Tilly's Zebra and
Tiger Mosquitoes Reach California
LOS ANGELES June 28
2001 (AP) -- A type of mosquito known to carry disease in Asia has been
introduced into Southern California, arriving in shipments of an
increasingly popular plant called "lucky bamboo.''
There have been no documented cases of disease in the United States
transmitted by the Asian tiger mosquitoes, but viruses carried by the
insects have caused serious infections in Asia.
"It's not a danger now, but the possibility is there,'' said Mike
Shaw, director of operations for the Greater Los Angeles County Vector
Control District, a government pest-control agency. "This is probably
one of the biggest transmitters of diseases out there.''
Lucky bamboo resembles bamboo but is not a member of the bamboo family.
Considered a symbol of good luck, it's often used in decorating by
practitioners of feng shui, the Chinese art of arranging objects to
enhance positive forces.
Lucky bamboo shipped to the United States arrives packed in water, where
mosquitoes can breed.
Pest control officials were alerted to the problem last week, when
mosquitoes flew out of a shipment from South China as agricultural
inspectors opened it at the Port of Los Angeles.
On Tuesday, researchers with the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention identified the insects as tiger mosquitoes, which had not been
seen before on the West Coast.
So far, the insect has been found only in Los Angeles. But ports in San
Francisco, Seattle, New York and New Jersey also receive shipments of the
Lucky bamboo from those shipments is sent all over the country.
"Within the last year or so it just took off,'' said Tony Yung,
co-owner of 99 International, a Los Angeles-based company that imports
About a year and a half ago, producers started delivering lucky bamboo by
ship rather than airplane to increase volume and cut costs. Lucky bamboo
sent by sea must be stored in about 2 inches of water for about two weeks
in cargo containers.
The containers are "the perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes''
because of the way the temperature is controlled, said Mir Mulla, a
mosquito researcher at the University of California, Riverside.
Crews are spraying pesticide into containers of bamboo shipped into Los
Angeles. But Shaw said long-term solutions must come from places where the
shipments originate, including China, Thailand and Malaysia.
Lied For 'Republican sleaze machine'
Washington June 28
2001 (London Times) - An author who rose to fame by attacking women who
opposed the appointment of Justice Clarence Thomas to the US Supreme Court
has admitted lying while acting “as a witting cog in the Republican
Justice Thomas was nominated by President Bush, father of the present
President. During bitter 1991 Senate hearings into his suitability, the
pivotal issue was an accusation of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, a
She was vilified by the author David Brock in his bestseller The Real
Anita Hill. Mr Brock, who famously described Ms Hill as “a little bit
nutty and a little bit slutty”, now says that he “lost his soul” by
becoming a hatchet-man for the Right.
“I demonised Democratic senators, their staffs and Hill’s feminist
supporters without ever interviewing any of them. I was so blinded by
partisan tunnel vision and my tortured desire to make it in the movement
that I believed my own propaganda,” he writes in a new book, Blinded by
the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative.
Mr Brock not only repudiates his earlier attacks but also claims that
Justice Thomas used him to spread derogatory information about a woman who
had come forward to support Ms Hill’s allegations.
He says that the judge passed him “unverified, embarrassing personal
information”, through a lawyer, about Kaye Savage, who had told two
other authors that Justice Thomas had an obsessive interest in
pornography. Mr Brock claims that he used the information, related to Ms
Savage’s divorce, to force her to recant, by threatening to “blacken
her name, just as I had done to every other woman who impugned Thomas’s
reputation”. Ms Savage later sent a fax backing off from her earlier
“Thomas was playing dirty, and so was I,” Mr Brock writes.
Mark Paoletta, the lawyer identified as the conduit for derogatory
information about Ms Savage, has denied passing on information for Justice
Mr Brock claimed that Mr Paoletta also told him that Justice Thomas had
frequently rented pornographic videos, evidence that would have bolstered
Ms Hill’s allegations that he had graphically discussed such videos with
“Confirmation that Thomas frequently rented porno tapes made Hill’s
entire story much more plausible,” Mr Brock writes.
In a review of a book airing the allegations, Mr Brock had insisted that
there was no evidence that Justice Thomas had “ever rented one
pornographic video, let alone was a habitual consumer of pornography”
and he criticised the charges as “one of the most outrageous
journalistic hoaxes in recent memory”. In his new book, Mr Brock writes:
“When I wrote those words I knew they were false. It was the first and
last time I consciously put a lie in print.”
Ms Hill, a former aide to the judge and a law professor at the University
of Oklahoma at the time, accused Justice Thomas of sexually harassing her
between 1981 and 1983. She claimed that when she refused his advances, he
began telling her about his sexual interests. He flatly denied the
Justice Thomas’s appointment was confirmed, by just 52 votes to 48,
after one of the most divisive political battles in the 202-year history
of the Supreme Court. He is the only black member of the Supreme Court and
only the second African-American to sit on America’s highest court.
He has declined to comment on the about-turn by the man who once was his
most vociferous supporter. Ms Hill, who now teaches at Brandeis
University, Massachusetts, has said that she wants her reaction to remain
“personal and private”.
