NTS LogoSkeptical News for 20 March 2003

Archive of previous NTS Skeptical News listings


Thursday, March 20, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

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In the News

Today's Headlines - March 19, 2003

HONG KONG SUGGESTED AS ORIGIN OF OUTBREAK
from The Washington Post

New diseases have emerged periodically throughout human history, but the one the world is struggling to contain and explain today has aroused intense concern largely because it is the first often life-threatening illness to surface in nearly two decades that spreads directly from one person to another.

The ailment, severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, has stricken at least 264 people outside China, killing at least 14. Other new, sometimes deadly respiratory diseases that have erupted around the world in the past decade were transmitted from animals to people and subdued by killing or segregating the animal carriers. The most recent new disease in the United States, the West Nile virus, is spread by mosquitoes.

"Anytime something is transmissible person to person, it bears very careful watching," said Stephen S. Morse of Columbia University in New York.

Raising fears that the disease may spread more easily than has been thought, health officials in Hong Kong reported yesterday that the outbreak there may have begun when one guest in a hotel infected six other people on his floor.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A55928-2003Mar19.html

MYSTERIOUS ILLNESS EYED IN U.S.
from Newsday

The mysterious respiratory disease that has prompted a global health alert may have sickened 11 Americans, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported yesterday. In Hong Kong, the illness appears to have spread among seven strangers who stayed on the same floor of a hotel, heightening concerns that it may be spread by more casual contact than suspected.

Termed Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, the illness has spread to 13 countries, afflicting 264 people outside of China and possibly another 307 Chinese. At least 14 people worldwide have died of the ailment in recent weeks, the World Health Organization said.

Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said yesterday the 11 cases in the United States have been reported to the WHO. Since Monday, the CDC has tracked 40 suspicious cases and defined 11 as SARS due to high fevers, trouble breathing and travel within the last seven days from Vietnam, Hong Kong, Singapore or China.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsmyst203181635mar20,0,6960530.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

U.S. REAPS NEW DATA ON WEAPONS
from The Washington Post

The U.S. government has obtained potentially valuable new information on Iraq's biological and chemical weapons programs in recent days from scientists and intelligence agents confronted outside Iraq with threats that failure to cooperate could mean unpleasant consequences when Baghdad falls, according to two U.S. officials with direct knowledge of the effort.

In a top-secret adjunct to an openly reported diplomatic initiative, U.S. and allied intelligence services summoned scores of Iraqi operatives in foreign capitals to present a stark choice. They were told "they could either 'turn,' " said one official, using an expression for switching sides, or be expelled back to Iraq "to enjoy your very short stay in Baghdad."

Another official with access to written accounts of the conversations said the Iraqis were told that when the United States sorts friends and enemies after toppling President Saddam Hussein, "they'll be putting themselves and their families at the mercy of the new Iraqi government."

The State Department announced on March 6 that it had asked 60 friendly governments to expel alleged Iraqi intelligence operatives who lived abroad under diplomatic or commercial cover. Spokesman Philip Reeker portrayed the request as routine. But behind the announcement was Operation Imminent Horizon, in which Iraqis were pressured to provide information about the weapons programs and Iraqi operational plans. Among the nations that helped with the expulsions and recruiting efforts were Romania, Hungary, Australia and Sweden, officials said.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57066-2003Mar19.html

ENVIRONMENTAL DAMAGES A CONCERN
from The Washington Post

Environmental experts warned this week that war in Iraq will cause "massive and possibly irreversible" damage to the Persian Gulf region and significantly add to global warming. The environmental leaders said the ensuing damage to Iraq's ecosystem and food and water supplies may eclipse the destruction during the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

"I think it will be comprehensive damage, and I don't think it will be localized to the area of Iraq, regardless of how precise and surgical our bombing campaign will be," said Ross Mirkarimi, a San Francisco-based environmental analyst who made two trips to Iraq shortly after U.S.-led forces drove the Iraqis from Kuwait. "The pollution will travel in areas that will compound the damage that still remains from the 1991 military campaign."

During the Gulf War, retreating Iraqi forces set fire to more than 600 Kuwaiti oil wells, creating toxic smoke that choked the atmosphere and blocked the sun. The Iraqis dumped 4 million barrels of crude oil into the Persian Gulf, tarring beaches, killing more than 25,000 birds and driving millions more away, according to data compiled by the World Resources Institute and other organizations that monitor the environment. Spills of 60 million barrels of oil in the desert formed huge oil lakes and percolated into aquifers.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A57503-2003Mar19.html

CDC CITES INCREASED PREPARATION FOR BIOTERROR ATTACKS
from Scripps Howard News Service

America is better prepared to fight a two-front war against natural infection and possible bioterrorism than it was in 2001, but there are still concerns among some experts that resources might not be sufficient.

"We have never been more prepared," said Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Julie Gerberding in Atlanta on Wednesday, where emergency response teams are on call to respond to bioterrorism even as others investigate a global outbreak of a sometimes deadly respiratory illness.

In the wake of the 2001 anthrax attacks, federal, state and local public health authorities have spent millions of dollars upgrading disease surveillance systems, communications, detection and decontamination equipment, although many local emergency teams still feel their equipment and training is inadequate.

