Amelia Earhart and
Water On Mars!
|Tsunamis Could Strike Atlantic Ocean! |
Giant Waves Would Endanger US East Coast
Washington August 28, 2001 (AP) -- The giant waves called tsunamis, long known as a danger in the Pacific Ocean, may also pose a danger to the U.S. East Coast.
While stressing that there is no indication it could happen soon, a pair of scientists is warning that a slumbering volcano on the island of La Palma, off the coast of Africa, could one day give way in a massive landslide, sending waves up to 70 feet high crashing into Florida and other coastal states.
The volcano, Cumbre Vieja, last erupted in 1949. It has not shown any recent activity.
But one day a new eruption could cause an existing rift across the volcano to split open, sending a landslide crashing into the ocean, say geophysicists Steven N. Ward of the University of California at Santa Cruz and Simon Day of University College, London.
In what they said was a worst-case scenario, a wave nearly 70-feet high could strike parts of the East Coast in only nine hours. Giant waves also could slam into Africa and northeast South America.
Ward stressed that a wave that size is unlikely, and that smaller landslides would produce waves one-fourth to half that height.
"Let's not scare people,'' Ward said. "Certainly there is no indication that this will happen anytime soon.
"Even when there is an eruption, the probability of collapse is low,'' Day said. "There may be many eruptions before the volcano is finally weak enough to collapse.''
Peter Lipman, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Menlo Park, Calif., agreed that the threat exists from the volcano. He, too, was cautious about when such a disaster might occur.
"These oceanic island volcanoes are, in geologic time, very subject to exactly the kind of process they describe,'' he said. "Volcanoes try to keep on adding lava to a steep slope and eventually they get the slope so loaded that it fails.
"I don't see this as something that is likely to happen very often at La Palma,'' he said. "But it had a failure like this half a million years ago and will again in the future.''
Ward and Day's findings are reported in the Sept. 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Tsunamis (soo-NAHM-ee), long have been known as a danger around the Pacific Ocean, where warning centers monitor the sea and alert coastal residents. They are most often generated by earthquakes or landslides under the sea and are occasionally, incorrectly, referred to as tidal waves.
The waves have not received much attention as a hazard in the Atlantic. The most recent tsunami on the East Coast occurred in 1929 when a landslide off Newfoundland created a large wave that killed 30 people in Nova Scotia, Day said.
Unlike surface waves, tsunamis reach all the way to the sea floor. In mid-ocean they may hardly be noticeable, but as they approach shore the sea floor rises and so does the wave above it, potentially rising to giant status. And they travel very fast.
The worst case scenario Ward and Day describe in their paper runs like this: Within five minutes of the collapse, a wave 1,500 feet high has zoomed 30 miles out to sea; at 10 minutes, it is down to 900 feet and slamming into nearby islands. After six or more hours, waves of 30 feet or so arrive at Newfoundland and at about nine hours, the East Coast of the United States is hit by waves ranging from 30 feet to 70 feet.
Monster Wave Could Also Wallop UK
Scotland August 29, 2001 (Daily Record) - A monster wave almost as high as the Scott Monument could sweep along the coast of Britain. Traveling at speeds of up to 500mph the wave would first wreak destruction on Florida and Brazil.
But scientists predicting the natural disaster yesterday said the UK's Atlantic coast would not escape damage, with flooding up to five miles inland. There are likely to be thousands of casualties and it would cause the greatest destruction since prehistoric times, with the cost running into trillions of US dollars. The scientists fear a volcanic eruption in the Canary Islands would result in a giant wall of water up to 200 feet high, known as a tsunami.
But there's no need to panic - it's not likely to happen for at least a thousand years.
The computer-generated model of the mega-wave produced by a future eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano shows Mother Nature at her most awesome. The eruption would generate as much power as six months' electricity consumption by the whole of the United States. It would cause the western side of the volcano, which is twice the size of the Isle of Man, to plunge into the ocean below. Immediately after that landslide, a dome of water almost 3000 feet high and several miles wide will form, only to collapse and rebound.
Propelled by a series of crests and troughs, the tsunami will travel a distance of almost 155 miles in just 10 minutes, the model predicts. Racing at the speed of a jet aircraft, it would reach Florida and the Caribbean in eight or nine hours. A wall of water 164ft high would smash into the coasts of Florida and the Caribbean islands, the forecast predicts. The northern coast of Brazil would be hit by a wave more than 130ft high. A similar wall of water with slightly less power would hit the Atlantic coasts of Britain, Spain, Portugal and France. Previous research by geophysicist Dr Simon Day predicted that a future eruption of the Cumbre Vieja volcano was likely to cause the western flank of it to slide into the sea.
Now Dr Day, of the Benfield Greig Hazard Research Centre at University College, London, working with Dr Steven Ward, from the University of California in Santa Cruz believe they have now accurately predicted how big the tsunami will be and where it will strike. The waves first impact point would be the largely-deserted west Saharan coast of Morocco, where the wave would measure 330ft from crest to trough.
But the built-up coastal areas of Florida, Brazil and the Caribbean were expected to suffer the greatest destruction.
Dr Day said: "The collapse will occur during some future eruption after days or weeks of precursory deformation and earthquakes. An effective earthquake-monitoring system could provide advanced warning of a likely collapse and allow early emergency management organisations a valuable window of time in which to plan and respond. Eruptions of Cumbre Vieja occur at intervals of decades to a century or so and there may be a number of eruptions before its collapse. Although the year-to-year probability of a collapse is therefore low, the resulting tsunami would be a major disaster with indirect effects around the world. Cumbre Vieja needs to monitored closely for any signs of impending volcanic activity and for the deformation that would precede collapse."
The Cumbre Vieja volcano, on the small island of La Palma, last erupted in 1949. It has not shown any recent indications of activity, but the threat could become real some day. Dr Day and Dr Ward stress that the giant tsunami was a "worst-case scenario".
