|Trucking Plutonium, |
El Dorado, Mulder Returns,
Mysteries of Silbury Hill,
Floods on Mars & More!
|Plans to Truck Plutonium Across the Western US |
Livermore, CA February 13th, 2002 (Earthjustice) - At a news conference held today at the fence line of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, community groups and environmentalists announced the filing of a major environmental lawsuit challenging a Dept. of Energy (DOE) plan to truck plutonium from Rocky Flats, Colorado to the Bay Area's Livermore Lab in containers that cannot be certified as safe.
Tri-Valley CAREs (Communities Against a Radioactive Environment), represented by attorneys with Earthjustice, filed a complaint in federal court in San Francisco detailing how Rocky Flat's plutonium is slated be shipped to Livermore in 45-gallon "DT-22" containers that DOE documents acknowledge do not satisfy applicable safety regulations. The containers cannot pass a "crush test," which is mandatory for such shipments under Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations. Moreover, documents obtained by Tri-Valley CAREs disclose that the container's manufacturer apprised DOE of this fact.
DOE's plan to put these containers on trucks out on the Interstate highways, which run through many populated areas between Colorado and California, is raising concern throughout the West. According to DOE sources, the surplus plutonium parts are scheduled to be trucked in DT-22s to Livermore Laboratory in the spring or early summer of 2002. Once in Livermore, the plutonium parts will undergo high-temperature processing. Some years hence, the plutonium is supposed to go back out on the road, some of it to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in New Mexico and some to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina.
Documents obtained by plaintiffs and attorneys in the case show that DOE is hurrying to meet an "accelerated closure" plan for dealing with the mess it made at the old Rocky Flats weapons plant, located about 16 miles outside of Denver. "Speeding up the project to meet an arbitrary 2006 closure date would save the agency money, but at the expense of public safety along the shipment route and in my community," stated Marylia Kelley, executive director of the Livermore-based Tri-Valley CAREs.
"First, the DOE improperly granted itself a 'national security exemption' from NRC regulations, so that it can more cheaply truck decades-old, surplus plutonium parts in containers that cannot be certified safe in crush scenarios. Then, DOE compounded its egregious violation of law and agency discretionary powers by neglecting to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the basic environmental statute of the land," explained Trent Orr, an attorney with Earthjustice.
The lawsuit is being filed under NEPA, and calls on DOE to prepare an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposal. An EIS, say plaintiffs and their attorneys, is needed to analyze the risks posed to communities along the route in case of an accident. Further, the law requires an EIS to contain a comprehensive "alternatives analysis," i.e., outlining other options for the plutonium, and include the public in decision-making through hearings and comment periods.
Plaintiffs and attorneys noted that there are multiple alternatives that were dismissed out of hand by DOE -- without benefit of NEPA analysis – as too expensive or time-consuming. They include but are not limited to:
- Cutting the material to fit into safer containers for transport.
- Processing the material on-site at Rocky Flats, and storing it there.
- Sending portions of the material from Rocky Flats directly to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad, New Mexico, rather than to California first then across the Southwest to New Mexico.
- Sending the recovered plutonium directly to Savannah River, SC, rather than to California first then across the country to Savannah River.
- Processing the material at one of several DOE sites not within urban boundaries, if careful analysis showed this to be safe.
Citing the potential hazard of an accident, Marvin Resnikoff, an expert in radioactive transport issues, said, "These DT-22 containers cannot withstand all credible highway accidents. It makes no sense to transport plutonium in unsafe containers to Lawrence Livermore, process the plutonium, then transport it to other government facilities in New Mexico and South Carolina. All this transportation maximizes the risk of a transportation accident."
"Plutonium presents an extreme health hazard to workers who handle it and to the public," explained Marion Fulk, a retired Livermore Laboratory physicist with five decades of experience studying plutonium and other radioactive elements. "A tenth micron-sized particle of plutonium, once in the body, is enough to cause cancer or other health problems," Fulk continued. "New scientific studies show a wide range of negative health outcomes associated with radiation doses that authorities believed to be safe in years past. If we must err, we must err on the side of caution," he concluded.
"What we have here is an agency ignoring rules to get a job done quickly," agreed attorney Orr. "While that may save the DOE some money, it might not be the safest way to solve the problem."
Moreover, the shipments could pose a national security issue, said Kelley. "After the tragedy of September 11th, the DOE temporarily halted nuclear waste shipments knowing they pose an attractive target for terrorists. What assurances do we have that these shipments will now be secure?"
"Cleaning up the remnants of the Cold War is a worthy and difficult project, but communities should not be endangered in the name of expediency," Kelley concluded.
|More Nuke News |
Safety Flaws Caused Nuclear Accident
Dumfriesshire February 19, 2002 (BBC) - Investigators have blamed "procedural and hardware deficiencies" for an accident at a Scottish nuclear power station.
Two dozen fuel rods slipped and fell to the floor at Chapelcross in Dumfriesshire during the incident last July. However, nuclear inspectors said the accident had not posed any health risk to workers or the public.
HM Nuclear Installations Inspectorate (NII) made several recommendations to improve safety at the plant in their report, which was published on Tuesday.
The incident took place at the British Nuclear Fuels-run (BNFL) power station, near Annan. The accident happened during a refueling operation for reactor three.
The 12kg rods - bars of uranium metal clad in an outer magnox can - were in a large cylindrical basket which came loose as it was being lowered into a cooling pond. Twelve of the rods remained in the basket and were quickly accounted for. The other 12 dropped 50ft down a discharge shaft and were found following an inspection of the area around the reactor.
The rods are placed inside reactors as part of the nuclear fission process that generates heat and ultimately electricity. Members of the plant's incident team were called to deal with the situation as carbon dioxide was sprayed over the basket to ensure it did not catch fire.
Laurence Williams, HM Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations, said the report into the incident had made several recommendations to improve the safety of the defueling operation.
"BNFL has made a positive response to our findings and has initiated a program to implement the necessary improvements. Whilst I have no doubts that BNFL will deliver the required improvements, we shall monitor progress via our normal process of regulation."
He said the NII, part of the Health and Safety Executive, would take the necessary action if inadequate progress was made at the plant.
Mr Williams said: "The incident ... occurred as a result of a combination of procedural and hardware deficiencies. As a result of our investigation, I am satisfied that no worker or member of the public incurred any harm from release of radioactive material. I am also satisfied that there was no deliberate attempt by BNFL to deceive NII in relation to the reporting of the event or the status of plant at the time."
Friends of the Earth Scotland's chief executive Kevin Dunion welcomed the report.
But he said: "We remain concerned that the accident was not immediately made public, even though the Chapelcross emergency plans were activated and the regulatory authorities were informed. Also, while it is reassuring that the public were not exposed to danger, it is not reassuring that the incident was the result of procedural difficulties."
Scottish National Party MSP Fiona McLeod said: "BNFL must immediately implement the recommendations of this report and I am confident that the HSE will be monitoring the situation closely to ensure that this happens."
Soviet Nuclear Tests Altered DNA
By ROSIE MESTEL
TIMES STAFF WRITER
Kazakhstan February 8, 2002 (LA Times) - Aboveground nuclear tests conducted by the Soviet Union from the 1940s until the early 1960s appear to have altered the DNA of people who were living near the test site and exposed to fallout, new research indicates.
People living near the Semipalatinsk testing site in Kazakhstan passed mutations along to their children at a rate that was almost double what is normal, according to the new study, published in the journal Science.
The study, conducted by scientists in Britain, Kazakhstan and Finland, looked only at selected pieces of DNA chosen as markers. It does not directly show that the people affected were more likely to suffer diseases such as cancer as a result. But the findings underscore the risks borne by civilian populations living near testing sites during the early years of the Cold War.
Other studies have documented increased rates of medical problems in the region, including birth defects and stillbirths, said Nailya Dyusembayeva, head of the Medico-Genetic Center in the Kazakh city of Karaganda.