Mr Brock, the former darling of the Right, went on to become one of
President Clinton’s most ferocious detractors. In 1993 he wrote the
notorious “Troopergate” article in the American Spectator containing
allegations of philandering about the former Governor of Arkansas and
referring to a woman described as “Paula”. Paula Jones later brought a
sexual harassment action against Mr Clinton.
The former scourge of the Democrats has also renounced his dirt-digging on
Mr Clinton, saying that details were exaggerated by his sources. Mr Brock
transformed himself from an attacker to a defender of the Clintons when he
was working on a biography of Hillary Clinton.
Excerpts from Mr Brock’s book have been published by Talk magazine. He
told The Washington Post that he had decided to recant out of guilt. “I
not only wrote a book I now believe was wrong. I consciously lied in
print,” he said. “I think I owe a debt to the historical record to
American Dinosaur Species
WASHINGTON June 18
2001 (AP) - Fossils of two previously unknown dinosaur species from North
America have been identified, researchers said Monday.
Scientists speculate the dinosaurs were feathered and lived about 90
million years ago. Their fossils were found in the Zuni Basin in New
A team led by Doug Wolfe of the Zuni Basin Paleontological Project has
identified a skull and other fossilized bones as belonging to a type of
dinosaur known as Coelurosaur, a two-legged meat-eater that stood about 3
The new specimen has not been named and its formal description has not
been completed, the researchers said.
The Coelurosaur encompassed a large group of animals that arose early in
dinosaur history. Most were 2 to 18 feet tall. Scientists say they were
able to run rapidly on two legs to catch and feed on smaller animals.
Jim Kirkland of the Utah Geological Survey and Wolfe also reported finding
fossils for a long-necked plant-eater species identified as a
Nothronychus. It also stood on two legs and had a shaggy coat. The new
specimen has not been named, the researchers said.
Nothronychus is of the therizinosaur type of dinosaurs, a kind of animal
not common in North America fossil history, the researchers said. They
expect to publish a more precise description of the animal this fall.
Researchers have used fossils to identify about 200 dinosaur genera and
about 300 species. Some experts believe that up to a half-million
individual species lived and died during the age of dinosaurs, which
lasted from about 225 million years ago to about 65 million years ago.
Sheen Pleads Guilty to Trespassing
Los Angeles June 27
2001 (AP) - Actor Martin Sheen pleaded guilty Wednesday and was sentenced
to three years probation for trespassing at an Air Force base during a
demonstration against the United States plans to build a missile defense
"If we went to trial and lost, I would have no problem (going to
jail)," Sheen said. "But the 'West Wing' (producers) might have
a problem with it."
Sheen, who has another year on his contract playing the U.S. president on
the NBC drama, said his attorney advised him to enter the plea to a
misdemeanor federal trespassing charge.
Under the plea deal, the judge also fined Sheen $500. He could have been
sentenced to six months in jail and fined $5,000.
Sheen asked to donate the fine to charity.
"The U.S. government takes enough of my money," he said.
The judge denied the request.
The actor was among 22 demonstrators arraigned after the Oct. 7 protest at
Vandenberg Air Force Base. The remaining defendants pleaded innocent and
face trial in December.
Outside the courthouse, Sheen said he still opposes the space-based
missile defense system.
"I can't think of a worse thing to inflict on the universe than
nuclear weapons in outer space and all of them pointed to the Earth,"
News: Scientist Says Mind Continues After Brain Dies
By Sarah Tippit
LOS ANGELES June 29 2001 (Reuters) - A British scientist studying heart
attack patients says he is finding evidence that suggests that
consciousness may continue after the brain has stopped functioning and a
patient is clinically dead.
The research, presented to scientists last week at the California
Institute of Technology (Caltech), resurrects the debate over whether
there is life after death and whether there is such a thing as the human
"The studies are very significant in that we have a group of people
with no brain function ... who have well-structured, lucid thought
processes with reasoning and memory formation at a time when their brains
are shown not to function," Sam Parnia, one of two doctors from
Southampton General Hospital in England who have been studying so-called
near-death experiences (NDEs), told Reuters in an interview.
"We need to do much larger-scale studies, but the possibility is
certainly there" to suggest that consciousness, or the soul, keeps
thinking and reasoning even if a person's heart has stopped, he is not
breathing and his brain activity is nil, Parnia said.
He said he and colleagues conducted an initial yearlong study, the results
of which appeared in the February issue of the journal Resuscitation. The
study was so promising the doctors formed a foundation to fund further
research and continue collecting data.
During the initial study, Parnia said, 63 heart attack patients who were
deemed clinically dead but were later revived were interviewed within a
week of their experiences.
Of those, 56 said they had no recollection of the time they were
unconscious and seven reported having memories. Of those, four were
labeled NDEs in that they reported lucid memories of thinking, reasoning,
moving about and communicating with others after doctors determined their
brains were not functioning.
FEELINGS OF PEACE
Among other things, the patients reported remembering feelings of peace,
joy and harmony. For some, time sped up, senses heightened and they lost
awareness of their bodies.
The patients also reported seeing a bright light, entering another realm
and communicating with dead relatives. One, who called himself a lapsed
Catholic and Pagan, reported a close encounter with a mystical being.
