Millennium Ends!
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Glasses Stolen From Lennon Statue in Cuba
HAVANA December 23, 2000 (Reuters) - All we are saying ... is give me my glasses back!

Former Beatle John Lennon's view of the revolution in Cuba has lost some of its focus after a thief stole the spectacles from a life-size bronze statue of the British singer recently unveiled in Havana by President Fidel Castro. The Communist Youth newspaper Juventud Rebelde reported on Saturday that the theft apparently took place last Thursday when the guard whose job it was to protect the monument in a Havana park left during a rain shower.

"Some fanatic or thief took the glasses, for some unknown reason," the newspaper said.

It quoted the Cuban sculptor who made the bronze statue, Jose Villar, as saying he would replace the stolen glasses with another pair, this time attaching them more firmly to the rest. The Havana monument, which was unveiled by Castro Dec. 8 on the 20th anniversary of the ex-Beatle's murder in New York, shows a contemplative Lennon seated on a park bench.

Castro and other Cuban officials hailed the singer-songwriter as a man of progressive "anti-imperialist" ideas whose rise to fame with the Beatles coincided with the flourishing of socialism in Cuba after the 1959 Revolution. They singled out his defense of racial equality and workers' and women's rights and his pacifist campaign in the United States against the Vietnam War, expressed in the song "Give Peace a Chance."

Cuban authorities now plan to step up security around the Lennon statue and their message to the public is: Let it be!

Sanctuary At Last For Research Chimps
Law sets up plan to shelter animals used in medical studies

WASHINGTON December 21, 2000 (AP) — A new law requires the federal government to set up lifetime sanctuaries for retired research chimpanzees.

THE MEASURE, which President Bill Clinton signed into law Wednesday, calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to contract with a nonprofit organization to “ensure a secure retirement” for chimps that have been used for medical research, and “meet their lifetime needs for shelter and care.”

While signing the bill, Clinton expressed concern there will be no federal oversight of the sanctuary system, even though the government retains responsibly for the welfare of the chimps. He said it puts severe restraints on the use of a chimpanzee for further research once the animal is accepted into the sanctuary system.

“This is a common-sense solution to a problem for which the federal government bears responsibility,” said Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of Human Society of the United States. “These chimps have suffered enough, and it’s time they are placed in suitable housing to live out their lives in some comfort and security.”


There are about 1,000 such chimpanzees in six federal biomedical research institutions across the country. The government overbred chimpanzees at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. Chimpanzees, which can live up to 60 years, cannot be returned to the wild after medical research because most of them carry diseases such as hepatitis and HIV. They also face death from wild chimpanzees that feel their territory has been violated. It’s expected to cost $8 to $15 a day to care for a chimpanzee in a sanctuary, compared with the $20 to $30 a day now being spent to house the animals in laboratory cages, according to the Humane Society.

Last May, scientist Jane Goodall, who has been studying primates in Tanzania since the 1960s, asked during a congressional hearing on the bill:

“If we choose to ignore their emotions, intelligence and culture, shouldn’t we at least give them a chance to live in peace after giving their lives in the quest for human health?”

Man Rises From The Dead!
Electrocuted Kazakh man shocks by rising from dead

Eastern Kazakhstan, December 6, 2000 (Reuters) - A Kazakh man who was electrocuted and buried shocked his friends and family by turning up for his own funeral feast.

The man was wrapped in a cloth shroud according to Muslim tradition and buried in a shallow grave after apparently dying while trying to steal power cables in eastern Kazakhstan, local media reported on Wednesday.

But two days later he regained consciousness and rose naked from the ground, Express K daily said.

The paper said he had difficulty flagging down a vehicle to take him home.
Irish Court Clears 'Killer' After 48 Years
By Christopher Walker
Chief Ireland Correspondent

Northern Ireland, December 21, 2000 (The Times) - A Pensioner was yesterday cleared of the murder of a judge’s daughter almost 50 years ago.

The hour-long judgment, read to the Northern Ireland Court of Appeal by Chief Justice Sir Robert Carswell, ended one of the longest running miscarriages of justice in the world. Iain Hay Gordon, 68, said that he was “vindicated” and able to re-start what was left of his life as “an ordinary man”.