Between 1949 and 1989, the Soviet Union conducted 470 nuclear tests at the Semipalatinsk site in the far eastern part of Kazakhstan. Before 1963, when the Soviet Union, United States and Britain signed a treaty banning all but underground tests, many of the explosions were conducted aboveground. As much as 85% of the fallout exposure came from four large surface tests conducted between 1949 and 1956. The United States also conducted aboveground tests but primarily on isolated islands in the South Pacific.
Residents of the region near the Soviet test site were, over the years, exposed to radiation from fallout that was several times greater than the average exposure of survivors of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, Japan, said Robert Ullrich, a professor at Colorado State University in Fort Collins and an expert in radiation-induced cancer. Genetic abnormalities of the sort seen in Kazakhstan have not been found in the Hiroshima population, Ullrich added.
To see whether radiation from the Soviet tests had left a measurable mark on the DNA of local residents, geneticist Yuri Dubrova of the University of Leicester in England and colleagues collected blood samples from 40 families living in the Beskaragai region near the test site, which was exposed to particularly high levels of fallout.
Blood was taken from three generations; all members of the oldest generation were alive at the time of the most contaminating blasts. Dubrova and colleagues analyzed eight small pieces of DNA in the grandparents, children and grandchildren to see if any mutations had occurred and had been passed on to the next generation.
For comparison, the scientists also studied 28 three-generation families living in a similar rural region of Kazakhstan that had not been exposed to fallout. The grandparents exposed to radiation passed on almost twice as many mutations to their children as did the grandparents from the unexposed area, the scientists found. The second generation, many of whom had also been exposed to the most serious blasts, also passed on more mutations than normal. Dubrova and colleagues also found that the rate of mutations appeared to be linked to the amount of exposure--implying that the nuclear tests, and not some other unknown factor, were indeed to blame.
Scientists knowledgeable about the biological effects of radiation said that the study's findings are significant and important, albeit not altogether surprising.
"The population was exposed to a pretty high dose of radiation," Ullrich said. The doubled mutation rate fits well, he said, with what has been found in studies on animals exposed to radiation.
But the medical significance of the types of changes detected by Dubrova and colleagues is unclear, scientists said. The DNA regions that were tracked by the team are not in genes but in structures known as "mini-satellites"--areas of the genome where short bits of DNA are repeated over and over. Mini-satellites were chosen for the study because they tend to mutate faster than normal genes.
Changes in mini-satellites are not of themselves likely to be harmful. "Logic tells you that if you see something going on at one part of the genome you may also expect the same sort of thing is happening all over the place," Dubrova said. But, he added "this is only a guess."
Scientists and activists in Russia and Kazakhstan say the many health problems found in the region do not appear to be going away. Moreover, other studies, including research done on animals exposed to radiation from the accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power station in Ukraine, suggest that the effects of radiation can cause rates of congenital abnormalities to persist through many generations, said Alexei Yablokov, president of the Ecological Policy Center of Russia.
In lab experiments, scientists have detected a genetic instability that persists over many generations, said Tom Hei, professor of radiation oncology and public health at Columbia University. The cause is not well understood.
"Maybe it is true that now the rate of inherited mutations is declining, but the research I conducted with my colleagues and the situation around Semipalatinsk testing grounds is far from being anywhere normal," Dyusembayeva said.
|Bush Alternative Climate Plan Reactions |
|Britain Criticizes Bush Climate Change Plan |
By Mike Peacock
LONDON February 20, 2002 (Reuters) — The British government Tuesday criticized President Bush's plan to tackle global warming and said it remained committed to the Kyoto Protocol.
Several developed nations have slammed Bush's rejection of Kyoto — and his alternative — but from Britain, often America's staunchest ally, criticism is rare.
Bush unveiled proposals last week for a voluntary scheme to curb greenhouse gases, setting goals for gas reductions tied to U.S. economic growth and giving firms incentives to meet them.
Last year he rejected the mandatory cuts demanded by the 1997 Kyoto treaty as harmful to the U.S. economy.
"Since their economy is projected to grow so much, the result of their target appears to be a continued increase in greenhouse gas emissions, expected to total some 25 percent over the period 1990-2010," Britain's Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett said in a statement. "This is in contrast with the net reduction in greenhouse gases that other developed world countries have agreed under the Kyoto Protocol and the 7 percent reduction the U.S. originally agreed for that period."
The United States is by far the world's biggest polluter, generating roughly one-quarter of the globe's human-made greenhouse gases. The 1997 Kyoto treaty set a target for it to reduce emissions by about 7 percent below 1990 levels in 10 years.
Although Bush pulled out of the treaty last year, the United States remains signed up to the 1990 climate change convention, which Bush Sr. signed up to at the Rio Earth Summit. That convention commits developed countries to try to stabilize their greenhouse gas emissions at 1990 levels. U.S. emissions are already around 13 percent higher.
"In the U.K.'s view, the Kyoto Protocol, with its legally binding targets and timetables, remains the only workable basis for taking forward international action on climate change," Beckett said. "The U.K. intends to ratify the Protocol along with our EU partners shortly."
Environmental activists Friends of the Earth were quick to praise Beckett's stand. "The U.K. government has not been fooled by Bush's climate con and is right to champion the Kyoto agreement," said Kate Hampton, international coordinator of the group's Climate Change Campaign. Bush Climate Policy Smells like Oil
Washington February 14, 2002 (Greenpeace) - President Bush's new US climate policy, which would actually increase greenhouse gas emissions by about 36 percent over the Kyoto targets, looks like it came direct from the boardroom of oil giant ExxonMobil.
"Controversy over Enron continues to rage but it's about time the spotlight was turned on ExxonMobil," Greenpeace climate campaigner Benedict Southworth, said. "Exxon spent six times more than Enron lobbying Capitol Hill and with this climate policy it got what they paid for."
" Under this plan carbon dioxide emissions will increase even faster than in the last five years and this policy will do nothing to help stabilize long term greenhouse gas concentrations as promised. This plan amounts to nothing more than a wish list from Exxon to allow it to continue 'business as usual."
The policy links emissions to economic growth, a move which ensures that only a prolonged economic recession will actually reduce CO2 emissions. Official US predictions for GDP growth throughout the next decade are about 3.1 percent. The US administration has also refused to set mandatory reduction targets for industry relying instead on "incentives, voluntary challenges or public recognition" to 'encourage' rather than force businesses to reduce pollution.
The US is the world's biggest greenhouse polluter, responsible for 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The new policy widens the gulf between the US and the rest of the world, which looks set to agree legally binding cuts in greenhouse gas emissions later this year.
"ExxonMobil has scaled new heights in its self-serving action to manipulate climate policy. The environment movement and responsible governments around the world can be expected to react against ExxonMobil for this latest, outrageous act," said Southworth.
Study Exposes Bush Roll Back of Clean Air as National Disaster
Washington, DC February 20, 2002 (Earthjustice) - A collaboration of state, local, and national groups today released a new study that calculates, for the first time ever, the pollution burden that the nation could suffer if the Bush administration succeeds in its likely proposal to gut the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review program. The report, Smokestack Rollback: How the Bush administration’s Clean Air Act proposals will increase toxic refinery pollution and jeopardize public health, focuses on the public health threats posed by expected increases in oil industry pollution as a result of the Bush administration’s proposals.
"Refinery air pollution is already a nationwide problem and the Bush proposals could make it many times worse, our new study proves," said Kelly Haragan of Public Citizen, the primary researcher of the emissions increases. "Whether there is a refinery in your backyard or not, many Americans live downwind of these giant polluters."
The Bush administration’s proposal would roll back the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review Program. NSR protects public health by requiring oil refineries and other industrial facilities to install modern pollution control equipment when they make major pollution-increasing modifications to their facilities. According to the groups’ analysis of 17 of these facilities, the administration’s proposed changes to NSR would allow the nation’s oil giants to increase their emissions, with pollution increasing by anywhere from two to a hundred forty times, without having to install pollution controls.
“These changes would decimate basic public health protections that have been in place for more than 30 years,” said Sandra Schubert, legislative counsel for Earthjustice. “To allow emissions to increase to these levels without pollution controls undermines the very intent of the Clean Air Act.”