Near-death experiences have been reported for centuries but in Parnia's
study none of the patients were found to have received low oxygen levels,
which some skeptics believe may contribute to the phenomenon.
When the brain is deprived of oxygen people become totally confused,
thrash around and usually have no memories at all, Parnia said. "Here
you have a severe insult to the brain but perfect memory."
Skeptics have also suggested that patients' memories occurred in the
moments they were leaving or returning to consciousness. But Parnia said
when a brain is traumatized by a seizure or car wreck a patient generally
does not remember moments just before or after losing consciousness.
Rather, there is usually a memory lapse of hours or days. "Talk to
them. They'll tell you something like: 'I just remember seeing the car and
the next thing I knew I was in the hospital,"' he said.
"With cardiac arrest, the insult to the brain is so severe it stops
the brain completely. Therefore, I would expect profound memory loss
before and after the incident," he added.
Since the initial experiment, Parnia and his colleagues have found more
than 3,500 people with lucid memories that apparently occurred at times
they were thought to be clinically dead. Many of the patients, he said,
were reluctant to share their experiences fearing they would be thought
A TODDLER'S TALE
One patient was 2-1/2 years old when he had a seizure and his heart
stopped. His parents contacted Parnia after the boy "drew a picture
of himself as if out of his body looking down at himself. It was drawn
like there was a balloon stuck to him. When they asked what the balloon
was he said, 'When you die you see a bright light and you are connected to
a cord.' He wasn't even 3 when had the experience," Parnia said.
"What his parents noticed was that after he had been discharged from
hospital, six months after the incident, he kept drawing the same
The brain function these patients were found to have while unconscious is
commonly believed to be incapable of sustaining lucid thought processes or
allowing lasting memories to form, Parnia said -- pointing to the fact
that nobody fully grasps how the brain generates thoughts.
The brain itself is made up of cells, like all the body's organs, and is
not really capable of producing the subjective phenomenon of thought that
people have, he said.
He speculated that human consciousness may work independently of the
brain, using the gray matter as a mechanism to manifest the thoughts, just
as a television set translates waves in the air into picture and sound.
"When you damage the brain or lose some of the aspects of mind or
personality, that doesn't necessarily mean the mind is being produced by
the brain. All it shows is that the apparatus is damaged," Parnia
said, adding that further research might reveal the existence of a soul.
"When these people are having experiences they say, 'I had this
intense pain in my chest and suddenly I was drifting in the corner of my
room and I was so happy, so comfortable. I looked down and realized I was
seeing my body and doctors all around me trying to save me and I didn't
want to go back.
"The point is they are describing seeing this thing in the room,
which is their body. Nobody ever says, 'I had this pain and the next thing
I knew my soul left me."'
Brain Operation in China 5000 Years Ago
June 26 2001 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Archeologists and surgeons said
Tuesday in China a successful brain operation was conducted as early as
5,000 years ago, which they described as the earliest in the Pacific rim
and East Asia.
They based their conclusion on a human skull unearthed in 1995 in the
relics of the Dawenkou culture, which lasted about 1,500 years since 6,100
Han Kangxin, an archeologist with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences,
archeological evidence on similar ancient human brain operations has also
been found elsewhere in the world, including Europe, Asia, the Americas
The earliest human brain operation is believed to be conducted about 7,000
years ago in Europe, said Han.
The skull was unearthed about six years ago in Shandong province by
experts with Shandong Provincial Institute of Cultural Relics and
Archeology at Fujia, a village in Guangrao County in Shandong Province.
Archeologists found a hole, 3.1 centimeters by 2.5 centimeters, on the
right part of the top back of the skull, which is believed to be that of
an adult male.
Using medical technology, including X-ray film, computerized tomographic
scanning and three-dimensional image reconstruction, medical experts found
traces of artificial scratches by sharp tools.
Professor Bao Xiufeng, a surgeon with Qilu Hospital affiliated with
Shandong University, described them as clearly traces of a medical
operation on the skull.
Kite Used to Raise Obelisk
LANCASTER, CA June
23, 2001 (AP) -- Researchers used a mammoth kite Saturday to set a
6,900-pound obelisk upright, a feat they say demonstrates that ancient
Egyptians may have harnessed the wind to move even the most massive of
It took two tries but less than five minutes before the reinforced
concrete obelisk, which had been prone on the ground, was raised by the
tug of a brightly colored parachute modified to fly like a kite in the
stiff Mojave Desert wind.
"It's a heck of a lot easier lifting it with the wind than it is
pushing it or pulling it,'' said Maureen Clemmons, a Reseda, Calif.,
business consultant who has spent the last four years spearheading the
The feat required just two people to fly the 30-foot kite, which provided
an estimated 400 pounds of thrust as it danced in the 14-16 mph wind. A
complex system of pulleys provided enough mechanical assistance to make
the task possible.
Clemmons, 44, said the idea for using wind power to move heavy objects
came to her in 1997 after she read a magazine article about modern efforts
to replicate how experts believe ancient Egyptians built the pyramids.
Stones used in the pyramids weighed about 5,000 pounds.