"Are we prepared for anything they can throw at us? No. There's no way to prepare in this short a time frame for every eventuality," Arizona Health Services epidemiologist Dr. Robert England said.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/816905p-5785697c.html

SENATE HEARING ON CLONING EXAMINES WHEN LIFE BEGINS
from UPI

Members of a Senate committee Wednesday grappled with the question of when life begins, a concept that will play a key role in the coming debate over whether to allow therapeutic cloning research to proceed.

Although the House recently voted to ban both reproductive and therapeutic cloning, senators have yet to take up the issue on the floor and their vote could be decisive because President Bush has said he will sign a total cloning ban into law if Congress passes it.

Scientists think therapeutic cloning has the potential to lead to treatments and fundamental insights into the cause of disease. But the technology is controversial because it requires the destruction of an embryo - a ball of cells so tiny it could fit on the head of a pin - which some pro-life groups consider to be a human being.

Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, convened the hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to "get everybody's views out in the open" on the subject of human cloning vs. a technique called therapeutic cloning or somatic cell nuclear transplant, said a spokesman for the senator. In SCNT, a complete set of human chromosomes is transferred to a woman's egg emptied of its genetic content.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/817019p-5786129c.html

PIONEER IN ENVIRONMENTAL ETHICS WINS RELIGION PRIZE WORTH MORE THAN $1 MILLION
from The Associated Press

NEW YORK (AP) -- A pioneer in environmental ethics who says humanity has treated nature "disgracefully" was named Wednesday as this year's recipient of a religion prize that is billed as the world's richest annual award.

The Rev. Holmes Rolston III was awarded the Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities, a redefined version of the more general Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion that was presented through 2001. The prize is 725,000 British pounds, roughly $1.2 million.

Rolston said at a news conference that he would use all the prize money to endow a chair in religion and science at his alma mater, Davidson College in North Carolina.

"I've spent my life in a lover's quarrel, not with my wife of four decades but with the two disciplines I love: science and religion," Rolston said. "I had to fight -- or maybe better, challenge -- both theology and science to love nature."

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/03/19/national1101EST0555.DTL

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

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http://www.americanscientist.org

For feedback on In the News,
inthenews@sigmaxi.org

Von Daniken's Mystery Park

http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,915242,00.html

'Prophet' opens theme park for our alien heritage

Robin McKie, science editor
Sunday March 16, 2003
The Observer

He has written books that have sold more than 56 million copies, served three years in jail for tax evasion, and spent the past 30 years trying to convince the world that most of our famous ancient structures were built by creatures from another world.

But now Erich von Daniken, author of Chariot of the Gods and more than two dozen 'true-life' accounts of alien visitation, is set to join the ranks of the world's media elite: he is about to open his own theme park.

In a few weeks, on a massive site outside Interlaken in Switzerland, Von Daniken's Mystery Park - containing recreations of major 'extra-terrestrial works' that include Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mayan temples, and others - will open to visitors at a cost of £22 a head.

Backed by major companies such as Swatch and Coca-Cola, the park and its domes, temples and pyramids - set bizarrely in the midst of plush Alpine scenery - is intended to attract more than half a million tourists a year. 'We will show the greatest mysteries in the world, but we will give no answers,' says Von Daniken.

Given that most scientists and archaeologists believe they have provided perfectly adequate answers about the human origins of these great works, such emphasis on mystifying them is likely to go down badly in academic circles, particularly those starved of the kind of cash that has been lavished on the park by backers including Sony, TV companies and local brewers. Daniken will not say how much the Mystery Park will cost to complete.

One typical prehistoric wonder to get the Von Daniken treatment is the Nasca Lines, made up of giant figures and symbols etched between 200BC and AD600 in the Nasca desert in Peru. They look like odd furrows scraped in the soil when viewed from the ground. Seen from the air, they turn into as a wonderful assembly of monkeys, spiders, whales and rectangles. Archaeologists interpret these as symbolic offerings to local gods.

But Von Daniken sees them differently. He claims the Nasca Lines are the remains of an ancient spaceport, turned into a temple after the aliens departed. And soon visitors to his park will be able to share the supposedly extra-terrestrial experiences of the Nasca people. Other attractions will include a giant Imax screen, 3-D films, and 360-degree 'all-round' cinemas - all geared to show our history is not human but created for us by beneficent aliens, who bred with our apemen ancestors to produce modern men and women.

Britain's own Stonehenge is thus reproduced as the suggested handiwork of generous extraterrestrials.

Scientists have heaped contempt on the Swiss author and repudiated virtually every claim he has made. Historian Brian Fagan described Von Daniken's book Arrival of the Gods as 'a grotesque parody' of scientific inquiry devoid of intellectual credibility or literary merit. 'This is not science; Erich von Daniken has raised his astronaut theories to the status of a cult, with himself as the Great Prophet.'