But Dr Ward also added that smaller landslides would produce waves a fourth to half of that height.
Dr Ward said: "Let's not scare people. Certainly there is no indication that this will happen any time soon. Even when there is an eruption, the probability of collapse is low. There may be many eruptions before the volcano is finally weak enough to collapse."
Tsunami have long been known as a danger around the Pacific Ocean, most often generated by earthquakes or landslides under the sea.
Peter Lipman, a volcanologist with the US Geological Survey, said: "I don't see this as something that is likely to happen very often at La Palma.
"But it had a failure like this half a million years ago and will again in the future."
|Bigfoot Tracks in Kyrgyzia Republic |
Kyrgyzia August 29, 2001 (Pravda) - The frontier guard of the mountainous Aktalinsky district of the republic of Kyrgyzia found the footprints of the unknown man-like creature.
The length of a footprint was 45 cm, and its width - 30 cm, so the creature was of incredible stature.
The footprints were very clearly visible for they were outlined against the clayey bank of the mountain river flowing through the deserted area. The prints are rather fresh.
Experts said, the enthusiasts were desperately seeking a bigfoot in the neighboring Pamirs 20 years ago. So they did not exclude the creature could move to Kyrgyzia being scared of the military actions in the mountains of the republic of Tajikistan.
However Kyrgyzia is very unlikely to find the money for funding the scientific expedition to the Aktalinsky district where the footprints have been found.
|Bush Pushes His Anti Abortion Stance On United Nations |
By SALLY BUZBEE
WASHINGTON August 28, 2001 (AP) - The White House wants to ensure that a U.N. conference on children does not proclaim support for abortion, officials said Tuesday.
It was the latest sign of a prickly relationship between the United States and the United Nations, which already are at odds over a racism meeting.
The government plans to send a Cabinet-level delegation to the special U.N. General Assembly session on children next month in New York, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said.
In contrast, Secretary of State Colin Powell will not attend a U.N. conference on racism that begins Friday in South Africa because of a planned declaration that accuses Israel of racist policies against Palestinians. The administration has not decided whom, if anybody, to send.
Boucher insisted the disputes over language before the children's conference are just part of a regular give and take. "We have every expectation that we can work them out, and that we can be there, and that we will be there at a high level," Boucher said.
The administration wants language that "does not support or advance the idea of abortion. So we're not against family planning language," he said.
U.N. officials insisted the draft documents do not address abortion.
"It is not about abortion; none of the documents refer directly, indirectly or any other way to abortion, and never have," UNICEF spokeswoman Liza Barrie said.
The draft document includes a line that says nations should "promote and protect the right of the adolescent to sexual and reproductive health education, information and services in order to ... avoid unwanted or early pregnancies."
The two tussles with the United Nations come at a time when many of America's allies have criticized President Bush's decision to withhold support for several international treaties and have worried he is moving the United States toward isolationism.
In Austria, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he hoped the United States would decide to attend the racism conference but said the decision is "the sovereign right of each country."
Bush will address the U.N. General Assembly in New York on Sept. 24, as presidents traditionally do. His advisers insist the United States is not withdrawing from the world but merely practicing "a la carte multinationalism" - joining allies and participating in global meetings when it suits U.S. interests.
"Thus far you have to conclude that they're anorexic, because they haven't found any dishes that they like," said Antony Blinken, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former Clinton administration official.
Since taking office, Bush has rejected the Kyoto climate-change treaty, pushed forward with a missile-defense shield and abandoned talks on enforcing a 1972 treaty against germ warfare. The administration also opposes other treaties, including one to create an international criminal court, the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal.
Others believe that it makes sense for the administration to avoid U.N. conferences it opposes as long as it provides alternatives.
"If you're bailing out of everything, it reduces the political value of bailing out of things in particular," said Timothy Crawford, a postdoctoral fellow at the Brookings Institution's Foreign Policy Studies.
For its part, the United Nations still resents that the United States has not paid $460 million in back dues, yet still seeks American input, said Richard Falk, an international law professor at Princeton University.
"There's a broad recognition that despite the criticism of the United States, the U.S. is a necessary participant in any kind of effective U.N. undertaking," Falk said.
The summit on children would be the largest gathering of world leaders this year with 75 heads of government. It will focus on issues such as child health, child soldiers and child labor.
|Ambassador Jolie's African Journal |
The following are three excerpts from the journal Angelina Jolie kept while in Africa from February 21 - March 9, 2001. These excerpts - as extraordinary as they might seem to those of us who only know Jolie as an actress - are not intended as a substitute for reading the entire journal.
Please go to http://www.usaforunhcr.org/journal and read it all.
[eXoNews has refrained from using the photographs posted with the journal because they are best viewed in context. Ed.]
I went to the amputee camp.
(IDPs supported by other NGO)
I have just been holding the pen in that spot for the last few minutes.
I don't know what to write. No - yes, I do. I am angry. I hate the people who did this. I hate that everyone is suffering - the amputees, the refugees, the displaced persons, the people living in their war torn community - everyone. There are so many surviving with loved ones who have been maimed or killed. No one is living as they did before the RUF. I don't understand how it continues - how my country can claim it comes to the aid of these countries in need - when all the people here live everyday knowing there has been no justice - no vengeance - and no real peace.
So how do you tell these refugees to start to build their lives back when they are sure that the rebels will just take it away again?
A man told me his story how he lost his hand (from the elbow down). " The lucky ones are amputated. We are left alive - but not all of us - many amputees died from loss of blood or infection ”.
The youngest amputee I met was a little girl one year old. She was three months old when they cut off her arm and raped her mother.
So many people.
It is 9:30 pm. We arrived at Bo. We would spend the night here and move on at 7 am.
We met with Muhammad who was working there. He had prepared (with the others) three large bowls of bulgur wheat and three large bowls of beans.
We started to give out food with the woman who was clearly a leader of the group. It had already taken a while to unload all the refugees from the trucks, and everyone was very hungry.