"I was looking at this picture, all these guys pushing, pulling,
sweating, the ramps and the sand, and nothing worked,'' said Clemmons, who
has spent $30,000 on the project. "There had to be another way.''
Clemmons was inspired by tales of Viking ships sailing across land on log
rollers, using wind power. In 1999, she brought her idea to the California
Institute of Technology, where a small group took on the project as an
"You can lift up any weight if you provide the right kite size,''
said Mory Gharib, a professor of aeronautics at Caltech, who has worked
with Clemmons for three years perfecting the concept.
Clemmons began with a child's kite and a foot-high toy obelisk and has
gradually scaled upward. Saturday marked the fourth time her team has used
wind to lift the 6,900-pound version. Eventually, they hope to lift a
Kite experts and Egyptologists are skeptical.
"We just do not believe she's got a prayer. It's just not logical. It
doesn't bear the scrutiny of people who know kites,'' said Valerie Govig,
the publisher and editor of Kite Lines magazine, which recently ceased
Experts in Egyptian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York
added through publicist Egle Zygas that the concept of kite-flying pyramid
builders is "highly unlikely.''
But Clemmons -- who maintains ancient paintings and reliefs suggest the
Egyptians flew kites -- remains a firm believer in wind power.
"How many people does it take to pull an oak tree out of the ground?
One gust of wind can pull it out by its roots,'' Clemmons said.
On the Net:
Defense Plan Questioned
By ROBERT BURNS
AP Military Writer
WASHINGTON June 29 2001 (AP) — In defending the Bush administration's
2002 military budget, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld encountered
lawmakers skeptical of its affordability and puzzled by its lack of
support for the big-dollar modernization efforts President Bush has been
Lawmakers also criticized Rumsfeld for blindsiding them with some of his
proposed cuts — in B-1B bombers flown by Air National Guard units, in
Peacekeeper nuclear missiles and in military bases.
"I am discouraged, I am frustrated, I am angry,'' Sen. Pat Roberts,
R-Kan., told Rumsfeld in a rising voice. His complaint: The Pentagon did
not consult with the congressional delegations from Kansas or Georgia
before deciding to scrap B-1B bomber units at bases in their states.
To rebut the Pentagon's claim that the B-1B decision was not driven by
politics, Roberts waved at Rumsfeld an internal Air Force document on
"political impacts'' of the decision on Texas and South Dakota, where
B-1B bomber bases are least affected by the cutbacks. It noted that Texas
is the home state of "POTUS,'' (President of the United States), and
South Dakota is the home state of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a
before the House and Senate armed services committees Thursday on the
administration's proposed $328.9 billion Pentagon budget for the fiscal
year starting Oct. 1. It represents a $32.6 billion increase over this
year's budget and is $18.4 billion more than Bush had proposed in
Rumsfeld told the committee that the extra billions for the 2002 budget
will go almost entirely to fixing problems of the past rather than
investing in a military of the future.
"We cannot build a 21st century force quite yet,'' Rumsfeld said,
"because the 20th century force we have is in serious need of
That statement captured the essence of a dilemma the Bush administration
faces at the Pentagon.
Bush campaigned on a promise to transform the military to meet new threats
like computer warfare and longer-range ballistic missiles. Yet after
achieving his top-priority $1.35 billion tax cut, Bush has left Rumsfeld
far short of the billions he needs to fulfill the president's promise.
"Let's be clear that this increase, while significant — and we
certainly need every cent of it — does not get us well,'' Rumsfeld told
senators. He said the Pentagon would need another $18 billion budget
increase in 2003 just to stay even, and that still would not be enough to
advance the promised modernization effort.
Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Senate committee chairman, told Rumsfeld he
believes the administration will be unable to afford a serious military
modernization effort without dipping into the Medicare surplus, returning
the federal budget to red ink or cutting domestic programs — "none
of which are acceptable alternatives.''
"The bottom line is this: The administration strategy of first laying
out a banquet of tax cuts leaves other programs, including our national
security programs, in an extremely and unnecessarily precarious
position,'' Levin said.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., said he thought the $18.4 billion increase
was too little. He asked Rumsfeld whether it was true that in negotiations
with the White House he had not gotten all he wanted for defense.
"Seldom do,'' Rumsfeld replied.
While acknowledging the difficulty of gaining congressional approval for
another round of base closures, Rumsfeld said he saw no alternative. He
noted that many of the House committee members who questioned him Thursday
had their own ideas on ways of spending more on the military.
"Where is it going to come from?'' he asked rhetorically.
"Together we're going to have to find ways to save money. There are
too many urgent things that need money.''
Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said studies
have estimated the Pentagon can save $3 billion a year by bringing its
base structure more in line with its force structure.
Rumsfeld said he would send Congress a base-closing proposal by the end of
Rep. Joel Hefley, R-Colo., said the process used to determine which bases
should be closed during the 1990s was corrupted by the Clinton
administration and caused unnecessary turmoil across the nation.
"I have serious concern about us going through that, putting every
community in America that has any kind of a military installation into an
absolute froth of anxiety,'' Hefley said.
Pony Gives Birth to Zebra
June 26 2001 (AP) — The owners of Tilly the Shetland Pony received a
double shock when she gave birth. They didn't know she was pregnant —
and they certainly weren't expecting a zebra.