While much national and regional attention on air pollution has highlighted the problem of dirty, aging power plants, this new report exposes oil refineries as a “sleeping giant” of harmful air pollution for much of the nation. Refineries often have been considered toxic hot spot problems in the South where they are concentrated, but Smokestack Rollback reveals that 36 states and 125 U.S. cities, where more than 67 million people live, are polluted by refineries.
"This new study proves rolling back our clean air protections under New Source Review will poison the air for more than 60 million Americans,” said Denny Larson, Refinery Reform Campaign Coordinator of the Texas SEED Coalition.
Groups fighting air pollution threats from oil refineries across the nation prepared the report to expose how the Bush administration has targeted New Source Review for rollbacks. Enforcement of the law has been problematic since its inception in the 1970s, according to Environmental Protection Agency findings that 80 percent of oil refineries are in violation of New Source Review.
“Instead of stepping up efforts vigorously to enforce NSR, the Bush administration is trying to gut the programs on behalf of industrial polluters,” said Ann Rolfes of Louisiana Bucket Brigade.
The report highlights how the Bush administration’s proposal could open huge loopholes for polluting industries to avoid reducing emissions. Specifically the proposal would raise the threshold for which modifications trigger NSR, so that a facility could practically build a new unit without any air pollution reduction requirements. Not only would this lead to more local toxic air pollution, but it would also exacerbate regional smog problems and increase negative health impacts of air pollution.
“It is not common sense or balanced policy to increase pollution that can trigger asthma and other respiratory diseases, cause cancer, and create cardiovascular problems. The Bush administration ignores the severe health crisis it would create for both the communities that are suffering from nearby refinery pollution and the public-at-large who are also affected by industrial air pollution,” said Neil Carman of the Lone Star Sierra Club.
The report was written by Earthjustice, Lone Star Sierra Club, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Public Citizen’s Texas Office, and the Texas SEED Coalition.
Download the report: http://www.refineryreform.org
|3,000 Languages Could Die Off |
|By VIRGINIA FENTON |
Associated Press Writer
PARIS February 20, 2002 (AP) - About half of the world's 6,000 languages are under threat of disappearing under pressure from more dominant tongues or repressive government policies, a new study says.
From France and Russia to the Americas and Australia, minority languages and the heritage that goes along with them are at risk of dying out, according to a UNESCO study to be released Thursday.
"Today, at least 3,000 tongues are endangered, seriously endangered or dying in many parts of the world,'' said a statement by the Paris-based United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
"With the death and disappearance of ... a language, an irreplaceable unit in our knowledge and understanding of human thought and world-view is lost forever.''
The 90-page study, "Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger of Disappearing,'' said the Americas and Australia had the worst record. In Australia, hundreds of Aboriginal languages are now extinct as a result of harsh assimilation policies in place until the 1970s.
"In the United States, less than 150 Indian languages have survived out of several hundreds that were spoken before the arrival of the Europeans,'' the study said, adding that discrimination lessened in the 1970s but English-only policies increased with a wave of conservatism in the 1980s.
The study identifies "crisis areas'' such as Taiwan, where more than half of the 23 local languages "are yielding to the pressures of Chinese,'' and New Caledonia, where French has replaced regional tongues.
It also lists about 50 languages at risk in Europe, including 14 languages in France and several of the Saami or Lappish tongues spoken in Scandinavia and northern Russia.
According to the study, a native language can disappear when its speakers relocate and are required to speak the dominant tongue to get a job and function in the new society, or because they confront a more aggressive or economically stronger culture.
In Asia, the study says, the situation for minority languages "is uncertain in many parts of China'' due to pressure from authorities. Linguistic diversity, however, is thriving in the Pacific region - which includes Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea - which accounts for more than 2,000 living languages, or a third of the world total.
Widespread bilingual or multilingual government policies on the Indian subcontinent have helped keep local languages alive there, and some tongues have even been resurrected through intensive revival campaigns - including Cornish in southern England and the Ainu language in Japan, the study said.
In Africa, roughly 550 of the 1,400 local languages are on the decline, with 250 of those under immediate threat.
|Jesuit Manuscript May Hold Key to El Dorado |
By Richard Owen
Rome February 12, 2002 (Times UK) - A Polish explorer who sets off next week in search of El Dorado, the fabled city of gold in South America, says that he has located it using a 16th-century Jesuit manuscript from the Vatican archives.
Jacek Palkiewicz, who runs courses teaching survival skills in extreme conditions and has written more than 20 books about his exploits around the world, said he was ready to take on the myth of El Dorado that had lured many men to their deaths.
The term El Dorado, which is Spanish for “The Golden One”, was first given to an Indian ruler near Bogotá who, according to legend, covered his body with gold dust during festivals. It was then applied to a city said to be rich in gold and precious jewels.
The Spanish explorer Gonzalo Pizarro led an ill-fated expedition in 1539 to find El Dorado in unexplored regions near Quito, but he and his men had to eat their dogs and horses to survive when they became lost. Other adventurers who searched in vain included Sir Walter Raleigh, who explored the Orinoco lowlands in 1595.
According to an article in the latest issue of the Italian archaeological review Archeo, documents in the Vatican prove that the city of El Dorado did exist and was discovered by Jesuit missionaries towards the end of the 16th century.
Professor Mario Polia, an archaeologist from the University of Lima, said that documents in the archives of the Society of Jesus (the Jesuit order) included a report to the Pope by Claudio Aquaviva, the order’s then Father General, describing the discovery but urging the utmost secrecy in case it led to mass hysteria.
According to Professor Polia, the Vatican report gives details of a walled city in which the walls were covered in gold leaf, and names the place as “Paititi”. It said that the missionaries were planning to construct a cathedral “made of gold blocks” to dedicate the city to God and identified the site as Rio Madre de Dios, in the foothills of the Andes in southeastern Peru.
Mr Palkiewicz, who is best known for his journey in 1996 to find the real source of the Amazon, said that he would make a reconnaissance trip to the area next week, establishing a base camp at the village of Pilcopata. He and a team of archaeologists and researchers would then begin a systematic search in June on foot and in boats, with help from the Peruvian Army, which was providing helicopters for aerial reconnaissance and photography.
Mr Palkiewicz, who has lived in Italy for 30 years, said he was only too well aware that those who had tried to find El Dorado before had met untimely ends.
He added: “But I am not put off by stories of curses. I am not obsessed by the city of gold — my intentions are scientific, not avaricious — but I hope to prove once and for all that behind the myth lies a reality.”
|Census Names Top 10 Tribes |
By Tom Wanamaker
Indian Country Today
WASHINGTON February 15, 2002 (ICT) - Approximately 1.5 percent of the United States population reported "all or part" American Indian or Alaska Native heritage, according to a Feb. 12 Census Bureau report. The country’s total population was 281.4 million on April 1, 2000.
More than 4.1 million people claimed "American Indian or Alaska Native" ancestry in the 2000 head count. This category, the report said, refers to people with origins "in any of the original peoples of North and South America (including Central America) and who maintain tribal affiliation or community attachment."
In the 1990 Census, almost two million people checked the same category. The numbers from that count, however, are not comparable with the more recent figures due to differences in the way data on racial and ethnic groups are collected. Significant improvements in the latest Census were that respondents could report membership in one or more such groups, and had the opportunity to provide the name of their enrolled or principal tribes. "Census 2000 provides more extensive data for tribes than ever before," the report said.
Individuals who responded to the racial question by selecting only one category are referred to as the race alone population. Those who reported membership in more than one of the six racial groupings are classified in the race in combination populace.
"One way to define the American Indian population is to combine those respondents who reported only American Indian with those who reported American Indian as well as one or more other races," the report said. "This creates the American Indian alone or in combination population. Another way to think of the American Indian alone or in combination population is the total number of people who identified entirely or partially as American Indian. This group is also described as people who reported American Indian, whether or not they reported any other races."
