|Tiger Mosquitoes, |
Tilly's Zebra and
Key To The Universe!
|Asian 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 plant.
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 lucky bamboo.
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.
|Author 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 sleaze machine”.
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 former colleague.
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 claims.
“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 Thomas.
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 her.
“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 accusations.
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 correct it.”
|New 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 Mexico.
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 feet tall.
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.
|Martin 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 system.
"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," he said.
|Brain 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 soul.
"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 crazy.
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 scene."
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."'
|Successful Brain Operation in China 5000 Years Ago |
|Jinan 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 years ago.
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 and Oceania.
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.
|30-Foot 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 stones.
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 project.
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 engineering challenge.
"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 20,000-pound obelisk.
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 publication.
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:
|Bush 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 promising.
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. Rumsfeld apologized.
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 Democrat.
Rumsfeld testified 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 February.
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 repair.''
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 the year.
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.
|Shetland Pony Gives Birth to Zebra |
PENRITH, England 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 zebra.
"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 Association.
"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
|Loch 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 geological faults.
"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 death.
"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 said.
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
|Bigfoot on the Prowl in Canadian North? |
|Toronto 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 said.
"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 for generations.
|Sperm Whales Moving Into Gulf |
By JOSEPH B. VERRENGIA
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 long.
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 smothered.
"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 hour.
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 believe.
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 chain.
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 zone.''
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 field day.''
|Teen Sues Over Banned 'Redneck' Shirt |
|NEWARK 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 speech rights. |
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 in April.
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 apology.''
|Canada 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.
|Environmental Group to Sue EPA |
|WASHINGTON 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 Clinton. |
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 now.
"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 communities.
On the Net: EPA Office of Water: http://www.epa.gov/ow
Natural Resources Defense Council: http://www.nrdc.org
|Finding 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 existence.
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 particle”.
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 tragedy.
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