Tilly's owners at Eden Ostrich World, a modest visitor attraction on a
farm near Penrith in northwestern England had been unaware of the pony's
exotic past life at a wildlife park, where she shared a field with a male
"She was fairly fat when we received her and we thought that she was
getting fatter,'' Ostrich World manager Karen Peet said Tuesday.
"It really was a bit of a shock when we got up one morning and we saw
the foal that was there.''
The striped half-Shetland, half-zebra foal — dubbed a "zetland'' or
a "shebra'' but as yet unnamed — has flourished since her birth a
week ago, and Peet said visitors would be able to view her beginning
Monday. The farm plans to hold a competition to name the creature, which
has black-and-tan stripes and a zebra's distinctive large head.
Veterinarians say such a foal is rare, but not unknown. British zoos have
reported the birth of several "zeedonks'' — offspring of a zebra
and a donkey — over the years.
"Ponies and zebras very rarely share the same environment even in the
wild. A meeting between the two is very rare in the natural environment,''
said Lesley Barwise-Munro, spokeswoman for the British Equine Veterinary
"If the zebra is the father and the horse is the mother there is no
reason why a normal fertilization and a pregnancy should not take place,''
she added. "But the offspring is unlikely to be fertile.''
On the Net:
Eden Ostrich World: http://www.ostrich-world.com
Ness Linked to Fault
By ROBERT BARR
Associated Press Writer
LONDON June 27 2001 (AP) — Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster may be the
earth's fault, says an Italian scientist who suggests that the leviathan
is an illusion created by geological activity.
Luigi Piccardi, a Florence-based geologist, said in a paper prepared for a
scientific conference that he believes the monster is linked to the Great
Glen Fault which runs along the loch.
Piccardi's paper was on Wednesday's agenda at the Earth System Processes
Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, organized by the Geological Society of
London and the Geological Society of America.
Adrian Shine, leader of the Loch Ness Project at Drumnadrochit, Scotland,
said Piccardi's theory could not account for all the reports of a monster.
"Monster sightings are not restricted at times of seismic activity,''
Shine said in a telephone interview.
However, Shine added, "I think it is very interesting that the fault
line origins of Loch Ness have now been highlighted.''
Piccardi has previously theorized that the visions of the Oracle of Delphi
were the result of hallucinogenic vapors seeping through a fault line from
hydrocarbon-bearing rock strata, and he has suggested that other
mythological sites in Greece are strongly correlated with active
"Veneration of these places may have been a result of people seeing
unusual natural phenomena there,'' Piccardi said.
"These may have been gas and flame emissions, underground roaring,
shaking and rupture of the ground. Of course the Aegean is a very seismic
area, so the association might be coincidental. But I think it can also be
seen in less earthquake-prone areas.''
In the case of Loch Ness, he said that association appeared to be borne
out in St. Columba's reports of an encounter with a monster in the loch in
the seventh century. These were written down by St. Adomnan, Abbott of
Iona in his "Life of St. Columba,'' about 100 years after Columba's
"In the original Latin, the dragon appears 'cum ingenti fremitu' —
with strong shaking,'' Piccardi said. "It disappears 'tremefacta' —
or shaking herself.''
The Great Glen Fault is a strike-slip fault — two pieces of the earth's
crust sliding past each other — like the more active San Andreas Fault
in California. The Great Glen, which includes the lochs of Ness, Oich and
Lochy, slashes diagonally through northwest Scotland, dividing the central
Highlands from the northern Highlands.
Shine, who has studied Loch Ness for nearly three decades, said there had
been significant tremors in 1816, 1888, 1890 and 1901, and some minor
shocks in the 1930s.
Gas emissions have also been observed in the loch, said Shine, who
observed one vent spewing methane for at least two weeks.
Shine said boat wakes, especially from large craft, are the most common
cause of monster sightings. Mirage effects above the lake can cause ducks
or other small animals to appear much larger, he said.
It is also known that surface water can flow against the wind, which can
create the illusion that a log is an animal paddling into the wind, he
The Loch Ness monster is a lucrative tourist draw, even if its existence
has never been proven. Various monster investigators have suggested it
could be a swimming dinosaur called a plesiosaur, a tree trunk, a giant
eel or a hoax.
On the Net:
Loch Ness Project, http://www.lochnessproject.org
on the Prowl in Canadian North?
June 26 2001 (Reuters) - First there were reports of a steel-clawed
"monkey-man'' in India, then a 10-year-old "dog boy'' in Chile,
and now residents of Canada's wilderness are reporting that
"Bigfoot,'' a hairy ape-man, might be on the prowl in northern
Ontario, the National Post reported.
Residents of a native Indian reserve 1,000 miles north of Toronto have
discovered 14-inch-long footprints, the newspaper said.
"It's definitely not a bear,'' Abraham Hunter, chief of the
260-member band, told the Post in Monday's editions.
This is not the first Bigfoot report at the reserve. Two elders claim to
have spotted the creature 20 years ago, Hunter said, and stories about it
have been told for hundreds of years.