I can't imagine how they were feeling. I was nauseous. I probably would have thrown up from the ride, but I did not have any liquids and I only ate bread for the last few hours. There was no bathroom along the journey so I drank no water.
I tried to help hand out cups and spoons, and make sure that the servers had enough plates. There were not enough metal plates to go around, so we tried to organize washing when the first to eat were finished.
The children were fed first, then the women, and finally the men.
Some referred to me as “pumwi,” which means “white person.”
Some called me "Sistah."
They were very kind to me. Aware I was there to help.
Most people would push and yell and be angry for all the time it had been taking and all they had been through.
But they have been through so much for years now and if anything I felt they were helping me to understand how it was done because I was new.
Nyambé and I were told to sleep in a nearby motel. It doesn't feel right I am given this privilege, but I am so tired. I am deeply grateful.
They gave us rooms with fans, but mine is not working.
Out the window I hear people talking and very obscure '80's American music.
I just saw a fat jumping spider.
The bed board was once covered in plastic, but now it is mostly ripped off.
There are no sheets on the bed, only a mattress cover.
I can't help but to love this room. The man who took me to it smiled when the door opened and said "Nice! Good!" Then he showed me the toilet and, with an even bigger smile, he said, "Look!" And then he flushed the toilet.
He just returned a moment ago to give me matches and a candle. There is no electricity from 1 am to 4:30 am.
Nyambé came into my room and we split what was left of the loaf of bread. It was too hot to eat so I saved my share for breakfast.
We also hear there is a rumor that the demonstration will start at 3 pm. Others say the police were already stopping them from assembling. The other rumor is that they will start demonstrating at the American Embassy.
We have tried calling to confirm my appointment with Ambassador Melrose, but we are told we have the wrong number. It must be security reasons, because we checked and it is the correct number.
I did notice bullet holes on the glass inside the embassy. At some point, people were here to attack and they got inside. Luckily, there are many different levels to "inside."
There was tremendous high security at the U.S. Embassy. I don't know why I thought it would be like visiting home. My country. It didn't feel that way at all. I was left outside as Nyambé was interviewed and I.D. checked. Then I was signaled in. They wiped down my bag and put the swab in a computer. I also had to walk through a metal detector. Once I was inside, everyone was very friendly.
We discussed how there were about 400 amputees in the camp that I saw, and many more in Bo and Kenema. Most of them there are staying together, but they have no support or funds.
I was told there are two new amputees. There had not been any at all in the last year. It had stopped. But around Ramadan - a child about one and a half and another about eight - had fresh wounds. Their hands were cut off.
We sat in silence for a moment. Then he said, "It is very sad. There are always things that need to be done."
Please go to http://www.usaforunhcr.org/journal and read the entire journal.
Ambassador Angelina Jolie Recounts Pakistan Visit
GENEVA August 27, 2001 (AP) - Wiping tears from her eyes, newly appointed U.N. goodwill ambassador Angelina Jolie described her encounters with Afghan refugees in Pakistan.
"What do you do about that? It's really awful," said the 26-year-old actress as she told reporters about small children scratching a living by picking through garbage.
Jolie, who stars in the action film "Lara Croft: Tomb Raider," returned from Pakistan on Sunday. She had visited the huge refugee camps where hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees live in poverty.
"It's still very hard to talk about it. It is the worst situation, I think, because there is no end in sight for the needs of these people," she said after a ceremony Monday in which she was formally appointed ambassador for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"But I was surprised to sit down with these women and their children and talk with them, and they were so kind and warm and funny and generous and hardworking and grateful for any little help they could get, and they are living in a situation I don't think anybody in this room could survive for more than a few days."
Jolie started visiting refugee camps earlier this year. She has released the journal she kept during visits to Sierra Leone and Tanzania on the Internet to publicize the work of the UNHCR.
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers said he believes Jolie will be able to bring the issue of refugees to the attention of young people.
"We look after 22 million people, and that is hardly known by young people. She can show her personal commitment as a young person to convince the younger generation that something has to be done here," he said.
|Lawsuit Claims Pfizer Hurt and Killed Nigerian Children |
|NEW YORK August 29, 2001 (AP) - A lawsuit filed Wednesday accuses Pfizer Inc. of causing brain damage and sometimes death to Nigerian children when it conducted "secret testing" of a new meningitis drug in 1996. |
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, seeks unspecified damages on behalf of 30 children who participated in the drug trial in Kano, in northern Nigeria.
The children were among 200 youngsters who were part of the testing of Trovan, an unproven drug administered in a form never before tested on humans, the lawsuit says.
The families of seven of 11 children who died after participating in the test were among plaintiffs listed in the lawsuit.
A telephone message left with Pfizer was not immediately returned.
According to the lawsuit, the tests were conducted during an epidemic of bacterial meningitis in Nigeria that left children desperate for medical care.
"Rather than provide the children with a safe, effective and proven therapy for bacterial meningitis, Pfizer chose to select children to participate in a medical experiment of a new, untested and unproven drug without first obtaining their informed consent," the lawsuit says.
The lawsuit asserts that the drug was known to have life-threatening effects that soon surfaced during the tests in an impoverished city experiencing epidemics of bacterial meningitis, measles and cholera.
The lawsuit says Pfizer hurried plans to carry out its tests, taking a variety of steps that violated international law, federal regulations and medical ethics.
|Canadian Jet Pilot Saves 304 and Says He's 'not a hero' |
By PHIL COUVRETTE
MIRABEL, Quebec August 28, 2001 (AP) - The pilot of a Canadian airliner that glided for 18 minutes after it lost engine power said Tuesday that he was no hero but was only doing his job in bringing the plane to safety with 304 people aboard.
The crippled Airbus A330 jetliner managed a hard landing on the Azores Islands around dawn Friday. Flames erupted briefly as the plane's tires burst and the craft spilled fuel onto the runway. Eleven people were hospitalized for minor injuries.