He was an RAF national serviceman when Patricia, the 19-year-old student daughter of Lancelot Curran, an Ulster High Court judge and pillar of the Unionist establishment, was found murdered in the grounds of the family home north of Belfast on November 12, 1952. She had been stabbed 37 times in a killing which shocked the Province.

In what is widely seen as an establishment cover-up, Mr. Gordon was found guilty but insane. He spent more than seven years in Holywell mental hospital in Antrim before being freed and returned to Glasgow under the condition that he lived under a false name and never spoke of the crime. Back in his native Scotland, he lived alone in a small top-floor flat, using all his energies in a fight to clear his name. He worked for 33 years as a stockroom assistant for the publishers, WH Collins. His parents bankrupted themselves to clear his name, hiring private detectives and lawyers.

During the original investigation into the crime, headed by the Scotland Yard Detective Chief Superintendent John Capstick, who was on “loan” to the RUC, the police showed remarkable deference to the judge and his family.

The likelihood was that Miss Curran, known to have had a colourful love life and to have fallen out with members of the family, was killed in the house rather than outside, where her body was found. Mr. Gordon’s conviction rested on a confession extracted under duress.

Chelsea Clinton Portrayed in Movie
CHAPPAQUA, New York December 20, 2000 (AP) -- Chelsea Clinton slips out of her house past some bumbling Secret Service agents, hops onto a motorcycle behind a handsome young man and zips into town for a heart-to-heart talk.

The couple is spotted by a gossip-mongering TV reporter, but it turns out no romance is blooming.

And oh, yeah, it's only a movie.

The president's daughter is the heroine of "Chelsea's Chappaqua,'' a low-budget digital video by actor and amateur screenwriter Jack Nasi, 28, of Manhattan. It's the fictional story of Nicky Casso, who is obsessed with finding "a rich chick from Chappaqua.'' He forsakes his true love and endeavors to get a date with Chelsea -- "the ideal woman.''

Chelsea, played by Stephanie Rein, turns out to be a good deal more mature than Nicky. She talks some sense into him, he goes back to his hairdresser girlfriend and even gets his divorced parents back together.

"Chelsea is the savior,'' Nasi said. "She is the catalyst of change in this movie.''

Nasi, who plays Nicky, said the movie was born the moment he heard last year that the Clintons were moving to Chappaqua.

"The house they bought is literally down the street from where my cousin grew up ... I was always over there playing, riding bicycles. So I decided there was no way the president was going to move in without me writing something about it.''

Janet Langsam, executive director of the Westchester Arts Council, said she knew of no other locally generated artworks inspired by the first family's move to Chappaqua.

After the Clintons settled on the $1.7 million colonial on Old House Lane -- but before they closed on it and the Secret Service took over -- Nasi strolled onto the grounds and sneaked the house into a few exterior scenes, using colleagues from his Manhattan actors' troupe, Expanded Arts, and a cinematographer he's known since first grade.

"I didn't even have a script written yet,'' Nasi said. "All I knew was it would be a romantic comedy involving Chelsea Clinton. So I figured, let me do the guy throwing rocks at the window -- `Chelsea, come on down' -- and I'd have the guy being chased by Secret Service agents.''

Rein, 23, who has wavy hair and a big smile, got the non-paying title role -- "my first real movie'' -- by answering Nasi's ad in Back Stage looking for an actress resembling Chelsea Clinton.

"I never really thought that I looked like her, but my hair sort of does,'' she said. Rein said she's never met Clinton or heard her speak, "so that kind of made it easier on me. I could be freer.''

President Clinton is not portrayed in the movie. A campaigning Hillary Rodham Clinton is portrayed digging into a half-gallon of ice cream while ordering a Secret Service agent to massage her feet.

"That's just for fun,'' Nasi said. "It's really a pro-Clinton movie.''

Nasi said he understands the Clintons' desire to keep Chelsea's life private and did not see his movie as an intrusion. Apart from some profanity -- none from Chelsea -- "Chelsea's Chappaqua'' is wholesome.