It remains to be seen how many will flock to the prophet's theme park

Court: Students Can Hand Out Prayer Candy

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (Reuters) - Students have free-speech rights to hand out candy canes that have prayers attached to them at school, a federal judge has ruled.

http://news.excite.com/odd/article/id/310569|oddlyenough|03-19-2003::08:25|reuters.html

Bubbles prompt climate-change rethink

http://www.nature.com/nsu/030310/030310-12.html

Argon traces hint that carbon dioxide did not lead life out of the freezer, but followed.
14 March 2003

TOM CLARKE

Carbon dioxide certainly warms our planet, but it might not turn on the heat, reveals a new analysis of ancient Antarctic ice.

"Our data suggest that the warming came first, then carbon dioxide increased," says Jean Jouzel of the Pierre-Simon Laplace Institute in Gif-sur-Yvette, France1. Something else — probably extraterrestrial — got the warming going, his team concludes.

Firm Says It Will Offer Proof of Cloned Babies

http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story2&cid=570&ncid=753&e=1&u=/nm/20030319/sc_nm/health_cloning_dc

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The head of a company that says it has produced the first cloned humans said on Wednesday it would show proof at a gathering of some of the parents in Brazil next week.

Clonaid, a company founded by the Raelian movement that believes mankind was created by extraterrestrials, announced in December that it had made the first cloned human, a baby girl called "Eve" born on Dec. 26 to an American mother.

Brigitte Boisselier, president of Clonaid, said three more cloned babies had been born since and some of the parents as well as other couples wanting to have cloned children would meet in Sao Paulo starting on Monday.

"Parents who want to be cloned, and those that have been cloned already, will be there. They want to start an organization -- Human Clone Rights," she told Reuters in Israel.

"Hopefully all the proof for the Japanese baby boy who was cloned two months ago will be shown there.

"The baby in Israel -- Eve -- is doing well. She is almost three months old now. The American parents are very happy and they might be in Brazil, but I cannot announce that yet."

Boisselier, a French-born chemist who is a Raelian, said the other two cloned babies were born in Saudi Arabia and the Netherlands.

Clonaid has produced no evidence for the allegedly cloned children so far. Scientists believe the assertions may be a hoax to make money or garner publicity for the Raelians.

The London-published Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat quoted Boisselier as saying Clonaid would offer evidence "to the whole world" in Sao Paulo next week.

"We will reveal with pictures and documents a Japanese baby girl and millions will see her parents," she told the newspaper.

`Pet Psychic' Likes Minding Animals

http://www.ctnow.com/entertainment/tv/hc-petpsychic.artmar19,0,6286140.story?coll=hc%2Dheadlines%2Dtv

March 19, 2003
By ROGER CATLIN, Courant TV Critic

Five minutes into a phone interview with Sonya Fitzpatrick, TV's "Pet Psychic" already was chatting up my cat and sharing a joke with her at my expense.

"She's quite a sweet cat, that one," Fitzpatrick says. "She's telling me that she has the whole run of the house."

"I'm getting a picture of a black-and-white cat. She's very proud of her color," she says. "I get images when I'm talking with her. She's very intelligent, Roger, very intelligent."

Probably more so than her owner, the unwitting conduit for this cross-species conversation.

"Who is it that is losing hair?" Fitzgerald inquires. I sheepishly tell her. "She's laughing about it. She's saying, `I hope I don't lose my hair like that.' I have to tell her it's OK for Dad to lose his hair like that."

Great. The receding hairline of the interviewer becomes the joke fodder for the pet psychic and the cat.

"That's the sort of thing I pick up," Fitzpatrick says, by way of explanation. "I'm transmitting like a radio, and I pick up the signals from over the phone. I used to do all my work over the phone. From Japan and Germany, I did tremendous amounts of work on the telephone. I still have clients all over the phone."

But mostly she is known for her in-person visits that make up her weekly show "The Pet Psychic," a hit since it began on the Animal Planet network nearly a year ago.

With her second book, "What the Animals Tell Me" (Berkley, $21.95), now in stores, Fitzpatrick is busy. "I have my own pet food coming out and two specials coming up. There are just so many things happening in my life right now," she says. "My life changed drastically since the television show."

On "The Pet Psychic," which is on Mondays at 8 p.m., she is dispatched to talk to depressed dogs, jittery cats, spooked horses and at least one "hawk with an identity problem."

"I've had some good ones," she says.

With the second season just completed, in Monday's upcoming episode, culled from the first season, "a pig is upset to lose his buddies; a camel holds a grudge against his trainer over some painful medical treatment; a female Kodiak bear can't choose a suitor; and the family walk becomes a battle of wills when Lucy the dog refuses to go outdoors," according to the program guide.

Fitzpatrick's favorite was a horse who wouldn't eat, she found, because its pony was taken away from her too soon.

Through the years, she's communicated with iguanas, alligators, monkeys and pigs. "I've had a lot of birds on the show," she says.

But she draws the line at bugs. "Bugs usually have mass consciousness," she says, "not individual consciousness."

Talking to animals was something she did from a very early age, growing up in England. "When I was a little girl, I thought everyone could do that," she says. "And I grew up with every animal you could think of - cows, horses, pigs, chickens, as well as my dogs and cats."

Her favorites were the geese. "I used to talk to them individually," she says.

So, when her father served one of them up for Christmas, it was so traumatic, Fitzpatrick stopped talking to animals altogether.