Air Transat Capt. Robert Piche, 49, said there was no time to think about fear, only time to follow procedures and rely on his 30 years' experience, while gliding the plane down from 32,000 feet with both engines shut down.
"Of course we had doubts. But we did what we had to do," Piche said at a news conference at a Montreal hotel.
A preliminary report issued Tuesday by Portuguese investigators said a malfunctioning fuel injection pump caused low fuel pressure in both engines.
According to a report by investigators, Piche's crew noticed what they called a fuel leak at 4:25 a.m. Friday (1:25 a.m. EDT). An hour later, the right engine lost power and, two minutes after that, the left engine went dead.
Piche said that after the loss of the engines, he was left with nothing but his control stick with minimum power from an emergency propeller to control the aircraft. He glided the craft for 18 minutes over the Atlantic Ocean before reaching the runway. It took 90 seconds to evacuate the plane,.
"That's what we get trained for, that's what we get paid for, to be successful in a situation like that," Piche said. "I'm not a hero."
He provided few details on how he brought the Toronto-to-Lisbon flight carrying 291 passengers and a crew of 13 to the safe emergency landing at the Lajes airport on Terciera Island in the Azores, 900 miles off the coast of Portugal.
But he stressed that the incident showed that procedures set up for problems on international flights, such as alternate landing sites, works.
"I've been flying for 30 years. I understand full well that on an international flight, nothing like this is supposed to happen," he said. "Now I understand that the system we have throughout the world, the system operates. It works."
While passengers have described terrifying moments of chaos on the gliding plane, the flight director Meleni Tesic praised the crew and passengers for following procedures and instructions.
"There was absolutely no panic among all the passengers," Tesic said.
But passenger Joao Gaspar spoke of screaming passengers in a plane that quickly lost altitude, then "depressurized and jerked about."
Airbus Industrie has sent a team of specialists to the Azores Islands to assist in the investigation by Portuguese authorities.
|Amnesiac Loses Fight for Birth Certificate |
|VANCOUVER August 30, 2001 (Reuters) - A man with an English accent who reads Latin and speaks three languages but suffers amnesia was again denied on Wednesday the birth certificate he says he needs to find his true identity. |
The British Columbia Court of Appeal said it sympathized with the man, who calls himself Philip Staufen, but declined to overturn a lower court ruling that had said he was not entitled to a British Columbia birth certificate.
Staufen says he has no memories prior to 1999 when he awoke in a Toronto hospital after what police believe was a mugging. His name comes from an identification bracelet he was wearing when he awoke.
Staufen moved from Toronto to Vancouver, where he decided to seek a birth certificate that he would need to obtain travel documents. He has said he wants to travel to Britain to see if he can find any clues to his identity.
The name Staufen was also on an Ontario health card he was carrying when admitted to the hospital, and the appeals court ruled he had to provide more proof that he was actually born in British Columbia and not Ontario.
"Unfortunately, it appears Mr. Staufen has not adequately pursued the leads available to him," Justice Mary Newbury wrote for the three-member appeals court panel.
Staufen had argued his lack of a birth certificate had left him as little more than a prisoner in Canada because he was unable to get work and support himself because he could not prove who he was or where he was from.
Staufen's plight has received extensive media attention in Britain and on the Internet, but the publicity has produced no clues to his true identity.
Canada's federal immigration minister offered in June to give Staufen a temporary residency certificate that would allow him to get a job and study, but he rejected the offer.
|Dolly Cloners Sued Over 'Stolen Ideas' |
Edinburgh August 29 2001 (BBC) - A US biotech company has filed a lawsuit against the firm that cloned Dolly the Sheep over claims that it stole ideas.
AviGenics, based at the University of Georgia, alleges that scientists at the Edinburgh-based Roslin Institute "misappropriated" research into genetically altered chickens. Last year, Roslin and American biotech firm Viragen developed a chicken whose eggs contain a protein which can be used to treat cancer. But AviGenics claims the technique was pioneered in its laboratories and stolen by scientist Dr Helen Sang.
Lawyers for AviGenics have asked a US judge to bar Roslin and Viragen from pressing ahead with the plans and called for a jury trial and unspecified damages. Viragen spokesman David Macauley said the company was "shocked and surprised" by the action.
He added: "The lawsuit has no merit and it will be vigorously defended."
The Roslin Institute also said it acknowledged the suit and would be defending it. A spokesman said that Dr Sang, who had been on AviGenetics' scientific advisory board, had worked at Roslin Institute for at least 15 years. No date has been set for a hearing.
The technology, which is estimated to be worth millions of pounds, would allow scientists to get round the difficult and expensive procedure of producing proteins. The hens' genetic make-up has been altered so that the whites of their eggs are rich in specially tailored proteins.
Each chicken is expected to lay about 250 eggs a year, producing huge quantities of proteins which form the basis of drugs to treat a range of illnesses, including breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
|Iraq Blames Cancer Rise On NATO Uranium Shells |
|By WAIEL FALEH |
BAGHDAD August 28, 2001 (AP) - Experts from the World Health Organization on Tuesday began investigating claims that cancer rates and birth defects in Iraq have increased due to depleted uranium in ammunition used during the 1991 Gulf War.
The six-member WHO team arrived in Baghdad late Monday on a mission agreed to in Geneva in April to study levels of cancer and other diseases in Iraq.
Iraq says economic sanctions imposed after its 1990 invasion of Kuwait have hit its health sector hard.
Baghdad also says it has evidence that a recent increase in cancers and birth defects among Iraqis is linked to depleted uranium used in NATO ammunition during the Gulf War.
On arrival in Baghdad, the WHO team met Iraqi health ministry officials and viewed documents.
Team leader Abdel Aziz Saleh told reporters it was too early to say whether depleted uranium used in shells against Iraq contributed to disease rates.
"We haven't yet reached the evidence or the data that can answer this kind of question," Saleh said. "Actually, the project proposals are meant to develop the information, the data, that is reliable to answer these kinds of questions."