"These things happen all the time, but we're surprised because we
underestimate the power of imagination and the power of belief,'' Laurence
Kirmayer, director of McGill University's division of social and
transcultural psychiatry, told the paper.
Such sightings are typically cultural-specific, he said.
On June 14, a government officer with 31 years of experience also came
across an odd-looking track 95 miles east of the reserve, the newspaper
"I couldn't explain what it was. I naturally thought it might be
Bigfoot because of the shape of it,'' he told the Post.
Tales of a huge apelike creature are not unusual in Canada. In the western
Rocky Mountain regions of British Columbia reports of a mysterious ape-man
called Sasquatch -- similar to the Yeti of the Himalayas -- have existed
Whales Moving Into Gulf
By JOSEPH B.
AP Science Writer
Louisiana June 26 2001 (AP) - To the surprise of marine biologists, a
significant number of endangered sperm whales appear to be making a
permanent home in the Gulf of Mexico near the dangerously busy mouth of
the Mississippi River.
Their emergence within a few miles of the Louisiana coast is remarkable
because sperm whales rarely hunt close to shore or stay in one place for
Scientists are launching at least two research voyages to study the
whales' habits and learn why these waters have become an oasis. The
studies will cost at least $1 million and may continue through 2003. One
venture will use a decommissioned anti-submarine ship that runs silently.
As they have done in earlier studies, biologists will attach digital tags
to track the whales by satellite. They also will collect skin samples for
DNA tests to determine whether the whales are newcomers or have lived in
the northern Gulf for generations.
The presence of 500 or so of the leviathans — some of them bigger than a
Greyhound bus — belies the northern Gulf's reputation as a growing
"dead zone'' of low-oxygen water where marine life is being
"The Gulf was thought to be a simple and unproductive ecosystem, but
it is full of surprises,'' said Robert Gisiner of the Office of Naval
Research, an arm of the Navy. "These great big, deep-water whales are
living there year-round.''
That is not necessarily welcome news. The sea south of New Orleans is a
floating interstate highway, with whales squarely in the path of
supertankers, barges, trawlers and warships.
The rare marine mammals could be on a collision course with the Bush
administration, too. The northern Gulf is one of the world's most
important oil fields. Drilling in deeper waters is a crucial part of the
White House's plan to expand energy production.
Catastrophe lurks not only in collisions or oil spills. The real danger to
the whales, researchers say, is noise.
The increasing industrial cacophony below the waves — propellers, diesel
engines, seismic booms, grinding drills and sonar pings — could damage
the whales' sensitive communications and navigation organs, with
potentially fatal consequences.
"We didn't expect to be running into sperm whales right off the
Mississippi Delta, in the middle of all this activity,'' said Randall
Davis of Texas A&M University at Galveston. "Their endangered
status is supposed to afford them additional consideration for their
protection. But these whales have not yet received a lot of attention.''
At least 45 rigs in the Gulf operate at depths of 1,000 to 10,000 feet.
Sperm whales are among the few creatures that can dive there.
Industry officials say companies are exploring and drilling safely around
the whales in compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act and the
Marine Mammal Protection Act.
"Our vessels automatically shut down their seismic testing equipment
as a precaution anytime they detect a marine mammal,'' said Thomas
Michels, spokesman for the National Offshore Industries Associations.
Scientists agree that no injured whales have been spotted so far.
"The real problem is that industry is moving into deeper water where
there hasn't been activity before,'' said Bill Lang, senior oceanographer
for the Marine Minerals Service, an Interior Department agency. "We
don't know how sperm whales react to a passing ship or underwater seismic
activity. No one is sure whether they are sustaining hearing damage.''
Sperm whales were made famous by Herman Melville in "Moby-Dick.''
Nearly everything about them is super-sized. An adult male measures 50
feet long and weighs up to 50 tons. It can remain underwater for more than
Two million sperm whales once roamed the oceans worldwide. Hunting reduced
their numbers dramatically before a whaling ban was enacted 15 years ago.
The sperm whale population now is estimated at 200,000.
Beginning in the 1840s, whalers' logs noted sperm whales in the Gulf. But
they were largely forgotten. Scientists started noticing them anew during
biological surveys in the 1990s.
Several factors are drawing the whales closer to shore, scientists
First, the Continental Shelf plunges 1,000 feet just a few miles offshore.
Sperm whales typically hunt in deep water and submarine canyons.
Also, swirling warm and cold currents mingle waters from the Atlantic and
Caribbean. Biological diversity erupts where these eddies converge.
A third factor is the huge volume of freshwater pouring from the
Mississippi River. It seeds the ocean with nutrients, spawning a rich food
In recent years, fertilizer and livestock manure flushing from the
nation's Farm Belt have triggered an ecological chain reaction that
depletes the water of oxygen, suffocating marine life.
Yet the whales are flourishing on the deep-water edge of this "dead
What are they eating? It is another question researchers will try to
answer this summer. But according to Gisiner, surviving marine life may be
hiding there, trying to avoid tuna and other speedy, predatory fish.