After a career in modeling, she moved to Houston to become a corporate consultant in etiquette. There, in 1994, she says, her psychic abilities returned.

Does she ever encounter skeptics? "Always, darling." She says. "I always think it's good to be skeptical. If people can't feel it or touch it, they don't believe it."

And through the years, she's learned, "Some animals communicate better than others."

But she's only met one who refused to communicate.

"It was a cat," she says. "It had a tremendous attitude."

Of course, it couldn't have been my black-and-white cat.

Showtime Scores with Penn & Teller Series

http://entertainment.yahoo.com/entnews/va/20030317/104789790500.html

Mon Mar 17, 2:45 AM ET

Comedy magic duo Penn & Teller are having a ball debunking various forms of con artistry in their weekly series for Showtime, and the first seven weeks of ratings show they may be communicating some of that fun to the network's subscribers.

The Penn & Teller show takes everything from TV psychics who claim they're channeling the dead to abductees who swear that aliens spirited them aboard spaceships.

The series is averaging more than 500,000 households each week, a cool 33 percent more than the pay cable channel averaged in that time period (Fridays at 11 p.m.) during the previous four months, when the slot featured the sci-fi series "Jeremiah" for a while and then movies.

Particularly pleasing to Showtime is that most of those viewers come from the network's target demographic of adults aged 25 to 54.

Mark Wolper, a co-executive producer of the series, said he's confident that Showtime will give him a second-season renewal for at least 13 more half-hours, which could happen before the formal deadline date of April 15.

Because it's a reality show with lots of documentary elements, like on-location interviews with experts, "Penn & Teller" is relatively cheap to produce. Wolper declined to reveal the production budget but said the show's biggest expense is probably its staff of lawyers who scour each script for remarks that might trigger lawsuits.

Four people have already sued the show, Wolper said, and the American Chiropractic Assn. has fired off letters to all of its members urging them to boycott the series. "Another big expense," he added, "is our insurance premiums."


Wednesday, March 19, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – March 19, 2003

TESTS SUGGEST VIRUS LINK
from The Washington Post

Scientists have found evidence of a virus in at least two patients stricken by the mysterious, sometimes deadly respiratory infection that has triggered a global health alert, officials said yesterday.

Laboratories in Germany and Hong Kong testing samples from victims found signs of a microbe known as a paramyxovirus, a family of viruses that can cause a spectrum of diseases in animals and humans, officials said.

Some paramyxoviruses can cause relatively mild respiratory illness. Others cause well-known ailments such as mumps and measles, and still others are responsible for exotic, deadly respiratory infections that emerged in Asia and Australia in the 1990s, officials said.

Although the discovery could be a major break in the hunt for the cause of the global outbreak, officials cautioned that the findings were preliminary and that the virus could have nothing to do with the disease, which is dubbed severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS).

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A49172-2003Mar18.html

MYSTERY ILLNESS PUTS SCIENTISTS TO THE TEST
A look at the scientific process of tracking down the mystery illness
from The Chicago Tribune

Investigators seeking the cause of a mysterious respiratory illness are using electron microscopes, genetic tests and traditional street-level epidemiology, in hopes of understanding a disease spreading from Asia to other countries.

The international detective effort is urgent, experts said, because it could help stop the spread of the emerging airborne disease--which has been traced to 10 deaths--before it can gain a foothold in the global population. It appears to be the kind of illness with the potential to become a global pandemic, experts said.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/chi-0303190174mar19,1,1581965.story

REPORT: WORLD NOT READY FOR EMERGING DISEASES
from Newsday

As a mysterious illness continues its spread around the world, the Institute of Medicine yesterday warned that more new diseases will inevitably emerge, and the United States and the world are unprepared for their impact.

The report called for, among other measures, a national vaccine development strategy, stockpiling vital drugs against a range of microbial diseases, and policies to control antibiotic misuse and rising drug resistance, as well as for an expanded system of international disease surveillance.

The outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, that prompted an unusual World Health Organization global alert has so far sickened 624 people worldwide, killing nine. The majority of the cases occurred in Guangdong, China, in an outbreak that began in November. Nine suspected cases are now under investigation in the United States, according to Dr. James Hughes, director of the National Center for Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsmyst193180054mar19,0,3613603.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

To view a brief of the Institute of Medicine report, "Microbial Threats to Health: Emergence, Detection, and Response," click here:

http://www.iom.edu/iom/iomhome.nsf/WFiles/MicrobialThreat8pgFINAL/$file/MicrobialThreat8pgFINAL.pdf

CONTRADICTORY CLUES IN COLUMBIA DEBRIS
from The New York Times

HOUSTON, March 18 — Engineers studying the wreckage of the Columbia are confronting a complex, almost capricious sequence of destruction in which jets of hot gases may have bounced off some interior components and onto others, shifted from place to place, melted some parts while not heating others nearby and carved new paths through the orbiter, investigators said today.

Testifying before the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the independent panel overseeing NASA's work, experts in the dynamics of heat described a deductive process of matching retrieved debris and sensor data radioed to the ground with a description of an initial hole in the shuttle, perhaps growing larger as time went by. But the data is contradictory.

