an emergency," said Stewart Baker, former general counsel for the National Security Agency, explaining the court's expansion.
As a matter of course, the court's members do not speak publicly of their work. But others familiar with the court's work are quick to speak up in its behalf. Baker, for one, said the nearly 100 percent approval rate for the Justice Department's requests reflects the department's approach.
"The Justice officials who control what goes to the court are if anything too conservative, only sending forward requests that are sure winners," Baker said, noting a "reluctance to ask the court for orders in cases that are close to the line."
A terrorist group known as the Justice Commandos of the Armenian Genocide illustrates the court's work, as well as some of the questions that arise about its reach.
In 1982, the FBI was investigating members of the Armenian group blamed for at least 21 assassinations of Turkish officials. Investigators went to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and obtained approval for secret wiretaps. Through a tap on the Santa Monica, Calif., home of a man named Viken Hovsepian, agents learned of plans to bomb the Honorary Turkish Consulate in Philadelphia.
Hovsepian and his colleagues challenged their subsequent convictions. They argued, in part, that the secret court was only supposed to be used for intelligence purposes and not domestic law enforcement. But in upholding the convictions, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals made note of a fact still relevant today.
"International terrorism by definition requires the investigation of activities that constitute crimes," the 9th Circuit noted.
More recently, the FBI used 550 consecutive days of wiretapping authorized by the secret court to lead to the arrests and 1998 convictions of a husband and wife who spied for East Germany. Neither the two convicted spies - Theresa Squillacote and Kurt Stand - nor their attorneys were ever permitted to see the evidence collected during the secretly approved wiretapping.
This sometimes touchy relationship between foreign intelligence and domestic law enforcement is at the heart of the current debate over the court's work.
Wiretaps and searches are potentially dangerous tools, covered by the Fourth Amendment's protections against unreasonable searches and seizures. Typically, warrants are supposed to be obtained to ensure the search or seizure is reasonable.
But in the case of investigating foreign intelligence threats, presidents have sought more discretion to protect the national security. Speed, efficiency and secrecy become paramount.
Congress created the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to ease this tension. Investigators got the secrecy they need, but they also had to keep foreign intelligence collection as the "primary purpose" of the searches.
The new anti-terrorism law, though, expands this so that foreign intelligence need only be a "significant purpose." This seemingly slight shift in wording worries those who fear too many people will be swept up in a law enforcement net.
"It seems obvious with this lower standard that the FBI will try to use (the court) as much as it can," Sen. Russell Feingold, D-Wis., warned during Senate debate. "And, of course, with terrorism investigations, that won't be difficult because the terrorists are apparently sponsored or at least supported by foreign governments. So this means the Fourth Amendment rights will be significantly curtailed in many investigations of terrorist acts."
Tien, of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said he's concerned the secrecy of the court's proceedings leaves no opportunity for public and legal feedback.
But Sporkin, the former CIA general counsel, noted approvingly that some changes will expire in 2005 unless Congress renews them. Sporkin also contends the secret court's new authorities will properly aid the fight against terrorists.
"It clarifies the area, and it should help law enforcement," Sporkin said.
|Hubble Reveals Ultraviolet Galactic Ring |
November 2, 2001 (STScI) - The appearance of a galaxy can depend strongly on the color of the light with which it is viewed. The Hubble Heritage image of NGC 6782 illustrates a pronounced example of this effect. This spiral galaxy, when seen in visible light, exhibits tightly wound spiral arms that give it a pinwheel shape similar to that of many other spirals. However, when the galaxy is viewed in ultraviolet light with NASA's Hubble Space Telescope, its shape is startlingly different.
Ultraviolet light has a shorter wavelength than ordinary visible light, and is emitted from stars that are much hotter than the Sun. At ultraviolet wavelengths, which are rendered as blue in the Hubble image, NGC 6782 shows a spectacular, nearly circular bright ring surrounding its nucleus. The ring marks the presence of many recently formed hot stars.
Two faint, dusty spiral arms emerge from the outer edge of the blue ring and are seen silhouetted against the golden light of older and fainter stars. A scattering of blue stars at the outer edge of NGC 6782 in the shape of two dim spiral arms shows that some star formation is occurring there too. The inner ring surrounds a small central bulge and a bar of stars, dust, and gas.
This ring is itself part of a larger dim bar that ends in these two outer spiral arms. Astronomers are trying to understand the relationship between the star formation seen in the ultraviolet light and how the bars may help localize the star formation into a ring.
NGC 6782 is a relatively nearby galaxy, residing about 183 million light-years from Earth. The light from galaxies at much larger distances is stretched to longer, redder wavelengths ["redshifted"], due to the expansion of the universe. This means that if astronomers want to compare visible-light images of very distant galaxies with galaxies in our own neighborhood, they should use ultraviolet images of the nearby ones.
Astronomers find that the distant galaxies tend to have different structures than nearby ones, even when they use the correct procedure of comparing visible light in distant galaxies with ultraviolet light from nearby ones. Since the distant galaxies are seen as they were billions of years ago, such observations are evidence that galaxies evolve with time.
The Hubble image of NGC 6782 was taken with the Wide Field Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) in June 2000 as part of an ultraviolet survey of 37 nearby galaxies. The observations were carried out by an international "Hubble mid-UV team" led by Dr. Rogier Windhorst of Arizona State University. Additional observations of NGC 6782 were made by the Hubble Heritage Team in June 2001.
The color image was produced by combining data from both observing programs that were taken through color filters in the WFPC2 camera that isolated ultraviolet, blue, visible, and infrared light.