A spokeswoman for Hillary Clinton, Erica Batcheller, declined comment on the film. "Typically we don't comment on Chelsea or comment on her behalf.''

Nasi, whose paying job is for an executive search firm, said he spent $10,000 on the movie. Not surprisingly, it has an unpolished look, with some choppy editing and iffy performances in the lesser roles. At one point the cameraman is apparently distracted by some wild turkeys on the side of a road.

"Chelsea's Chappaqua'' has been screened once, for friends, family and cast. Nasi has submitted it for next year's Westchester County Film Festival, as well as Sundance and other festivals.

He said Rein's slight resemblance to Chelsea, the Stanford sweatshirt she wore, the borrowed limo and the fake Secret Service agents were enough to fool some villagers in Chappaqua as the movie was being shot.

"People would come up to us, asking, `Is the president here? Is that Chelsea? What's going on?''' Nasi said. "It was a real Chappaqua scene.''


On the Net:

Study Reinforces Evolution Theory
By Jeff Donn
Associated Press Writer

December 6, 2000 (AP) - A study comparing the DNA of people around the world has yielded what could be the best evidence yet that modern man first evolved in Africa and scattered to populate the planet as recently as 50,000 years ago.

Such a view suggests that the first Homo sapiens held such dramatic evolutionary advantages — perhaps stronger powers of reasoning — that they replaced other early humans with virtually no interbreeding.

This is not the first time DNA technology has been applied to the question of when and where modern humans emerged. But the researchers said they analyzed the longest strand of DNA ever examined for a human lineage study.

They said their findings strongly favor the "out-of-Africa'' theory of modern human origin. Advocates of the rival multiregional theory say modern humans evolved simultaneously in Africa, Europe and Asia from multiple early humans, maybe including Neanderthals and Homo erectus who left Africa in a much earlier wave.

"I think people are going to stop testing those two theories and say, `Let's look at the details of the out-of-Africa hypothesis,''' said evolutionary biologist Blair Hedges at Pennsylvania State University, who did not take part in the study. "I think people are not going to be too much concerned with the multiregional.''

Others, though, said the latest findings could allow for a theory that merges both models: a core of modern humans from Africa later mating in limited numbers with other early humans in distant places.

The study, published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature, was carried out by Swedish and German researchers. They analyzed the genetic material inside little structures known as mitochondria within the cells of 53 people of various modern nationalities, ethnic groups and races.

Earlier researchers studied only 7 percent of the mitochondrial DNA. Taking advantage of techniques worked out in the Human Genome Project, the project to decipher the human genetic blueprint, the Swedish-German team looked at the entire length of mitochondrial DNA, or about 16,500 chemical base pairs.

The researchers determined how heavily mutations scrambled the DNA across the generations. They found that Africans are about twice as diverse in their genetic makeup — and thus older — than other groups.

The scientists used a chimpanzee's DNA to establish a theoretical rate of change from mutations. They then calculated that a common ancestor of chimps and humans might have lived about 5 million years ago. And a common ancestor of all modern humans might have lived about 170,000 years ago somewhere in Africa.

With their calculations, they estimate that modern humans left their African homeland relatively recently, perhaps 50,000 years ago. Other out-of-Africa theorists have put the exodus at around 100,000 years ago.

The Swedish-German team also found that about 38,000 years ago, the population of modern humans began exploding. The out-of-Africa theorists say the modern humans were replacing early human competitors with little or no interbreeding, presumably by dint of better powers of survival.

"There was probably a fairly small group that migrated out of Africa and that population probably spread in several directions and grew pretty quickly,'' said geneticist Ulf Gyllensten, the study's chief researcher at the University of Uppsala, in Sweden.

Hedges said in an accompanying commentary that the initial wave may have numbered only several thousand.

However, University of Michigan anthropologist Milford Wolpoff, a multiregional theorist, said mitochondrial DNA more poorly reflects the distant past than some DNA within the nucleus of a cell. He said late Neanderthal fossils suggest that they were evolving toward modern humans in some ways, developing chins and losing their low, sloping foreheads.