For example, investigators have recently found debris indicating that hot gases came into the shuttle's left wheel well and escaped around the forward edges of the wheel well door. They have also found a latch that held the door shut, with a corner melted away.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/19/national/nationalspecial/19SHUT.html

SCIENTISTS SEE POTENTIAL IN ANCIENT BREWED DRINK
from The Los Angeles Times

When it comes to a societal tonic, Americans have long preferred coffee over tea. But although coffee may be good, it's increasingly hard to ignore the evidence that tea is good for you.

Long viewed simply as a reason to relax in the middle of a stressful day or as a folk remedy for colds and digestive problems, mounting research suggests that drinking tea could lower the risk of developing several serious illnesses, including heart disease, cancer and osteoporosis.

Almost 300 tea studies were completed last year alone.

Tea is as hot among consumers as it is among researchers. In the United States, sales rose to an estimated $5.03 billion in 2002 from $1.84 billion in 1990, according to the Tea Council of the USA, a trade organization.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/features/health/chi-0303190260mar19,1,2256807.story

GERON'S STOCK SOARS ON CANCER RESEARCH NEWS
from The Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- The stock price of struggling Geron Corp. skyrocketed after the company said its experimental cancer vaccine showed promise in fighting all types of the disease.

It was a shot in the arm for the money-losing biotechnology company, which has laid off much of its staff in the past year and its stock has recently languished below $2 a share.

Geron's stock soared $2.47 a share, more than doubling to close at $4.20 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. Nearly 18 million Geron shares traded hands Tuesday -- up from about 113,000 shares on an average trading day.

Though investors cheered Geron's cancer research, which was published in the current issue of the scientific journal Cancer Gene Therapy, wary analysts pointed out that the vaccine involved laboratory experiments and is several years from regulatory approval.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/03/19/financial0321EST0012.DTL

Please follow these links for more information about Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Society:

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http://www.americanscientist.org

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inthenews@sigmaxi.org

'Talking fish' stuns New York

A fish heading for slaughter in a New York market shouted warnings about the end of the world before it was killed, two fish cutters have claimed.

Zalmen Rosen, from the Skver sect of Hasidic Jews, says co-worker Luis Nivelo, a Christian, was about to kill a carp to be made into gefilte fish in the city's New Square Fish Market in January when it began shouting in Hebrew.

"It said 'Tzaruch shemirah' and 'Hasof bah'," Mr Rosen later told the New York Times newspaper.

"[It] essentially means [in Hebrew] that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is nigh."

'It's the devil!'

Mr Nivelo told the paper he was so shocked he fell into a stack of slimy packing crates, before running in panic to the shop entrance and grabbing Mr Rosen, shouting: "The fish is talking!"

It is very rare that God reminds people he exists in this modern world. But when he does, you cannot ignore it
New York resident Abraham Spitz
However his co-worker reacted with disbelief.

"I screamed 'It's the devil The devil is here!', but Zalman said to me 'You crazy, you a meshugeneh [mad man]!" Mr Nivelo said.

A disbelieving Mr Rosen then rushed to the back of the store, only to hear the fish identifying itself as the soul of a local Hasidic man who had died the previous year.

It instructed him to pray and study the Torah, but Mr Rosen admitted that in a state of panic he attempted to kill the fish, injuring himself in the process and ending up in hospital.

The fish was eventually killed by Mr Nivelo and sold.

God in fish form?

Many members of the city's Jewish community are now certain that God, troubled by the prospect of war in Iraq, has revealed Himself in fish form.

Ah, enough already about the fish, I wish I never said anything about it
Zalmen Rosen
"Two men do not dream the same dream," said Abraham Spitz, a resident who visited Mr Rosen's shop to observe the site of the miracle.

"It is very rare that God reminds people he exists in this modern world. But when he does, you cannot ignore it."

The incident also relates to the beliefs of some Hasidic Jews, who say that righteous people can be reincarnated as fish, the British Observer newspaper reported.

New York story

Others are more sceptical, with New York comedians already incorporating the story into their stand-up routines and one fish company even contemplating changing its slogan to "our fish speak for themselves".

Mr Rosen also seems to have become rather tired of being questioned about his incredible experience.

"Ah, enough already about the fish," Mr Rosen said.

"I wish I never said anything about it. I'm getting so many calls every day, I've stopped answering. Israel, London, Miami, Brooklyn... they all want to hear about the talking fish."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/americas/2854189.stm

Published: 2003/03/16 09:39:02

© BBC MMIII

ET hunters take closer look

By Dr David Whitehouse
BBC News Online science editor

Mankind could be on the verge of finding intelligent life in space.

The scientists behind the world's biggest distributed computing project are about to take a closer look at the most promising radio signals so far collected in the search for alien beings. For four years, millions of people around the world have been running a special screensaver program on their desktops, sifting data for unique patterns that might represent an intelligent transmission.

Now, the most interesting radio sources picked out by the Seti@home project are to be re-observed using the giant Arecibo telescope in Puerto Rico.

Researchers have about 150 radio sources they want to examine in the next three days.