According to Census 2000, the three largest tribes in the United States are: the Cherokee, with 281,069 alone and 448,464 in combination respondents for a total population of 729,533; the Navajo with 269,202 alone and 28,995 in combination, for a total of 298,197; and Latin American Indians, with 104,197 alone and 76,586 in combination, for a total of 180,940. (See chart). Reported numbers are as of April 1, 2000.
The ten U.S. states with the largest American Indian populations are, in order, California, Oklahoma, Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, New York, Washington, North Carolina, Michigan and Alaska. All of these states contain over 100,000 respondents, as did Florida. When combined, these 11 states contain 44 percent of the country’s population as a whole, but 62 percent of the American Indian populace.
As might be expected, 43 percent of American Indian respondents live in the West, while 31 percent reside in the South, with 17 percent in the Midwest and only 9 percent in the Northeast, the report said. American Indians comprised the majority of the population in 14 Western counties (in Alaska, Arizona, Montana and Utah) and 12 Midwestern counties (in South and North Dakota, Wisconsin and Nebraska).
The Census further revealed that among Alaska Native groups, Eskimo was the most frequently reported group, both alone and in combination, followed by Tlingit-Haida, Alaska Athabascan and Aleut. Together, these four groups combined for 3.6 percent of all American Indian and Alaska Native alone responses.
The racial and ethnic data gathered by the census is important for a number of reasons. It is used in each state’s decennial legislative redistricting process as well as in monitoring compliance with the Native American Programs Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act and other federal, state and local legislation. "Census information also helps identify areas where residents might need services of particular importance to certain racial or ethnic groups, such as screening for hypertension or diabetes," the report said.
A copy of the complete report, The American Indian and Alaska Native Population: 2000 is available online at http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/briefs.html
|Native Americans Defend Historic Grave Site |
By JOHN W. GONZALEZ
VICTORIA TEXAS February 15, 2002 (Houston Chronicle) - When workers built the Victoria Barge Canal in the late 1950s, it was duly noted that old human bones and artifacts appeared in the spoil along the canal banks.
Little did the workers know they had cut a path near one of the oldest Native American burial grounds in North America, started at least 7,000 years ago and used until 600 years ago.
Dart points and other hand-tooled items uncovered at the site known as Buckeye Knoll, which overlooks the Guadalupe River, suggest the area was populated by roaming hunters at least 11,000 years ago.
Yet only in recent months have scientists come to realize the historical and scientific significance of the site, about eight miles south of Victoria on land owned by DuPont Co. And now that the scientists have described their discovery to Native American tribes, a dispute is erupting over what Native Americans are portraying as grave desecration. The tribes want research stopped and bones returned to the site for reinterment.
One tribe, the Alabama-Coushatta of Livingston, said Friday it is drafting a complaint assailing the actions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which investigated the site in preparation for a planned widening of the barge canal used by DuPont.
"They broke federal law when they went out and started digging these remains," alleged Walter Celestine, vice chairman of the Alabama-Coushatta's cultural committee. He's one of several tribe members who recently visited the dig site and met with officials from the Corps, DuPont and the state.
Aware of the bone and artifact sightings more than 40 years ago, as well as surveyors' notations about similar sightings in 1982, Corps officials said they approached the canal widening project with great caution. Corps officials also insist they followed all applicable laws.
In 2000, the Corps hired consultant Coastal Environments to look for signs of ancient cultures. It was quickly determined that Buckeye Knoll contained one of the oldest known graveyards on the continent.
"The Early Archaic cemetery at Buckeye Knoll contains one of three largest samples of early human remains from North America and represents some 10 percent of all known individuals of this age or older from the continent," the Corps reported. "These materials hold unique potential for understanding early populations in terms of their health, diet and biological affinity. The quantity and variety of artifacts associated with the Early Archaic burials are striking and reflect an impressive level of aesthetic and technical development in material culture on the western Gulf coastal plain by 7,000 years ago."
About one-fourth of the burial ground was excavated last year. Four of the burials are believed to be more than 7,000 years old. The remains of as many as 83 individuals -- many buried with elaborate tool kits and adornments -- were unearthed and moved to the consultant's lab in Corpus Christi.
Tribal representatives recently viewed the remains in Corpus Christi. They also visited the burial grounds before meeting privately with officials from the Corps, the Texas Historical Commission, DuPont and others. Twelve federally recognized tribes were invited to the daylong meeting. Only the Alabama-Coushattas and Choctaw and Comanche tribes of Oklahoma attended.
"We will continue discussions with all of them," said environmental section chief Carolyn Murphy of the Corps' Galveston District. She added, "All of the tribes were in agreement that they wanted to see the human remains reburied."
Because the site is on private rather than federal land, the Native American Grave Protection and Repatriation Act, which allows tribes to reclaim remains and artifacts from burial grounds, doesn't apply, Murphy said. Instead, officials are following the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, which requires tribal input based on their religion and culture. Also being consulted are elected officials, the general public, the Texas Archaeological Society and the Society for American Archaeology.
"We will make no decision until we have heard all of these different groups and have taken into consideration the scientific, historical, cultural and spiritual significance of the site," Murphy said.
Even so, Celestine said his tribe is drafting a complaint to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, urging scrutiny of the Corps' actions. While he and other Native Americans are curious about the burial ground, Celestine said it's a sacred site and only the artifacts should be studied.
"They took it upon themselves to unearth a lot of remains before they contacted us," he said. "Instead of following the law, they did whatever they pleased."
The Corps has spent $900,000 to explore the site, whose precise location remains undisclosed to the public. About 145 square meters were hand-excavated on the knoll, exposing three soil layers that revealed diverse archeological treasures. The highest stratum produced projectile points and ceramics suggesting intermittent occupation from about 5,000 to 800 years ago, the Corps said. Radiocarbon dating of the deepest and oldest burials pushed back the dates of occupation to between 7,500 and 6,300 years ago.
Among items found amid the burials were stone dart points and blades, weights, sinkers and flint knapper tool kits. Aesthetic items included perforated canine teeth; pendants made from freshwater mussel and clam shells; shell beads, red and yellow ochre and asphaltum, a natural tar that was shaped into vessels predating pottery.
DuPont spokesman Amy Hodges said no decisions have been made and the dialogue among interested parties has just begun. Hodges said it's up to the state and the Corps of Engineers to determine how to proceed. Regardless, she said, DuPont, as property owner, is legally the site's steward.
|Reward Offered in Desecration of Indian Burial Site |
By Linda Ashton
YAKIMA, Wash. February 14, 2002 (AP) - A $1,000 reward is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of people believed to have been digging up bones at an Indian burial site in the Columbia River Gorge.
Investigators found human bones in a hole and two rocks that had been used to grind the remains into a powder at the unmarked site near Wishram, on the Washington side of the river, said officer Lori Watlamet of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fisheries Enforcement agency.
She didn't know why anyone would grind up the bones, but she said she has heard some "really sick stories" about people who think ingesting the powder can give them special powers.
"I never thought I'd come across it," she said.
The burial site is unmarked and probably prehistoric, on private property east of The Dalles Dam, she said. The desecration was reported last week, although it happened around the end of January. Two non-Indian women were seen digging in the area.
Indian archaeological, cultural and burial sites have been heavily looted over the years in the Wishram area, Watlamet said.
"People that were raised there before the dams were put in, it was a family pastime to dig up artifacts and dig up whatever they could find," Watlamet said. "People in that area are more than aware of what's out there."
The Columbia River Gorge is rich in ancient history. Archaeological evidence indicates people have lived in the area for 10,000 years, including ancestors of the Yakama, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Price tribes.
For centuries, the area around Wishram was a trading site for Indians from all over the Northwest. Nearby Celilo Falls, which was destroyed by the construction of The Dalles Dam in 1957, was a traditional Indian fishing site.
Tribal, federal and state law protect the cultural resources of the Columbia River. Digging at a burial site is a felony under Washington law, Watlamet said.
|Genre News: X-Files, Buffy, Roswell, Colm Meaney, James Doohan, 100 Centre Street |
Duchovny Returns for X-Files Finale
Hollywood February 20, 2002 (Fox Press Release) - David Duchovny will reprise his role as FBI Agent Fox Mulder when he stars in the two-hour series finale of THE X-FILES Sunday May 19 (8:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.