Paleontologist Fred H. Smith at Northern Illinois University argued for an "assimilation'' model with elements of both theories.


On the Net:

In Maya Ruins, Scholars See Evidence of Urban Sprawl
By John Noble Wilford

December 19, 2000 (New York Times) - Long before there were places like Scarsdale and Scottsdale, Paoli and Palo Alto, the ancient Maya of Central America appear to have had cities with their own version of suburbia. Archaeologists have uncovered what they say is a prime example of Maya suburbs in the ruins of Caracol in Belize.

Excavations by Dr. Diane Z. Chase and Dr. Arlen F. Chase, archaeologists at the University of Central Florida in Orlando, have revealed that beyond the grand palaces at the core of Caracol, one of the largest Maya cities, lay crowded settlements of workshops and modest dwellings of poor construction. They likened this to the poor neighborhoods and industrial zones that surround the centers of modern cities.

The surprise came when the archaeologists investigated the land immediately beyond this and found evidence of Caracol's wider urban sprawl.

Suburbs of more substantial houses were set among terraced fields and reservoirs. Here and there stood markets and government buildings around open plazas, which the archaeologists contended were not unlike today's strip malls.

"Both the `malling' and `suburbanization' of modern society appears to be reflected within the Caracol data," the Chases reported recently at a conference of anthropologists in Spain. "The similarities in growth patterns between ancient Maya and contemporary urban forms are striking and suggest that similar societal stimuli may have been operating in the past."

The Chases, a husband-and-wife team, have spent 16 years studying the Caracol site. They had earlier challenged the conventional wisdom that the Maya had an invariably simple social structure divided sharply between the rulers and nobles on top and the multitude of poor working peasants.

In the tombs and other ruins of Caracol, they found evidence of a growing middle class in Maya cities.

The findings dispute another commonly held idea, which is that the Maya organized their cities so that the richest lived at the core and the poorest on the outside. This traditional model stemmed from the 16th century ethnohistory written by Diego de Landa, a Spanish bishop.

Like other Maya specialists, Dr. Joyce Marcus of the University of Michigan said the research on the dispersed settlement patterns of Caracol was "highly interesting and important" and represented an overdue extension of Maya urban studies beyond the elite city centers.

"For the first 100 years of Maya archaeology, we concentrated on the downtowns," Dr. Marcus said. "We are just beginning to explore the peripheries, and it's a new frontier, literally."

Dr. Arthur Demarest, a Maya archaeologist at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, said that he tended to agree with the Chases' thesis.

"Caracol's dispersed parts do appear to be more economically integrated than those in most Maya centers," he said.

Archaeological evidence shows that people lived at the Caracol site from about 600 B.C. through A.D. 1050, a period that included the Maya civilization's ascendancy. The city reached the peak of its power in the southern lowlands between A.D. 560 and 680, when its population may have grown to as much as 140,000. Only Tikal in Guatemala and Calakmul in southern Mexico rivaled Caracol's size in this period.

From ground surveys and satellite photography, archaeologists mapped a system of roads over causeways radiating from the city's center like the spokes of a wheel. These were the ties, the Chases argued, that bound the outlying settlements into an integrated urban whole.

These roads were raised above the generally low-lying terrain to guarantee travel in the rainy season. They were for travel by foot, there being no horses or other beasts of burden in pre-Columbian America. Some of the roads ended at plazas about a mile and a half from the center, out in the nearest zone of suburbia. Branch causeways led from the plazas to high-status residential settlements.

A few of the main roads extended beyond to another distinct band of suburbs, between three and five miles out. Here the Chases found several clusters of nonresidential buildings — the strip malls of antiquity. In at least two cases, they said, the roads seemed to end at plazas centered around pre-existing settlements, perhaps early examples of urban sprawl engulfing once independent communities.

Dr. Diane Chase saw in this pattern an ancient corollary to the modern phenomenon described by Joel Garreau, an urban theorist, in his 1991 book, "Edge City."