Saleh said Iraq needed to improve its cancer registry programs, raise awareness about the disease and encourage prevention education.
Last month, Iraq accused the United Nations of trying to postpone the WHO visit for security reasons, accusing the organization of having "bad intentions."
U.N. Undersecretary-General Benon Sevan, who is in charge of the world body's Iraq program, rejected the Iraqi allegation as casting "aspersions against United Nations personnel."
The WHO team is expected to stay five days in Iraq.
|New Search For Amelia Earhart |
By Fili Sagapolutele
PAGO PAGO August 26, 2001 (Reuters) — An expedition of aviation enthusiasts looking for the remains of U.S. aviator Amelia Earhart left American Samoa on Sunday, on its way to search a remote Pacific atoll in the tiny nation of Kiribati.
Earhart disappeared on July 2, 1937, while trying to find land in her Lockheed Electra A-10E aircraft during an attempt to fly around the world.
She went missing on a 2,556 mile leg between New Guinea and a refueling stop on Howland Island, a U.S. territory on the equator just east of the international dateline.
The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR) mission plans to investigate for up to a month an area of sea around the atoll of Nikumararo, an uninhabited island around 410 miles south of Howland.
The search, one of two planned in the coming months to solve the 63-year-old mystery, is based on satellite images, which may show rusting metal in shallow water just offshore Nikumararo, in an area where native fishermen are said to have once seen the wreckage of an aircraft.
“We’re not investigating a new Earhart theory,” TIGHAR said on its web site ( http://www.tighar.org ).
“We’re re-investigating the oldest Earhart theory,” it said in a reference to a U.S. navy search of the area for the aviator and her navigator, Fred Noonan, in 1937.
UNDERWATER AIRCRAFT REMAINS
Most researchers believe Earhart’s plane ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific near Howard Island, less than an hour after the aviator radioed that they were lost and low on gas.
Sailing on a Fiji-based 120-foot launch, the group plans to investigate four theories, ranging from a dive on possible aircraft remains 60 feet underwater to a check of erect coral slabs on the tiny island said to contain bones found when Kiribati settlers arrived on the island in 1938.
The expedition includes Earhart’s great nephew Jim Morrissey and is headed up by TIGHAR executive director Ric Gillespie.
A private ocean exploration company, Nauticos Corp from Hanover, Md., is also planning a search for Earhart’s remains during the northern hemisphere winter at year-end.
Nauticos is focusing on a 500 square mile area of sea, 360 miles northwest of Nikumararo, using a sonar scanner to check 17,000 feet below the surface of the Pacific Ocean.
Now in its 13th year, TIGHAR’s search for Earhart has led to four expeditions to the Central Pacific at a cost of $1.6 million.
The non-profit group, based in Wilmington, Delaware, investigates aviation-related historical puzzles such as the disappearance of Earhart.
|Venlo, Holland August 29 2001 (Daily Record) - Plans to open the world's first drive-through marijuana outlets in Holland have enraged German officials. |
The government claim their youth will break for the border in even greater numbers to buy the drugs still outlawed in their homeland.
But city fathers in Dutch border town Venlo argue it will curb the weekend excursions of 5000-plus German youths.
Venlo thinks Germans will be too paranoid to use drive-throughs for fear of being spied on by police and having registration numbers noted.
Venlo council chiefs say two drive-throughs on the outskirts of the city - dubbed McDope - will be run like fast food chains. Motorists can speak into a mic, drive to the window, pay and collect.
The outlets are expected to sell pounds 1million in cannabis in the first six months.
|Brain Cells Linked To Silicon Chips |
By Shankar Vedantam
The Washington Post
August 28, 2001 (Washington Post) — Scientists for the first time have linked multiple brain cells with silicon chips to create a part-mechanical, part-living electronic circuit.
To construct the partially living electronic circuit, scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Germany managed to affix multiple snail neurons onto tiny transistor chips and demonstrated that the cells communicated with each other and with the chips.
The advance is an important step toward a goal that is still more science fiction than science: to develop artificial retinas or prosthetic limbs that are extensions of the human nervous system. The idea is to combine the mechanical abilities of electronic circuits with the extraordinary complexity and intelligence of the human brain.
Such combinations of biology and technology may not only one day help the blind to see and the paralyzed to move objects with their thoughts, but also help to build computers that are as inventive and adaptable as our own nervous systems and a generation of robots that might truly deserve to be called intelligent.
NOT JUST SCIENCE FICTION
Meshing nerve cells with electronics has become a hot new field in science — and has long been a staple of science fiction. But what “Star Trek” accomplished in a stroke of the pen has proved harder to achieve in real life.
“The nervous system is quite different than a computer,” said Eve Marder, a professor of neuroscience at Brandeis University who studies how the brain adapts to change. “Many functions that are physically separate in a computer are carried out by the same piece of tissue” in the brain and nervous system.
The greatest challenge has been in building the interface between biology and technology. Nerve cells in the brain find each other, strengthen connections and build patterns through complex chemical signaling that is driven in part by the environment. Slice away some neurons, for example, and others will leap in to replace their function. No one understands how the brain learns to adapt to change, but it is a process that is as sophisticated as it is messy.
Silicon chips, on the other hand, can perform specific functions with great reliability and speed, but have limited responsiveness to the environment and almost no ability to alter themselves according to need.
“Things are constantly changing ... processes are growing, there are substances called neuromodulators that change the properties of nerve cells and the strength of connections,” said Marder. “That’s the challenge of making a silicon-brain interface — the rules of computation are not the same.”
The German researchers used micropipettes to lift individual cells from the snail brain and then puff them out onto silicon chips that were layered with a kind of glue. The snail neurons, according to biophysicist Peter Fromherz, are a little larger than human or rat neurons and were therefore easier to work with.
“They suck them out and then blow them onto the structure,” said Astrid Prinz, a post-doctoral researcher at Brandeis University, who used to work with the German group. “It’s a matter of practice to learn to handle individual cells. You have them in a little pipette with fluid. You blow them out and you can maneuver them. One guy in the lab made a little movie on how to blow cells.”