Curious remain

Since it started in 1999, Seti@home (Seti stands for the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) has become a massive hit with computer users.

Several million volunteers from more than 200 countries have downloaded the screensaver program that uses idle time on a PC to analyse data obtained by radio telescopes that scan the skies for unusual signals, possibly from intelligent lifeforms.

In so doing, Seti@home has become the largest computation ever done on this planet, having accumulated more than a million years of computing time. Now, in a phase known as the "Stellar Countdown", the project will use the Arecibo radio telescope to re-observe the most interesting radio sources thrown up by the screensaver search.

David Anderson, Seti@Home's Project Director, said: "After the re-observations of our Stellar Countdown help us eliminate candidates that are random noise or terrestrial radio interference, we will be very curious to see what candidates remain."

Serendipity data

The Seti@home software downloads data from the Search for Extraterrestrial Radio Emissions at the Nearby Developed Intelligent Populations (Serendip) project at the University of California at Berkeley, US.

The odds that it has succeeded in identifying a real alien transmission are very long. Since 1960, there have been over 50 searches for intelligent signals from space, initially at radio wavelengths but latterly looking for laser pulses. Neither has produced definite detections.

Even optimistic scientists put the chance that Seti@home will find an extraterrestrial signal at less than 1%.

On-the-spot analysis of data during the Arecibo observing run will allow the astronomers to re-target any especially promising signals.

A more detailed assessment of the Stellar Countdown results will be conducted offline after the Seti@home team returns to the University of California at Berkeley.

Best bets

Dan Werthimer, chief scientist of Seti@home, will lead the team conducting re-observations at Arecibo.

The researchers will observe the sky eight hours each day, staggering the time of day for each session to cover as much sky as possible.

The list of the most promising signal candidates far exceeded 150, but the project was allotted only 24 hours from March 18 to 20 to use Arecibo, making it impossible to examine all of the leads at this time.

The candidate radio sources were chosen on the basis of several criteria: number of times the radio source was detected how closely different observations resemble each other strength of radio source proximity to known stars type of star the presence of known planets Dan Werthimer said: "I believe that we will likely discover extraterrestrial civilizations in the next 100 years. Even if we don't find a signal from ET this time, I'm optimistic in the long run, since our search capabilities are doubling every year."

Story from BBC NEWS:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/science/nature/2857865.stm

Published: 2003/03/18 02:09:41

© BBC MMIII

To Test Evolution, Press the 'Undo' Button

March 18, 2003
By CAROL KAESUK YOON

Scientists working with yeast have in effect reversed the process of evolution in the laboratory and, in so doing, found support for a long-debated theory on the way new species can evolve.

Researchers have long known that changes in the DNA sequences of genes can cause a population to evolve into a new and separate species. But decades ago, theorists also proposed that a new species could evolve without any such changes, but instead simply as a result of large DNA strands' moving from one chromosome to another within a genome, a change known as a chromosomal rearrangement.

While the theory sounded promising, since such rearrangements can be quite common, it eventually waned in popularity, in part because scientists had no way of testing it.

Now in a slick feat of molecular maneuvering, a team of researchers has reorganized huge portions of one yeast species' chromosomes, rendering its chromosomal map identical to that of a closely related species, just as it was once, in the distant past.

What they have found is that when chromosomal rearrangements wrought by evolution are undone, once distinct species - so defined because they could not interbreed - can suddenly produce fertile offspring.

Evolutionary biologists say the study shows, at last, how important rearrangements can be in the evolution of new species.

"People were always saying, `Wouldn't it be great if we could undo this and see what happens,' and here they did it and saw an effect," said Dr. Mohamed Noor, an evolutionary biologist at Louisiana State University.

Dr. Michael Travisano, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Houston, said: "It's really amazing stuff. I don't know anyone who's done wholesale genomic rearrangement," at least not with anything more complex than a bacterium.

The findings were reported March 6 in the journal Nature.

The researchers did their tinkering with Saccharomyces cerevisiae, the species most people know as baker's yeast. Though yeasts are one-celled creatures, they are part of a vast group known as the eukaryotes, one of the three so-called domains into which all living organisms are divided. The eukaryotes - which also include all animals, plants and fungi - all possess compartments, like the nuclei, inside their cells and share similarities in their genetics.

Because of that affinity, researchers predict that chromosomal rearrangements are likely to be important in the evolution of other organisms as well.

Dr. Stephen G. Oliver, who is a molecular biologist at the University of Manchester and an author of the new study, said the discovery that researchers could so precisely reorganize yeast chromosomes was entirely accidental.

The researchers were trying to remove a number of specific yeast genes from a number of different chromosomes by excising small chunks of DNA. In the process, they cut in two each linear chromosome that contained a gene. But when researchers let the pieces of chromosome patch themselves back together, they did not always reattach to the correct partner. Sometimes they attached elsewhere, creating recombinations, just as evolution does.

"We realized, wow, this is not an irritation," Dr. Oliver said. "This is a tremendous opportunity."

But when the researchers undid rearrangements, not all species pairs regained the ability to interbreed. And even with those that did, their hybrid offspring were still impaired, unable to produce a full complement of healthy offspring.