"Whales are expert oceanographers,'' he said. "They're having a
Sues Over Banned 'Redneck' Shirt
June 26 2001 (Reuters) - Tom Sypniewski thought his "redneck''
t-shirt was funny, but school officials deemed it offensive, ordered him
to remove it and are now being sued for allegedly violating his free
Sypniewski, 19, wore the shirt, which listed comic Jeff Foxworthy's
"Top 10 Reasons You Might Be A Redneck Sports Fan,'' to Warren Hills
Regional High School on March 22 and was told to remove it. He refused and
was suspended for three days, losing an appeal to the Board of Education
District school officials in Washington, a small town in rural western New
Jersey, said in a press release the shirt ''portrayed a message of racial
stereotyping'' and violated the dress code. It said the shirt could have
inflamed students, given the school's two-year history of racial tensions.
Sypniewski, who recently graduated, denied he is a racist or that the
shirt carried a racist message.
"I wore it because it's funny,'' Sypniewski told a news conference
outside U.S. District Court in Newark on Monday. "To me a redneck is
a hunter, a fisherman, an outdoorsman. I consider myself a redneck and I'm
absolutely not a racist. What hurts me is the board accused me of trying
to spread a racist message with the shirt. I think they owe me an
Declared Safe From Flesh-Eating Bananas
OTTAWA June 26
2001(Reuters) - Canada's main food inspection body took the unusual step
on Tuesday of reassuring Canadians that imported bananas were not carrying
the dreaded flesh-eating disease nectrotizing fasciitis.
"A banana cannot be the carrier of the bacteria,'' Rene Cardinal, a
Canadian Food Inspection Agency spokesman, told Reuters.
He said the agency began receiving calls from panicked day-care centers,
hospitals and medical offices a few weeks ago, after an old Internet rumor
was translated into French and revived.
The rumor said bananas from Costa Rica were carrying the gruesome illness,
which attacks the flesh and often kills its victims.
The agency, charged with guaranteeing the safety of Canada's food supply,
ordered a health hazard assessment in January when the rumor first
appeared on the Internet. It concluded bananas were not capable of
transmitting the disease to humans.
Canada imports bananas from Central and South America.
Group to Sue EPA
June 28 2001 (AP) -- An environmental group is taking the Bush
administration to court over its decision to suspend tighter arsenic
standards for drinking water that had been adopted by former President
The Natural Resources Defense Council said it would file a lawsuit
Thursday against the Environmental Protection Agency and its
administrator, Christie Whitman, for ignoring a June 22 congressional
deadline for having a new plan to reduce arsenic levels.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said she and several colleagues on the
Senate Environment and Public Works Committee would file papers in support
of the NRDC's lawsuit.
The goal is to force the EPA to revert to the Clinton standard that would
allow no more than 10 parts per billion of arsenic in tap water. The
current standard is 50 ppb.
The twin actions, alleging the administration violated provisions of the
Safe Drinking Water Act and the Administrative Procedures Act by
suspending the Clinton standard, are to be filed in the U.S. Court of
Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Erik D. Olson, a senior attorney with the NRDC, whose prior lawsuits have
pushed the EPA to obey deadlines, said Bush's action threatens the health
of millions of Americans.
"There is absolutely no scientific or legal excuse for delaying or
weakening protection of the public from arsenic,'' he said. "It's
clear that the Bush administration is simply thumbing its nose at Congress
and at the law by suspending this important arsenic protection.''
Last fall, Congress amended the 1974 Safe Water Drinking Act and ordered
the EPA to adopt a new arsenic standard by this summer.
Clinton announced the 10 ppb standard three days before leaving office in
January. But the Bush administration suspended it until next February,
leaving in place at least for the meantime the current 50 ppb arsenic
standard established in 1942.
The administration has said the EPA doesn't have enough evidence to
justify the $200 million annual cost to municipalities, states and
industry of meeting the Clinton standard by 2006.
Whitman spokeswoman Tina Kreisher said the EPA still will set a new
arsenic standard for communities to comply with starting five years from
"We are not missing the important deadlines,'' she said. "The
earliest compliance date is in 2006 and we will not miss that date. A new,
lower standard than the 50 ppb will be in place.''
Whitman has asked the National Academy of Sciences to study the risk
factors involved in setting the standard at anywhere from 3 ppb to 20 ppb.
She also has convened an EPA working group to study costs to local
On the Net: EPA Office of Water: http://www.epa.gov/ow
Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org
The Key To The Universe
By Anjana Ahuja
Geneva June 25 2001 (London Times) - The race is on to prove the existence
of a particle that could be the key to the secrets of the Universe.
It is not so much a whodunnit as a whosawit. At the heart of the mystery
lies an elementary particle which, like a master criminal, leaves barely a
trace wherever it goes. Yet all the evidence, frustratingly, points to its
The elusive protagonist is the Higgs boson, which has been sought after by
scientists for years. It describes a basic, ubiquitous feature of our
world — why matter has mass — and physicists need to find it to
reassure themselves that their model of the Universe, known as the
Standard Model, is correct. In fact, without it, the model doesn’t even
work. So important is the Higgs boson that it has become known as the “God
And so the hunt for the Higgs has become an obsession, with about 5,000
researchers around the globe vying to see direct evidence of the last
important piece in the cosmic puzzle. The quest has become one of the most
romantic scientific dramas of the past two decades; finding the Higgs
carries with it a near cast-iron guarantee of a Nobel prize.