Each cell was positioned over a Field Effect Transistor, a device that is capable of amplifying tiny voltages, and a stimulator to prod the cell into activity.
The process was repeated with some 20 cells over multiple transistors and stimulators. By using polymers, the German scientists built tiny picket fences around the neurons to keep them in place over the transistors — one of the great difficulties in building such circuits is that nerve cells tend to wander around, as they do in the brain.
Neurons on this silicon base developed a connection between each other known as a synapse. When researchers stimulated one neuron, it released an electrical signal. That signal was detected by the transistor that the neuron sat on as well as the transistor beneath a second neuron — showing that the electrical signal had passed from the chip to the first neuron, through a synapse to the second neuron and then converted back into electricity and the second transistor.
“It’s very primitive, but it’s the first time that a neural network was directly interfaced with a silicon chip,” said Fromherz, who published the results in today’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. “It’s a proof of principle experiment.”
The group, he said, was already working on linking greater numbers of neurons with more transistors. The real challenge, he said, lay in figuring out where exactly the neuron’s synapse was relative to the transistor, and in developing techniques that could reliably construct larger circuits.
Fromherz said plans were underway to build a system with 15,000 neuron-transistor sites.
When the number gets large enough, researchers hope they will begin to see the early glimmers of what actually happens in the brain: neurons forming complex connections that transmute electrical activity into computation, thoughts and maybe consciousness itself.
|Ethics Questions In Deadly Johns Hopkins' Experiment |
|By JOHN BIEMER |
BALTIMORE August 28, 2001 (AP) - Johns Hopkins University, one of the top medical research institutions in the world, has come under fire over a deadly asthma experiment and a lead-paint study on poor city children that has been likened to the infamous Tuskegee syphilis experiment.
The incidents have raised questions about whether medical institutions undertake more research than they can safely monitor.
"It's unfortunate that the premier medical research institute in the U.S. has all of these problems conducting basic peer review and review of the ethical component of the research it's conducting," said John H. Noble, a Catholic University health policy professor and member of the Alliance for Human Research Protection. "We need checks and balances, and that's the fundamental flaw in the system."
After healthy 24-year-old volunteer Ellen Roche died after inhaling a drug in the asthma study in June, the federal Office for Human Research Protections said, among other things, that Hopkins' review board was overworked.
The government shut down most of Hopkins' 2,400 federally funded experiments for five days, an action the university called unwarranted. Regulators are allowing the studies to resume one at a time.
Two weeks ago, the Maryland Court of Appeals condemned a study testing levels of lead-paint exposure in poor children by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, a Hopkins affiliate. The ruling permitted lawsuits filed on behalf of two children who allegedly suffered brain damage to go forward.
In the study, landlords were paid to recruit about 100 families with healthy children to live in their homes during the early 1990s. Children - who can develop brain damage if they eat lead paint chips - were to be tested periodically to see how well methods developed to reduce the levels of lead-based paint were working. Judge Dale R. Cathell likened the research to experiments conducted on prisoners at the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II and to the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, in which the disease was left untreated in poor black men in Alabama.
All U.S. research institutions are required to have review boards by the federal government, which sets and oversees the guidelines.
The review boards - which consist largely of university-affiliated doctors and administrators - are there to weigh the potential risks and benefits of various experiments and to make sure that subjects have been properly informed and have given their consent. When an institution applies for a federal grant for the research, the federal agency - the National Institutes of Health, for example - generally does not get involved in oversight of risks. An exception is when an experimental drug is tested on humans. The Food and Drug Administration then must approve the use.
Tom Tomlinson, a Michigan State medical ethics professor, said more resources need to be devoted to reviewing institutional research.
"With the tremendous increase in the sheer number and complexity of research going on, it's becoming harder and harder for these committees to find the time they need to really look at these protocols carefully," he said.
Noble said the review boards are not just stretched thin, but also suffer conflicts of interest rooted in doing "business as sub-units of the very institution that gets them funded." The review boards may even rubber-stamp approval if a researcher's reputation is well-established, he said.
Alan Milstein, an attorney who sued the University of Pennsylvania on behalf of the family of an 18-year-old man who died in a 1999 gene therapy experiment, said centers such as Hopkins are "conducting more studies than they can possibly monitor."
"What I've been saying all along is where we're going to see the problems is the top institutions," Milstein said. "That's where the money is, that's where the arrogance is, and that's where the studies are."
Johns Hopkins stands tall among medical research institutions. Its doctors developed CPR and won the Nobel Prize for discovering enzymes that gave birth to the genetic engineering industry. For the 11th year in a row, U.S. News & World Report ranked it the top American hospital. Its medical school ranked second to Harvard. Last year, Hopkins got $301 million in grants from NIH - the most in the country.
Following the shutdown of Hopkins' studies, the university announced several steps, including the creation of a fourth review board to oversee experiments. A year ago, it had two.
"If we can demonstrate, and I think we have demonstrated, we are doing everything we need to do to ensure the safety of our patients, then they certainly will continue to trust us," Hopkins spokeswoman Joann Rodgers said.
Despite the university's problems, Dr. Jordan Cohen, president of the Association of American Medical Colleges, said Hopkins' reputation - and federal funding - are not threatened.
"I think, in the aggregate, Johns Hopkins is such a spectacularly successful research institution that it certainly deserves all the respect that it gets," he said. "There are always risks involved in any research, and bad things happen from time to time."
|Roswell - Enterprise Crossover! |
By Kate O'Hare
LOS ANGELES August 29, 2001 (Zap2It) - They share a studio lot, a network and a genre, but after an upcoming episode, they'll share a lot more.
"Secrets and Lies," the fourth episode of this season on "Roswell" -- its first on UPN, after moving over from The WB -- boldly goes into the "Star Trek" universe with a crossover episode that links it with the UPN freshman series "Enterprise," the newest "Trek" spin-off.