Scientists said this was probably because the species also had important differences in DNA sequences of specific genes, differences that would not have been affected by the large-scale rearrangement of those genes on chromosomes.

But with all of this lab work, another question has arisen: how are these species evolving in the wild? And that raises an even more difficult question: where are the wild yeast species found?

Yeasts can sometimes be found living on grapes and figs (often not terribly wild species themselves) and in the sap of oak trees, Dr. Oliver said. But, researchers noted, with yeasts it is sometimes hard to know how wild one really is.

Dr. Travisano said: "They may be closer to being like feral cats, since there are domesticated yeasts in all these vineyards and breweries and in baking. We really don't have a clue about what's happening with them in the wild."

Researchers also pointed out that the interest in chromosomal rearrangements in yeasts is not limited to the laboratory. These are issues of concern to everyone, at least everyone who likes beer.

In brewing, Dr. Oliver said, disaster can strike, with all the yeast in a vat suddenly calling it quits and dropping uselessly to the bottom of the fermenter. Researchers are learning, he said, that such fermentation failures appear to be due to evolution in the vat - the arising of yeasts with new chromosomal reconfigurations that make them fall down on the job.

But while scientists can now explain the glitch, brewers have not needed such wizardry to fix it.

"The solution isn't too dramatic," Dr. Oliver said. The brewers simply throw out the uncooperative mutants, go back and get more yeast and "start all over again."

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/18/science/social/18YEAS.html?ex=1049020916&ei=1&en=b849c7aacaae23ae

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

"Experts look to Australia's Aborigines for weather help

"SYDNEY, Australia (Reuters) -- When the bearded dragon lizard sits upright and points its head to the sky, it is going to rain the next day. If a flock of currawongs flies overhead you've only got four hours to get the washing off the line.

"If the queen wattle blooms heavily, bull ants abandon their tree nests for mounds of dirt, or meat ants cover nests with tiny, heat-reflecting quartz stones, then bushfires are coming...

"Sounds like mumbo-jumbo?

"Not to Australia's Bureau of Meteorology, which hopes to tap into the tens of thousands of years of Aboriginal weather knowledge to help it expand its understanding of the island continent's harsh climate...

"Unlike the conventional European notion of four seasons -- summer, autumn, winter and spring -- Aborigines in different parts of Australia count as little as two or as many as six, each intimately linked to subtle changes in the local environment. ..

"The bureau comes from a purely Western scientific meteorology perspective. It is something entirely new for a weather bureau to recognize the importance of this other weather knowledge," said bureau forecaster John O'Brien.

"... The Bureau of Meteorology has launched an "Indigenous Weather" Web site (www.bom.gov.au/iwk) mapping Aboriginal weather knowledge

"Aboriginal culture is dominated by a creation time called the "Dreaming," which links past and present in a continuum. In it, the weather, land, plants, animals, people, previous generations and SUPERNATURAL FORCES are all inter-related. ...

"Frances Bodkin, a descendant of Sydney's D'harawal Aborigines, said indigenous weather patterns were signposted by plants, animals and the STARS and were as accurate as any modern-day meteorological forecast..." [ caps added. ]

"Present-day scientists do their studies by measurements and experiments. Aboriginal people are just as good scientists, but they use observation and experience," Bodkin, a botanist at Sydney's Mount Annan Botanical gardens, told Reuters.

"The bushfires which burned through Sydney in the past two "European summers" came as no surprise to Aborigines as Sydney's queen wattle trees bloomed heavily for the past two years, a sign bushfires were coming, said Bodkin. ...

"Sydney's six-season Aboriginal calendar is based on the flowering of various native plants...

"The weather phenomenon El Nino has been blamed for Australia's worst drought in 100 years... But according to the D'harawal Aborigines, El Nino is not to blame, but the rare meteorological convergence of three ancient climate cycles... The 11-year cycle started in 2001 with the appearance of the Aurora Australis...

"The Talara'gandi, or ice and fire, had in the past been responsible for Ice Ages and desertification, said Bodkin and it started when the sea began rising. Aborigines tell stories that the ocean was once a three-day walk east of Sydney's coastline..." --

http://www.cnn.com/2003/TECH/science/03/18/offbeat.weather.aborigines.reut/index.html


Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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In the News

Today's Headlines - March 18, 2003

MYSTERY AILMENT CALLED "LIMITED"
from Newsday

As more nations, including the United States, report suspected cases of a mysterious respiratory ailment, health officials yesterday called for calm, saying the disease so far is restricted to three population categories:

Those who live in Guangdong Province of China.

Travelers to China, Hong Kong, Singapore or Vietnam.

Family members of patients, or health care workers who have treated patients.

"There is no evidence so far that persons not in direct contact with a suspected case have become infected," Dr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in a news briefing yesterday.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsmyst183178949mar18,0,6164924.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

VIDEO SHOWS EARLY DEBRIS TRAIL
from Newsday

Houston - NASA officials yesterday released a dramatic composite video of the shuttle Columbia shedding debris as it crossed the Southwest en route to a catastrophic breakup over Texas.

The video includes two bright flashes as two significant pieces of debris broke off the crippled orbiter.