Edge cities are suburban communities where people not only live in the shadow of a larger city but also have developed additional means of creating wealth outside the direct influence of the central city. These places build their own retail, corporate and administrative infrastructure, becoming smaller epicenters within a larger megalopolis.

Such a suburban pattern came into focus about three decades ago with the first new clusters of high-tech commerce and residential complexes along Route 128 in the Boston environs.

"Data on the layout of Caracol and on the growth of the city suggest an unplanned development similar to that of contemporary urban edge cities, but with a scale more appropriate to foot travel rather than to wheeled carriage or automobile travel," the Chases concluded in their report.

Other Maya specialists, asked to comment on the suburbs thesis, said the most critical issue concerned just how closely integrated the fringe settlements were into the economic life of the city center. If their economic ties were strong, this may indeed have been an example of suburbia in a more or less modern sense. Otherwise, these were simply neighboring but probably independent communities.

"The Chases see Caracol integrated by the system of causeways, and that probably justified their thinking of it in terms of suburbs," Dr. Demarest said.

In the past, archaeologists have mapped causeways leading out from the heart of several Maya cities. They have usually been interpreted as roads for regal processions leading from the central palaces and temples to outlying ritual centers.

"I tend to agree with the Chases," Dr. Demarest said, "that the causeway system at Caracol is extensive, more than if it was just for ritual purposes, and so was probably a multifunctional road system with what might be called economic traffic."

The social status of people living in different parts of the city was inferred from the size of residential buildings, the quality of stonework, the distribution of prized objects like jade and mirrors and the bones of those buried there.

An analysis of their bones provided clues to the diets of the people. Dr. Christine White and Dr. Fred Longstaffe of Western Ontario University, in London, Canada, found that people ate best in the palaces at the city center and ate worst in the settlements just beyond the core, the Maya equivalent of the slums of modern cities. Then the diets improved in the suburbs, where increased physical space between families may also have led to healthier living.

How typical Caracol's suburbia was of other Maya cities remains beyond current knowledge.

Dr. Marcus, who has excavated at Calakmul and specializes in Mesoamerican urban settlement patterns, said that archaeologists lacked sufficient mapping and other data from other sites to judge whether the apparent suburbs at Caracol are typical or rare in the Maya civilization.

Typical or not, Dr. Arlen Chase said, the suburbs at Caracol appear to have been more durable than the city center.

Excavations this year uncovered evidence that Caracol was in the midst of a new building boom when it collapsed suddenly in 895, probably the result of an invasion. The society's elite abandoned the city center, but life continued in the suburbs.

Copyright 2000 The New York Times Company

Robot Wars Begin: Sony Reveals Humanoid Robot
New machine capable of kickin’ AIBO the dog

TOKYO November 21, 2000
(REUTERS) — Sony Corp, the Japanese consumer electronics giant, has developed a human-like robot capable of walking — or kicking — its popular AIBO robot dog.

SONY SAID that the man-like robot, code-named SDR-3X, has 24 joints, enabling it to perform basic movements such as walking, changing direction, getting up, balancing on one leg, dancing or kicking. The robot is 19.7 inches tall and weighs 11 pounds. Movement can be verbally controlled through two microphones in its ear, and the robot can recognize about 20 pre-recorded words, the Tokyo-based electronics giant said. The robot can also distinguish specific colors via a CCD (charge-coupled device) camera mounted in its head.

Responding to commands, it can pick out a specifically colored ball and kick it toward a goal net, Sony said.

Presumably it can do the same thing with the company’s AIBO robot dog, a second-generation model of which Sony began selling last week for 150,000 yen ($1,366), down from 250,000 yen for the original version.

Sony has not decided yet when it will begin selling the humanoid robot, or for how much, a company spokeswoman said. The SDR-3X will be displayed at ROBODEX 2000, the world’s first exhibition of “Robots as Partner” from November 24-26 in Yokohama, Japan.

On Monday, Honda Motor Co Ltd, Japan’s second-largest carmaker, unveiled a more sophisticated humanoid robot which stands 120 cm tall and weighs 43 kg.

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