"Roswell" which launches its new season on Tuesday, Oct. 9, at 9 p.m. ET, right after fellow WB expatriate "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," focuses on teen aliens struggling to survive and fulfill their extraterrestrial destinies while living as high-schoolers in Roswell, N.M.
A suspicious death sends the leader of the aliens, Max (Jason Behr), on a mission to Hollywood, where the film vaults of Paramount Pictures may hold a clue. While there, he hooks up with an agent, who gets him an audition on "Enterprise" (which premieres Sept. 26 at 8 p.m. ET).
One of the executive producers of "Roswell" is Jonathan Frakes, who played second-in-command William Riker on "Star Trek: The Next Generation," along with appearing in several "Trek" feature films (and directing two of them, "First Contact" and "Insurrection" ). He's also directing "Secrets and Lies."
In terms of "Trek" alumni, he's not alone on the "Roswell" set (located on the Paramount lot, although the show is actually a 20th Century Fox Television production). Also on hand is writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, whose "Star Trek" credits include "The Next Generation," "Deep Space Nine," "Voyager" and two of the features, "Generations" and "First Contact."
According to Frakes, Moore put his head together with fellow executive producer Jason Katims to hatch the idea.
"This was the brainstorm of Ron Moore and Jason Katims," says Frakes. "They said, 'Since you're directing, would you mind playing yourself in the episode? And while you're at it, would you mind playing yourself as if you're directing an episode of 'Enterprise'? And while you're directing the episode of 'Enterprise,' do you think we can get somebody from the cast of 'Enterprise'? And while you're at that, would you call (" Trek" executive producer) Rick Berman and Paramount and see if it's OK?'"
"It's an opportunity to express our synergy."
If all this sounds confusing, it's no more so than the tangled history of "Roswell" itself. "The hybrid on 'Roswell' is so strange," says Frakes. "20th Century Fox Television made the pilot for FOX, then sold it to The WB, and we shot it at Paramount. Then 20th sold it to UPN (a.k.a. the United Paramount Network). It's incredible."
While Berman, who oversees the "Trek" franchise, didn't allow filming on the "Enterprise" sets, says Frakes, he did give his blessing. "It's an audition scene," says Frakes. "Max is auditioning to play the role of an alien, only he doesn't know how to play an alien, hence the wacky, ironic hijinks."
"It's a comedy scene in a serious episode."
The original idea was to have "Enterprise" star Scott Bakula, who plays starship Capt. Jonathan Archer, appear in the audition scene with Behr. "He thought it was too early to break the fourth wall," says Frakes. "Bakula is not going to do it."
At present, Frakes doesn't know whether or not he'll have an "Enterprise" cast member in the episode, which begins shooting on Friday. "I don't know that you'd get any bang out of anybody but Bakula," he says, "because Bakula is at least a TV star. These other guys (in the cast) are about to become TV stars. So I think we can get as good a laugh out of me directing Jason as Max in the audition."
"It'll play because it will be me telling Jason that he doesn't know how to be an alien. The joke is there."
This marks the third time that Frakes has played himself on "Roswell." He appeared in the show's pilot and in a first-season episode called "Convention."
"I've always had trouble playing myself," he says. "Some people like it; some people find it a little absurd. It's a many-layered joke at 'Roswell,' being the producer and director and an actor."
Bakula's reluctance to do the crossover has in no way diminished Frakes' admiration for him, though. "He's a wonderful leader, Bakula," says Frakes. "He's charming; he's strong; his acting is effortless. He's a real pro. It's a great addition to the family."
Roswell will air Tuesdays on UPN starting in October. Enterprise will air Wednesdays on UPN after a September premiere.
|Alien Seekers Damage Neolithic Mound |
Wiltshire, UK August 28, 2001 (BBC) - Trespassing UFO hunters have climbed into Silbury Hill in Wiltshire, damaging the biggest man-made Neolithic mound in Europe. English Heritage closed the 4,000-year-old mound to the public after an 18th Century mining shaft opened up in the summit in May last year.
The alien hunters broke into the site under cover of darkness soon after the hole was discovered. Evidence of the trespass has only come to light now, after a video of the foray was included in a documentary film. After tunneling under the temporary roof installed by English Heritage, two climbers abseiled into the shaft, while a third videoed the stunt. They repeated the climb on a rainy winter night six months later.
Archaeologist Mike Pitts says the climbers dislodged the soft clay sides of the unstable shaft, possibly damaging vital archaeological clues.
"They were extremely lucky to come out again alive. Between their two visits there was a major collapse, which they joked about in the video of their December visit."
Footage of the illicit descent has since been incorporated into a video by Dutch documentary makers Janet Ossebaard and Bert Janssen, who have attempted to sell it on the tourist circuit in nearby Avebury. Mr. Pitts says that not only have shopkeepers refused to stock the video, the crop circle enthusiasts who flock to Wiltshire every summer have almost universally condemned the stunt.
English Heritage itself has come under fire for not doing enough to protect the site.
"This video depicts the criminal trespass of an ancient monument. So how these people can imagine that they can sell it without being criticised is impossible to believe," says Mr. Pitts.
Secrets of the mound
As repairs to the hill get under way, English Heritage is carrying out a seismic study to create a 3D computer image of what lies inside. It is the latest attempt to unlock the secrets of the hill, which forms part of the ancient landscape surrounding Avebury stone circle and nearby Stonehenge. Theories abound as to why it was built. Many believe it was a sacred monument, while others think it may have been a Stone Age waste tip. But the trespassers - thought to be local crop circle enthusiasts - apparently believe that Silbury Hill is a power station for passing alien craft.
It is a view shared by the Dutch documentary makers, who posted an account of the stunt - and assorted UFO sightings near Silbury Hill - on their website.
Included is a photo of a burn mark on a mobile phone carried by one of the climbers, apparently caused by intense heat on his climb up the mound - evidence, they infer, of the power emanating from the hill.