In true X-FILES fashion, story details for the remaining episodes of the series are under tight wrap. The final five episodes will begin to provide highly anticipated answers to many of the show's most-asked questions, culminating in the two-hour finale in which Agent Mulder is reunited with Agent Dana Scully (Gillian Anderson) after having gone missing for the past year. Also, the final episodes of the series will examine many of the pieces involved in the long-running mythology that has continued throughout the show's nine seasons. The series finale is being written by series creator and executive producer Chris Carter and directed by co-executive producer Kim Manners.
In addition to appearing in the two-hour series finale, Duchovny is also confirmed to direct THE X-FILES episode scheduled to air Sunday, April 28 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT), which is based on a story idea he co-wrote with Carter and executive producer Frank Spotnitz.
Last season, Agent Scully and her new associate in the X-files office, Agent John Doggett (Robert Patrick), investigated the mysterious alien abduction of Agent Mulder and successfully saved him from a fate that would have placed him under alien control. This season, Scully and Doggett have been joined by Agent Monica Reyes (Annabeth Gish) in their investigations, including a shocking government cover-up with possible ties to the FBI and Scully and Mulder's newborn son.
Duchovny co-stars in the upcoming Steven Soderbergh film "Full Frontal" and is represented by Creative Artists Agency and Melanie Greene Management.
Official X-Files site - http://www.thexfiles.com
Another X-Files site - http://flatdisk.net/keyofx
Buffy Fans Raise $20,000
Hollywood February 19, 2002 (Sci-Fi Wire) - More than 500 fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel gathered in Los Angeles Feb. 16 in an annual party and fund-raiser that netted $20,000 for the Make-A-Wish Foundation of greater Los Angeles. Partygoers included cast and crew of both UPN's Buffy and The WB's Angel, including creator Joss Whedon.
"Thanks for inviting us--it makes us feel included, and that's very beautiful," Whedon told the cheering crowd at the American Legion Hall in Hollywood. "You guys raised a sh-tload of money here. You should be really proud of yourselves. All we do is come here and be adored, which we love. You guys put it together, you guys come here and make the contribution. You make the effort. You do something that means something, which means that our fans are cooler than other people's fans."
Guests included Buffy executive producer Marti Noxon and cast members Alyson Hannigan, Michelle Trachtenberg, Amber Benson, Danny Strong, Adam Busch and Tom Lenk and Angel cast members J. August Richards, Alexis Denisof, Amy Acker and Andy Hallett.
The fifth annual Posting Board Party raised money through ticket sales, donations, an auction of one-of-a-kind collectible items and corporate sponsorships from Brentano's Books, Score Entertainment, CityofAngel.com, Commercial Loan Corporation, Dark Horse Comics and Moore Action Figures. Among the big-ticket items sold in the silent auction were a wooden stake made by prop shop History for Hire, signed by Buffy star Sarah Michelle Gellar, that drew a winning $2,500 bid, and sheet music of the Angel theme song by the Los Angeles rock band Darling Violetta, with a guitar signed by DV guitarist Jymm Thomas, which went for $500.
The PBP is organized by denizens of the Web-based Bronze posting board on the official UPN Buffy site and its counterparts on fan-based Web sites, including the Bronze Beta. The party included performances by Busch's band Common Rotation and L.A. rock band Four Star Mary.
Official Buffy site - http://www.buffy.com
City of Angel - http://www.cityofangel.com
Bronze Beta - http://www.bronzebeta.com
Roswell Valentine Campaign Results
Hollywood January 20, 2002 (eXoNews) - Crashdown.com, the unofficial but ultimate Roswell website, reports that their recent attempt to woo network executives into another season resulted in "well over 2000" Valentines Day postcards sent to CBS and UPN Presidents. The latest update from the site urges fans continue to fight for the show's return by sending support postcards to the executives:
"For now, we are asking that Roswellians everywhere continue to send postcards to UPN and CBS, and email UPN and its affiliates, in support of Roswell. With Roswell’s hiatus approaching, it is especially important to let these networks know that Roswellians are still here and in full force. Once again, here are the addresses to which postcards should be mailed:
United Paramount Network
11800 Wilshire Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Mr. Leslie Moonves
President and CEO, CBS Television
CBS Television City
7800 Beverly Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
You should post how many postcards you’re sending on this thread at the Roswell 2 board - the count will be added to the Valentine postcard count."
UPN previously announced that Roswell would go on hiatus in favor of new sitcoms premiering in its 9 PM Tuesday slot following genre favorite Buffy the Vampire Slayer at 8 PM. Both shows have faced incredible (and really quite irrational) Tuesday night program stacking by all of the networks this season. (Move something to Thursday, guys. Thursday sucks.)
Check out the campaign at http://www.crashdown.com
Colm Meaney Returns As Star of New CBS Show
By Nellie Andreeva
Hollywood February 19, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - CBS announced that Colm Meaney (Chief Miles O'Brien on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine) has been cast as one of the leads in Paul Attanasio's cop show "R.U.S./H" from Studios USA.
"R.U.S./H" centers on an elite Los Angeles secret police unit, and Meaney will play the captain of the team. Attanasio wrote the project and will executive produce with Katie Jacobs.
[Note: Meaney is one of Ireland's top cinema stars. His film career blossomed while he was still a regular on DS9. He has starred in many Irish films, including The Van and The Last of the High Kings, and recent American films Con Air and Mystery, Alaska. Ed.]
James Doohan Recovering from Pneumonia
LOS ANGELES February 19, 2002 (Zap2it.com) - "Star Trek's" Scotty is beaming up to better spirits, now that he's covering from a nasty bout of pneumonia.
James Doohan, who turns 82 in March, was hospitalized about three weeks ago in Seattle, where he lives, with a case of pneumonia, the actor's publicist tells Zap2it.
However, the worst appears to be over. Doohan is now recovering and is expected to return home soon.
The actor played the role of Lt. Cmdr Montgomery 'Scotty' Scott in the famous science fiction series that spawned a number of spin-offs and an active movie franchise.
A&E cancels "100 Centre Street"
By Jim McConville
NEW YORK February 20, 2002 (Hollywood Reporter) - A&E Network has passed sentence on Sidney Lumet's courtroom drama "100 Centre Street," pulling the plug the original series after its second season concludes in March, citing the show's shrinking viewership, network officials said.
Based on New York City's night court, "100 Centre Street" launched last January. It's 12-episode first season was a ratings success, but the series ran into problems at the start of its second season last fall in the aftermath of Sept. 11.
A&E last fall moved the show to Tuesday from Monday night to revive its flagging viewership. The last episode of "100 Centre Street" airs March 5. A&E had originally commissioned Lumet to also produce a short series about the Supreme Court, but the series never got off the ground, an A&E spokesperson said.
|FTC Launches 'Spam' E-Mail Crackdown |
By Andy Sullivan
WASHINGTON February 12, 2002 (Reuters) - Federal regulators kicked off a crackdown on the junk e-mail known as "spam" on Tuesday with an announcement that they had settled charges against seven people accused of running an e-mail pyramid scheme.
The Federal Trade Commission said that the seven defendants had participated in a chain-letter scam that promised returns of up to $46,000 for a $5 payment. Such chain letters are illegal in the U.S. The chain letter eventually drew in more than 2,000 participants from nearly 60 countries, the FTC said.
While the consumer-protection agency has targeted some 200 Internet-based scams over the past several years, it has not until now gone after spam. FTC Chairman Timothy Muris said the agency now had e-mail scams in its sights.
"We're going after deceptive spam and the people who send it. We want it off the Net," Muris said at a press conference.
The agency plans to settle several more cases within six months, said Eileen Harrington, the FTC's assistant director of marketing practices. Spam has long been a hot-button issue for Internet users, who often find their inboxes clogged with unsolicited offers for pornography, fake diplomas, and get-rich-quick schemes.