European researchers working at CERN, the particle physics facility in
Geneva, thought they had spotted it last year, but needed to run more
particle-smashing experiments to be sure. Unfortunately, despite pleas for
extra time, their facility was dismantled to make way for a more powerful
machine, which will not be in operation until 2006.
The CERN scientists now have to stand back and watch their American rivals
take on the challenge. The Tevatron, an atom smasher at Fermilab near
Chicago, reopened after a makeover last year. It can now operate at six
times the power of the CERN machine, bringing the Higgs, if it exists,
well within its grasp.
“It was a sad decision to not keep things running at CERN,” says Dr
Bill Murray, a particle physicist at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in
Oxfordshire, who worked on the Delphi project, one of four separate Higgs
experiments at CERN (this is another indicator of its importance —
multiple experiments would verify any discovery quickly).
“I wouldn’t say it was wrong, because delaying the shut-down would
have meant cancelling expensive contracts. But within a year, we would
have had a reasonable chance of knowing whether the Higgs existed.”
Murray, 35, will reveal the drama of the CERN experiments at a Scientists
for the New Century lecture on July 25. The event, sponsored by The Times
and Novartis, will be held at the Royal Institution in London.
It isn’t easy talking about something people can’t see and barely
understand. In essence, the Higgs boson is a particle that imparts
something to nothing. It holds the secret of mass , is everywhere
throughout space, and is the key to why the Universe consists of stuff
rather than emptiness. But it cannot ordinarily be seen.
However, just as electrons and protons can be kicked out of atoms by
smashing those atoms to pieces, scientists have always believed that if
particles could be smashed together at high enough energies, the Higgs
would be stripped of its hiding place, if only briefly.
A good analogy is throwing stones into a lake. To an observer, the surface
of a lake looks motionless. But throw in a pebbles, and you create
ripples, and those ripples might turn up the odd minnow. Bigger pebbles
give you a better possibility, but no guarantee, of turning up something
bigger, like a salmon or a marlin.
The same logic lay
behind the CERN experiments — instead of throwing a pebble into a lake,
matter would be smashed into antimatter. To be more precise, an electron
would be sent headlong into its antimatter equivalent, the positron, in a
Large Electron Positron (LEP) Collider. The more energetic the union, the
bigger its revelations. LEP had already unmasked two other major players
in the Standard Model — the W and Z bosons. If researchers could crank
up the energy a bit more, it might just turn up the Higgs boson.
The energy of the impact depended on the speed of the particles, which
were accelerated in opposite directions around a 27km ring underneath
Geneva. On every circuit, the particles, travelling at almost the speed of
light, were given an electrical kick to stop them flagging. Murray and his
colleagues, who would often work through the night, pushed the machine to
its absolute limits.
“We were trying all sorts of tricks to squeeze as much as we could from
it,” says Murray, who studied at Oxford University for his first degree
and Cambridge University for his doctorate. “We changed the cooling
systems, fiddled with components and used every possible way of keeping
the beam going.”
At the highest energies, it took only minutes for the safety valves to
trip, blowing the whole experiment (although saving the machine). This
gave the CERN researchers only fleeting moments in which they could spy
their prey. On just a handful of occasions, out of many thousands, the
computer which photographs and analyses the collisions signalled something
unusual. Were they hints of the Higgs? Murray explains: “If there is
such a thing as a Higgs boson, it would most probably decay into particles
called b quarks (quarks are the tiny particles that make up electrons).
These b quarks fly out for a few moments, and then decay themselves.”
In other words, researchers were looking for evidence that two particular
quarks flew out from the collision and then, after less than a millionth
of a billionth of a second, split into other particles.
Amazingly, all these happenings are decipherable in the computer pictures
— decaying particles look like the hub of a wheel, with each spoke
representing a particle being flung out from the decay.
On June 14 last year researchers on another project called Aleph got a
tantalising result. Everything looked promising — there were b quarks,
which later decayed — but there were margins of error. Tiny margins, but
enough to sow the seeds of doubt. The computer calculated that there was a
one in 250 chance that all the promising results were flukey charades
rather than the real thing.
“In my opinion, it’s quite possible we saw a Higgs, but we were right
at the edge of our experimental limits,” says Murray. “But instead of
one in 250, the chances need to drop to one in five million. That’s our
gold standard of discovery, and we have to set such tough limits to stop
the books filling up with false discoveries. As you can see, we were some
way short of our own criteria. We were let down by our own rules.”
In the absence of more compelling evidence, the decision was eventually
made to pull the plug on LEP. It is difficult to view it other than as a
Murray says: “The project I have been working on for the past ten years
has been taken to pieces. Some people have spent their lives on this.
There is an incompleteness about the fact that we might have seen
something and not been given a second chance.”
It might be heartbreaking, but it’s not enough to put Murray off. “In
a sense, particle physics is the only basic science. That’s a bit
bombastic, but at some level it’s true. To misquote Ernest Rutherford,
‘there is physics and there is stamp collecting’."
CERN - http://welcome.cern.ch/welcome/gateway.html