Mr. Pitts is skeptical: "I suggest that they may have jumped on the phone while clambering about in the dark."
|Immigrants Try To Reach Britain Through Channel Tunnel |
|PARIS August 30, 2001 (AP) - Roughly 40 illegal immigrants were brought in for questioning Thursday after breaking into the Channel Tunnel and trying to cross from France to Britain by foot, tunnel officials said. |
The immigrants forced their way in through a fence. Once they reached the entry of the tunnel under the English Channel, an alarm system alerted authorities, Eurotunnel spokesman Francois Borel said.
Train traffic in the tunnel was shut down for three hours after midnight following the discovery.
Hundreds of illegal aliens, drawn to Britain's generous immigration laws, try to jump on Britain-bound freight trains every night.
Eurotunnel, the British-French company that runs the tunnel, has spent more than $4 million to boost security to prevent people from trying to cross the tunnel.
The company also has gone to court to ask authorities to shut down a Red Cross refugee center in Sangatte, near the French tunnel entrance, which serves as a jumping-off point for people trying to get into Britain. The 40 immigrants who were taken in for questioning had been staying there.
|Mars Express Will Seek Water On Mars |
August 28, 2001 (ESA) - Geologists poring over the latest images from Mars keep on turning up new and tantalizing evidence that water once flowed freely on the planet's surface - and may still flow from time to time. If their interpretation is right, underground aquifers or ice layers should be commonplace on the planet. Yet no spacecraft flown so far has been capable of identifying them.
All that should change in a few years, however, with the first European missions to the Red Planet. The European Space Agency's Mars Express followed by the Netlanders, lead by the French space agency, CNES, will be the first missions capable of prospecting directly for underground water on Mars. A gamma-ray spectrometer on board NASA's Mars Odyssey, which arrives at the planet later this year, will look for the chemical signature of water on the surface of the planet, but will not be able to penetrate far underground.
The European missions were among the hot topics for discussion in Houston, Texas, earlier this month at a conference* to help determine future strategy in the search for water on Mars. "The consensus was that Europe is now at the forefront of the geophysical investigation of Mars," says Agustin Chicarro, project scientist for Mars Express.
Ground penetrating radar from orbit
Mars Express will carry a ground penetrating radar, called MARSIS, into polar orbit around Mars in 2003. Much like airborne radar that prospects for underground minerals on Earth, MARSIS will attempt to locate different layers, including layers of water and ice, in the top 5 km of Martian crust.
The Italian space agency, ASI, is proposing to fly a modified version of MARSIS, called SHARAD, on NASA's 2005 orbiter to look for water in the top few hundred metres of crust. The SHARAD proposal was made after images recently returned from NASA's Mars Global Surveyor suggested that water has flowed on Mars in the recent past and hence could be close to the surface in some regions.
In 2007, Europe will send four small Netlanders to different locations on the Martian surface from where they will probe the planet's interior. In much the same way that geologists on Earth use seismic methods to locate oil or mineral deposits, they will be the first craft ever to sound the Martian interior seismically. Much should be revealed about the structure and composition of Mars' interior, including the location of buried water and ice. "If you put a seismometer on the surface of Mars, you can determine whether the planet is wet or dry. If it rings like a bell, then it's dry like the Moon," says Chicarro.
Mars Express and the Netlanders represent the first steps in the geophysical exploration of Mars. The conference participants discussed what should happen next, in particular in 2009 when NASA may send a major geophysical mission to the planet. The first aim of any future strategy, the conference agreed, should be to determine the global distribution of possible underground water sources, followed by a more precise determination of local sources and finally the selection of specific sites for drilling.
The shape of the 2009 mission will depend on how far Mars Express, the Netlanders and NASA's 2001, 2003 and 2005 missions have gone along the way. Will they have produced a good enough map of the global distribution of underground water to move to step two? May they even have done enough groundwork to move straight to step three, drilling? The trouble is that NASA cannot afford to wait for the answers to these questions. Plans for the 2009 mission need to be agreed soon.
One idea discussed at the conference is to supplement the Netlanders with up to 20 more small landers to provide detailed information local to widely dispersed sites. Each lander could carry instruments capable of mapping underground structures to a depth of a few tens of metres. The conference delegates discussed the relative merits of two techniques for doing this, electromagnetic sounding and ground penetrating radar. Both techniques are widely used on Earth and ground-penetrating radar will be used on the Netlanders. "These techniques provide better accuracy than radar from orbit or seismic sounding because they are done on a smaller scale," explains Chicarro. Electromagnetic sounding could also be carried out from balloons flying in the Martian atmosphere and ground-penetrating radar from rovers.
The culmination of the exploration effort will be to send a lander capable of drilling deep into the Martian crust to determine whether it really is water down there. Some conference delegates were keen to see this achieved in 2009 and one major oil drilling company has reportedly already begun work to develop a suitable drill.
Water or carbon dioxide?
Nick Hoffman from La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia, however, warned that a drill could release something other than water - liquid carbon dioxide (CO2). The conference heard that many of the remote sensing detection methods discussed would be hard pressed to distinguish between water, water-ice and liquid or solid carbon dioxide, but choosing methods capable of such a distinction is important because leaving it until the drilling phase could be hazardous. "Drilling into an overpressured liquifer will lead to a potential blow-out of gaseous CO2 which may cause severe damage to the drilling equipment and endanger any nearby facilities and personnel," warns Hoffman.
Many of the features in the Martian landscape attributed to water, including the outburst flow channels, could have been caused by the outpouring of liquid carbon dioxide or a mixture of carbon dioxide and water, thinks Hoffman. If this is the case, then the problem of explaining how Mars' climate changed from warm and wet to cold and dry is eliminated: the planet need never have been warm and wet. "People were listening to these ideas seriously. We won't know whether they're right or not until future missions have given us more information. But we need to bear them in mind when interpreting our data," says Chicarro.