Internet users received an average of 571 pieces of unsolicited commercial e-mail in 2001, a number expected to rise to nearly 1,500 by 2006, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. Nineteen states have passed anti-spam laws, but attempts to pass a national law have stumbled over opposition from direct marketers who say their activities would be unfairly limited.
FTC officials said they will go after spam using existing laws that prohibit false or deceptive trade practices.
In addition to chain letters, pyramid schemes and other scams, the agency will target spammers who use deceptive return addresses or do not respond to consumer requests to be taken off their contact lists, said Howard Beales, head of the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.
Spammers are not likely to face jail time or large fines from FTC actions. In deceptive-trade cases, the agency can usually only force companies to give back profits and pursue "structural" remedies that modify future behavior.
The seven spammers, who had been sent letters of warning by the FTC in September 2000, agreed to refrain from participating in deceptive schemes in the future, or lying about the legality or potential earnings from any such schemes. In addition, the defendants must return any money they take in from the chain letter in the future, can not share their lists of recruits, and must submit to FTC oversight of their actions.
Some 2,000 other participants in the chain letter received a warning letter from the consumer-protection agency.
While the FTC is preparing a national "do not call" list for telemarketers, a "do not spam" list would probably not be effective, Harrington said.
Harrington said Web users should forward spam to the FTC for analysis, using the e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org. The agency has amassed a database of 8.5 million spam messages, and takes in an additional 10,000 per day, she said.
|Mysteries of Silbury Hill Uncovered |
By David Derbyshire
Great Britain February 20, 2002 (Telegraph UK) - Scientists may have solved the mystery of how Stone Age workers, armed only with antler picks and bone shovels, created the largest and most impressive prehistoric structure in Western Europe.
Geophysical and ground surveys of Silbury Hill, a 120 ft high chalk mound formed in a Wiltshire valley around 4,500 years ago, suggest that it was built in a spiral fashion, and not made from a series of flat tiers like a wedding cake as previously thought.
A spiral processional walkway also appears to have encircled the hill, providing access to its flattened summit. If the walkway is confirmed, it suggests that the hill may have once been a sacred monument for prehistoric ceremonies. Silbury Hill, which lies close to the stone circles of Avebury, Wilts, was an astonishing achievement of prehistoric Britain.
Around 500 ft wide at its base, it towers 120 ft above ground level in a grassy valley and is surrounded by a shallow, wide ditch. It was built around 2,500 BC, several hundred years before Stonehenge's standing stones were erected. When complete, it would have been an awe-inspiring sight for Neolithic people. Built from chalk, it was originally brilliant white and surrounded by a large shallow lake. It was formed in a valley, at the meeting point of two streams. Its summit could have been overlooked from nearby hill tops.
It has been estimated that it would have taken 700 men working for 10 years to build the hill. Some researchers have argued that it was used for rituals, others that it was a burial mound. But no human remains have been found at the hill in more than 200 years of excavations.
Last year English Heritage began the first three dimensional seismic survey of the hill to find out how it was constructed. The archaeologists were also concerned that the hill had been damaged during earlier, cruder excavations. Their first job was to shore up a shaft from an 18th century excavation that had collapsed and examine the damage caused by other digs.
Dr Kevin Brown, the regional director of English Heritage, said: "The results of the seismic survey are very encouraging as they have shown that the hill's structure appears stable.
"The survey has revealed, however, that a small part of a tunnel constructed near the base of the hill in 1969 has suffered a roof fall."
At one time it was thought that the mound was built up slice by slice. But geophysical and surface surveys suggest that it was constructed in a spiral way. Neolithic art is characterized by a preoccupation with the spiral form. The hill is also not circular, but has radial spines linked by straight lines, rather like a spider's web.
David Field, a member of the archaeological field investigation unit, said: "When it was newly constructed it would have been a brilliant white. As you approached it from the valley, it would have stood out against the green landscape around it.
"If you start to walk around the uppermost ledge, you end up three meters lower than where you started. There is some sort of spiral at the top. It may go to the bottom, which would make sense in construction terms."
The team suspects that there was a processional spiral pathway to the top of the mound. It has also begun to study the results of the seismic surveys. Small bores were drilled vertically into the hill and sound waves used to scan its interior for cavities and loose chalk. The scans have shed light on how the mound was built.
Fachtna McAvoy, an English Heritage archaeologist, said: "We can see what is effectively a Neolithic building site at the base of the mound.
"The workmen were evidently struggling with wet ground conditions and churned up the land surface into a mixed layer of chalk and mud. We have also discovered that the mound when it was built was 31 meters high and that there were no long layoff periods during its construction."
English Heritage said more details from the surveys would emerge in the coming months, giving the most detailed look inside the hill.
|Big Breast Booster - Believe It or Don't! |
Scotland February 20, 2002 (Daily Record) - A new gel claims it can boost women's bust size by three inches in minutes - although the effect lasts for one night only.
Bust Booster has just been imported to the UK from America, where manufacturers say it is already a growing success with women wanting a safe alternative to plastic surgery.
The cream works within about five minutes by stimulating blood flow - a natural process called vasodilation - swelling the breasts by one cup size.
Each pounds 60 tube contains 30 applications and the gel can be used three times a day. However, the Cinderella effect wears off after five hours. So makers advise party-girls to slip a tube in their handbag in case their chest deflates on a night out.
David Green, boss of UK distribution firm Studio Holdings, said: "Bust Booster is like an instant alternative to breast enhancement surgery.
"Those who don't believe it works should rub it on one boob first and see the difference it makes. Thousands have already used it and found it safe. All the girls in my distribution centre have tried it and they have been amazed by the results. You see your boobs grow in front of you. And for pounds 2 per application that is pretty reasonable. This is a fantastic product."
Model Melanie Cairns was an instant convert after putting Bust Booster to the test - and seeing her bust grow by a full three inches.
The 27-year-old from Durham, said: "At first my boobs just felt cold, then they started a to tingle and gradually got quite warm. It was a slightly strange feeling but it wasn't unpleasant. Then I saw they had grown. I was really surprised at how well it worked."
However, last night bra firms doubted whether the magic gel would dent sales of their padded lingerie.
Scots tycoon Michelle Mone - who devised the silicone-filled Ultimo bra - said: "Over the years I've seen breast enhancement ideas from pills to suction cups fail. If this is supposed to be any different I'll believe it when I see it. Even if it does work you'll still need a good bra like ours to support your breasts."
Ultrabra firm Gossard agreed. A spokesman said: "We haven't much to worry about. It depends if a woman will prefer putting on sexy underwear to putting gel on. And men always prefer lingerie so I think bras like ours will still be popular."
But a spokeswomen for Rotherham-based Studio Holdings believes the gel will prove popular with men - for their own reason.
She said: "One of the things we get asked more than anything is whether it works on any other parts of the body. For some reason men seem particularly interested in this side of things. The good news is that it seems to work on more or less anywhere - which might mean the gel is as popular with men as it is with women. We have had a great response because it is a temporary thing but it works really well."
Bust Booster is now being sold through a variety of health shops and beauty outlets from Scotland to Brighton.
On the web: www.thermohealth.com
|Campus Interruptus for Sex Course |
|Berkeley February 20, 2002 (BBC) - A Californian university has suspended a course in male sexuality after reports of student orgies and trips to strip clubs. The University of California at Berkeley is investigating claims of inappropriate behavior during a student-led course that explored male sexuality. |
The course was part of the university's progressive "democratic education" scheme, in which students can teach each other and pursue subjects which they feel of personal relevance. Concerns about the course were raised in a student newspaper, The Daily Californian, which contained allegations that students had taken part in an orgy. There were also accounts of trips to a strip club and parties at which students took sexually-explicit pictures of each other.
The course, which provided credits towards graduation, had a number of guest speakers scheduled, including a porn actress and a representative of a sex shop. University authorities have now shut the course pending an inquiry into the alleged events - which were described as "not part of the approved course curriculum".
"Any activity that happened outside of class would be optional," said a university spokesperson.
The claims have sparked a lively debate in the student newspaper, with some letters condemning the course as the ultimate in dumbing down, while others have argued that it is an honest attempt at understanding an important subject.
"Liberal universities have completed the descent into lunacy," wrote one angry correspondent. But a student who had taken the course attacked "flimsy, sensationalistic" attacks on an "educational gem".
"Yes, one of the parties last semester ended with a few folks having a sexual experience. What's wrong with that? Had it been an anthropology party that turned lascivious, I doubt it would have made the front page of The Daily Californian," said the 27-year-old correspondent.
There was also a letter from a course co-coordinator who condemned the coverage as "a bunch of lies".
"It does make for some great reading, I'm sure, but it is very inaccurate. We do have an end of the semester party where we go out to a strip club," the letter writer continued. "During the course of the evening the club allows for anyone in the audience to get up and do a dance for the crowd. Some of the students did get up and do their dance, taking off clothes as part of it. This is not illegal, either. It was actually a lot of fun for all."
The newspaper's editorial predicted that in future much closer attention would be paid to the educational credentials of such courses.
|Will Humans Sail To The Stars? |
By Jonathan Amos
BOSTON February 16, 2002 (BBC) - Scientists have presented new ideas for the future exploration of planets that circle far-away stars. Unlike today's relatively small space vehicles such as the shuttle, the cosmic craft of tomorrow will have to be the size of small cities and be constructed in orbit.
Researchers gave their suggestions on how we might explore other star systems to the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. They said the 200 or so volunteers who went on a mission would have to realize that they were taking up a one-way ticket and would most probably never live to see the ship's final destination.
It is only in the last few years with the confirmation that planets do exist outside our Solar System that scientists have done some serious speculation on how we might visit distant worlds. American space agency researcher Dr Geoffrey Landis said the Earth had a finite lifespan - the Sun will eventually burn itself out - and if humans wanted to carry on they would need to move to a new home.
But transporting large numbers of people across the galaxy would require vast vessels driven by gigantic sails, blown across deep space by intense bursts from a giant laser.
"You could have a sail that is perhaps hundreds of miles across," he told the BBC. "It would be huge but extremely light and then the colony itself that's being pulled by the sail would be just a tiny little speck compared with this enormous sail. It would glide serenely through space, lit up from time to time as the sail hit dust particles on the way."
The researchers are trying to foresee the sorts of social problems that might arise on such a mission. Linguistics expert Professor Sarah Thompson, from Michigan University, believes the colony could soon have difficulties communicating with Earth.
"Let's say you start with one language - perhaps English," she speculated. "After 500 years, English will have changed so much on Earth and so much, and completely independently, on the spaceship that they will be mutually unintelligible. So, you'll have space English and Earth English and they won't be able to communicate."
An interstellar ship would be like an ark, carrying everything the colonists might need, including greenhouses for growing food and sophisticated manufacturing facilities.
Anthropologists think it could be important for the crew to be composed of a variety of nationalities to increase the size of the gene pool. And it is entirely possible that if these humans remained in reproductive isolation for long enough, they could evolve into another species altogether.
|Polar Water Temperatures Take Scientists By Surprise |
|By Robert C. Cowen |
Christian Science Monitor
San Diego February 21, 2002 (CSM) - A new study using seven decades of temperature data shows that mid-depth water around Antarctica has warmed nearly twice as much as the world ocean as a whole. That wasn't supposed to happen.
Geophysicists expect global warming to be strongest in polar regions. However, as Sarah Gille at the University of California, San Diego, explains: "We thought the ocean between 700 and 1,100 meters [2,300 and 3,600 feet] was pretty well insulated from what's happening at the surface. But these results suggest that the mid-depth Southern Ocean is responding and warming more rapidly than global ocean temperatures [generally]." How this unexpected finding fits into global-warming forecasts is unclear, but it could be significant.
Professor Gille notes that the Southern Ocean "is a very climatically sensitive region." It is at one end of the conveyor-belt circulations that carry heat poleward in upper-level currents and return cold water equaterward at great depths - a key part of the system that maintains Earth's present climate. Any change in Antarctic waters could directly affect circulations in the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific Oceans.
The cold surface current that girdles Antarctica is a fixture of the Southern Ocean. It may already have been affected. Gille, who reports her findings in the Feb. 15 issue of the journal Science, says her study suggests that this current has moved closer to the polar continent as the mid-depth water has warmed.
Much of Gille's data was gathered by ships. However, free-floating robots also sent important information as part of the international World Ocean Circulation Experiment in the 1990s. The robots sink to a preset depth and drift with currents for 10 to 25 days. Then they bob to the surface to transmit data. Gille's analysis found that the mid-depth water had warmed 0.17 degrees C since 1950 - nearly double the global trend for ocean warming.
Gille's finding adds more complexity to the Antarctic climate puzzle in which changes are showing up in unexpected, even contradictory ways. Last month, for example, a research team reported that lakes on Signy Island off Antarctica have warmed by three to four times the global average air temperature rise. At the same time, another team reported that dry valleys on the continent itself are cooling. Likewise, a team reported in December that radar measurements show several West Antarctic glaciers are thinning rapidly. Yet, in January, another team reported that other West Antarctic ice streams are growing thicker.
|Dinosaur Discoveries Wow Boston |
By Jonathan Amos
Boston February 18, 2002 (BBC) - Sensational fossil discoveries were unveiled on Monday, including the most primitive wishbone yet found in a dinosaur. Also presented was an exquisite skull from a tiny crocodile that could help provide vital new evidence on when the landmasses of Africa and South America split to take up their current positions on the planet's surface.
The finds were described by Paul Sereno, one of the world's leading dino hunters, at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston. Dr Sereno, from the University of Chicago, told the meeting that science was on the cusp of a new era in dinosaur discovery. He said Africa, in particular, would soon yield extraordinary specimens that would enable scientists to explain more fully how these great beasts evolved.
The wishbone, or furcula, is significant because it informs the debate on whether birds evolved from dinosaurs; until recently the V-shaped bone was thought to be a unique feature in birds. The fossil furcula shown off by Dr Sereno was part of the skeleton of an 11-metre-long predator known as a spinosaur. Although the 110-million-year-old wishbone is not the oldest known to science, the creature from which it came had a very deep lineage.
"There is an allosaur furcula that is 150 million years old but this is from the chest of an animal with a more ancient origin. We are trying to nail down when the wishbone as fused clavicles first appeared in theropod (bipedal meat-eaters) evolution. So, this new furcula is now the most primitive one ever found. That's not to say that spinosaurs are closely related to birds; the wishbone, like many other adaptations, had nothing to do with flight in its original role. Only later did it become a flexible spring between the shoulder blades of flying birds - a totally different role."
The spinosaur was uncovered in Niger, Africa, on what Dr Sereno said was an amazing expedition which brought away 20 tons of fossils and rock. The specimen was found within 80 kilometers of the site of the dwarf crocodile skull also displayed at the AAAS meeting.
This fossil came from a 60-centimetre-long animal that has yet to receive a formal classification but which has been dubbed the "duck croc" because of its unusual jaws.
"It has a muzzle that looks like a duck," Dr Sereno said. "It's very broad but the upper jaw hangs over the lower jaw, so viewed from the side you don't even see the lower jaw. There's no interaction between the teeth at all."
Dr Sereno thinks this arrangement may have enabled the animal to catch specific kinds of prey, "such as a frog or a type of fish". Other features suggest it spent more time out of the water than it. "I think it was more land-adapted - living on the bank, catching frogs."
Dr Sereno said the 110-million-old skull and other finds from Africa and South America could upset current views on how the once giant super continent of Gondwanaland broke apart many millions of years ago. He said there was a big argument over whether Africa split first, meaning South American animals and plants were more closely related to fauna in India, Madagascar and Antarctica.
"I think we're going to overturn that now with some of the evidence we have dug up," he said. "It's going to show that Africa and South America were very closely related up to about 90 million years ago."
Dr Sereno said he had many more discoveries in the pipeline that would eventually be submitted to journals for the science community to review. These include new predatory dinosaurs from India and Africa that hail from the Cretaceous Period (146 to 65 million years ago). Dr Sereno said Africa was the "new frontier" in dino research. Specimens were required from this under-researched part of the world to fill in important gaps in our knowledge.
"To understand how plate tectonics (the movement of the continents) affected the evolution of a major group like dinosaurs, we need Africa."
|The Lanrick Castle Affair |
By John Staples
Doune, Perthshire February 21, 2002 (The Scotsman) - A Scottish laird who is facing prosecution after knocking down a listed mansion yesterday said he took the law into his own hands because the building was so dangerous somebody could have died.
Alistair Dickson, a property developer, received widespread condemnation earlier this week when he razed 200-year-old Lanrick Castle to the ground.
Mr Dickson had contacted his local council saying the Grade B-listed baroque building, the former country pile of the chief of the clan Gregor, had been badly damaged in the storms. Stirling Council agreed that the property, near Doune, Perthshire, was a hazard and said the only options were to make it secure or for it to be demolished. But it warned him that simply pulling the three-storey premises down without permission was illegal and that he would need listed building consent.
However, last Saturday, Mr Dickson sent workmen in to destroy the castle, leading heritage groups to call his actions an “act of vandalism” and to claims that he had acted because he wanted rid of it.
Yesterday, Mr Dickson, who has been laird for 20 years and whose family have owned Lanrick Estate for 101 years, told The Scotsman he was worried children may hurt themselves.
Mr Dickson said: “After last Thursday’s bad weather, I saw four children playing there. I had already received a notice from the local authority telling me this building was now dangerous. I realized I had to act quickly to make the area safe... It was so dangerous that I had to pull it down, otherwise there could have been a fatality, somebody could have died. I would not have wanted this on my conscience and it makes me very sad that I could be prosecuted as I was acting in the interests of public safety. The real issue here is that landowners who inherit properties with listed buildings are not helped. While there is money for some buildings this was Grade B-listed and just about all the money goes to Grade A properties.”
Lanrick Castle was designed by the architect James Gilles-pie Graham in the 1790s for General John Murray MacGregor, but had been vacant since 1964 and fell into a state of disrepair. In 1991, the Scottish Civic Trust placed it on its buildings at risk register, but the trust claims that, despite its protests, Mr Dickson was uncooperative and showed no interest in renovating the castle.
Three years later, the building was gutted in a fire while several other listed building within the estate’s grounds, including the North Lodge and the A-listed MacGregor monument, have also become dilapidated.
Yesterday, Terry Leventhal, of the Scottish Civic Trust, said he was not swayed by Mr Dickson’s decision to pull down the building without consultation.
Mr Leventhal added: “For many years we have tried to get this building refurbished, but because of the owners’ lack of interest, that did not happen.
“We had several parties who were interested in getting involved and it could have been a realistic possibility. While we realise that the building was now dangerous and safety is of course an issue of concern to us, we still feel that it could have been secured rather than demolished so hastily. In addition to this there are other buildings on the site, such as the MacGregor monument, which the owner has also let fall into a poor state.”
A spokeswoman for Stirling Council said that the authority’s officers revisited the site yesterday to compile a report which could then be submitted to the procurator-fiscal.
The spokeswoman added: “We are still investigating what happened. The officers’ report will go to the planning panel on 7 March and they will make the decision on whether or not to take it forward.”
|Floods On Mars! |
Arizona February 19, 2002 (U of A) - Not only lava, but water has recently flooded from fissures near Mars' equator, University of Arizona scientists have discovered.
And they're not talking about a trickle. They're talking possibly 600 cubic kilometers of water. That's one and a quarter times as much water as in Lake Erie, four times as much water as in Lake Tahoe, and 65 times as much water as in California's Salton Sea.
"This is a completely different water release mechanism than previously studied on Mars," said Devon Burr, a UA doctoral candidate in geosciences.
She and UA planetary scientist Alfred S. McEwen analyzed new Mars Orbital Camera (MOC) images near a series of fissures that stretch more than a thousand kilometers (600 miles) across the lava-covered Cerberus Plains just north of the martian equator. The images showed geologic evidence for catastrophic floods similar to catastrophic flood landforms on Earth. They and Susan Sakimoto of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center have reported the research in Geophysical Research Letters.
UA Regents' Professor Victor Baker and others concluded from Viking spacecraft images more than 20 years ago that great water floods must have carved huge channels draining into another region of the planet, Chryse Planitia. But photographic evidence consistently confirms that happened more than 2 billion years ago.
Burr and McEwen analyzed the Athabasca Valles channel system that branches south and southwest from the Cerberus Fossae.
"Athabasca Valles is an almost new component in the Martian hydrological cycle," Burr said.
"What's different here is that this is very recent, and the water source is nothing like we have on Earth," she said. "The water here gushed from volcano-tectonic fissures. While the fissures themselves may be older, the latest eruption of water was probably only about 10 million years ago."
"That's young," McEwen said. "If there is anyplace on Mars where there are current geothermal anomalies, I myself would look in the Cerberus Fossae first."
Geothermal sites on Mars would be a striking discovery, for they would provide both heat and water on the cold, dry planet.
"Flood volcanism on Earth occurs about every tens of millions of years," McEwen said. "The last such event was 10 million years ago. But that doesn't mean it's over. It will happen again. The same is probably true on Mars -- geologically speaking, it's still active."
Tectonic forces, or a combination of tectonic and magmatic forces, likely created the fossae, or fissures, from which lava extruded over the Cerberus Plains, McEwen said.
New MOC images show the fossae to be the source of recent, at least small lava flows. And new Mars Orbiter Laser Altimeter (MOLA) data reveal they are the source for much larger flows as well, he added.
Researchers know of one other possible such volcanic/hydrologic channel system on Mars, Mangala Valles, also near the equator. But it, too, is older than Athabasca Valles.
The most distinctive evidence for aqueous flooding are streamlined, flat-topped mesas in the middle of channels. These tear-drop shaped features are similar to structures in the Channeled Scabland in the northwestern United States, which Baker in 1982 reported were features created by catastrophic outflow of glacial meltwater.
The Athabasca Valles streamlined mesas on Mars rise 100 meters (330 feet) above the channel floors at their upslope ends and range from a few hundred to a few thousand meters long. Their flat upper surfaces "support an aqueous origin rather than a glacial one," the scientists conclude in their paper.
The mesas are composed of fine, horizontal layers behind impact craters, adding to evidence that were formed by deposition during flow in the lee of an object.
Other streamlined forms, also layered but not flat-topped like the streamlined mesas, more likely were formed by erosion during floods over pre-existing layered terrain, Burr said.
The new images also detail that the broad channel floor is often lined with grooves and ridges running parallel to the streamlined mesas or to the channel walls. The grooves, about 100 meters wide (330 feet) and 10 meters deep (33 feet) and similar to Channeled Scabland grooving, cover as much as 100 square kilometers (more than 38 square miles) in a single image.
All fluvial features were seen down slope, or southward, of the Cerberus Fossae. The fissures have such sharp edges and such steep slopes - more than 80 degrees - and cut through such young, lightly cratered lava plains that they must have been active recently, the researchers said.
UA planetary sciences graduate student Peter Lanagan, McEwen and colleagues previously reported on "rootless cones" at the downstream ends of the channel. The martian cones are similar both in morphology and size to rootless cones in Iceland, features which form when surface lava interacts explosively with near-surface groundwater. The most plausible source of water that produced rootless cones on Mars is a catastrophic flood, they concluded.
Because the flood water was debouched over permeable lava, much of it may have been absorbed by the lava and still persist in the Cerberus Plains as shallow ground ice, Burr, McEwen and Sakimoto conclude.
The shallow ground ice and the record of recent geothermal activity are likely present in the Cerberus Plains, making it an important target for future Mars exploration, the UA scientists note. As leading astrobiologists posit, "Both shallow ground ice and geothermal deposits are important targets in the search for a record of Martian life."
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