"We still cannot say exactly what it is we see coming off," said Paul Hill, a NASA engineer who is leading a team that is assessing the available imagery of the shuttle's last minutes. He said the team has narrowed its interest to about 15 videos from amateur astronomers and others who photographed the shuttle during parts of its re-entry. In the composite video, the craft appears as a bright white spot against a mostly dark sky. Other white dots appear briefly and then disappear as pieces of debris are shed.

The video helped convince NASA that the shuttle was shedding pieces as it crossed California and that it continued to do so throughout the rest of its flight until it finally broke apart.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsshut183178960mar18,0,730021.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

CALIFORNIA POWER PLANT A PRIME TERROR TARGET
from The San Francisco Chronicle

Avila Beach, San Luis Obispo County -- For an installation that generates about 10 percent of California's electricity, the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near here seems remarkably unobtrusive.

Tucked between the wide Pacific and hills burgeoning with vernal greenery and grazing livestock, it's smaller than one might expect.

But some scientists and nuclear power critics claim this tranquil tableau is deceptive. Because of the threat of terrorist attack, they say, Diablo Canyon, which is owned by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., is capable of generating a truly diabolical scenario: A huge release of radiation that could dwarf Chernobyl and render thousands of square miles of the state uninhabitable for years -- perhaps decades or centuries.

Two nationally known scientists say the plant's spent nuclear fuel storage is vulnerable to terrorist attack. At that facility are two pools of water that collectively contain about 2,200 old "fuel assemblies" -- packs of refined uranium that are no longer useful for power generation but are still highly radioactive.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2003/03/17/MN21841.DTL&type=science

FIRM PLANS HUMAN TESTS OF ANTHRAX ANTIDOTE
from The Washington Post

A small Rockville biotechnology company has created an antidote to anthrax that protects animals against extremely high doses of the biological warfare agent and, based on testing done so far, may do the same for people.

The company, Human Genome Sciences Inc., plans to announce this morning that it is preparing to launch human tests of the drug in a matter of weeks. If the tests go smoothly, the drug may well enter the nation's arsenal against bioterrorism by next year.

Scientists would still lack firm information about when and how to use the drug, given that only limited human tests are possible. Still, the availability of the drug would represent one of the first concrete results of a pledge that American scientists made, after Sept. 11, 2001, and the ensuing anthrax attacks, to deploy their skills in defense of the nation.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A42441-2003Mar17.html

A RADICAL FORMULA FOR TEACHING SCIENCE
from The Washington Post

By just about every standard for K-12 science textbook writing, Joy Hakim is breaking all the rules.

While teams of writers produce nearly all textbooks, she is the sole author of her new middle school series.

Most of the texts boast writers with advanced scientific degrees; Hakim is a former teacher and journalist who admits that she had a lot to learn before starting.

Textbooks often are collections of facts and vocabulary words -- one, for example, has long lists of such esoteric words as "saprophyte" and "commensalism" -- but hers is a narrative about scientists and their effect on the world.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A36468-2003Mar17.html

TO TEST EVOLUTION, PRESS THE 'UNDO' BUTTON
from The New York Times

Scientists working with yeast have in effect reversed the process of evolution in the laboratory and, in so doing, found support for a long-debated theory on the way new species can evolve.

Researchers have long known that changes in the DNA sequences of genes can cause a population to evolve into a new and separate species. But decades ago, theorists also proposed that a new species could evolve without any such changes, but instead simply as a result of large DNA strands' moving from one chromosome to another within a genome, a change known as a chromosomal rearrangement.

While the theory sounded promising, since such rearrangements can be quite common, it eventually waned in popularity, in part because scientists had no way of testing it.

Now in a slick feat of molecular maneuvering, a team of researchers has reorganized huge portions of one yeast species' chromosomes, rendering its chromosomal map identical to that of a closely related species, just as it was once, in the distant past.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/18/science/social/18YEAS.html

THIS TINY BIRD KNOWS AN IMPOSTOR WHEN IT HATCHES
from The New York Times

For millenniums, bird species around the world have been put upon by cuckoos, duped into tending the eggs these sly birds slip into their nests and raising the chicks as their own. In response, some birds have evolved the ability to recognize cuckoo eggs, able to give even those that are quite convincing mimics of the host's eggs a good swift kick out of the nest.

But scientists have long been puzzled by the fact that no birds seemed able to ferret out the cuckoo chick once it had hatched, always treating it as if it were their own, even when the cuckoo babies were the most obvious pretenders — great awkward things, differently colored and shaped from everyone else in the nest, sometimes six times the size of their tiny adoptive parents, towering over them while begging for food.

Now, in the current issue of the journal Nature, researchers report finding that at least one bird, a dazzling creature aptly named the superb fairy-wren, has evolved the ability to recognize the cuckoo chick for what it is.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/18/science/life/18WREN.html

IN CLICK LANGUAGES, AN ECHO OF THE TONGUES OF THE ANCIENTS
from The New York Times

Do some of today's languages still hold a whisper of the ancient mother tongue spoken by the first modern humans? Many linguists say language changes far too fast for that to be possible. But a new genetic study underlines the extreme antiquity of a special group of languages, raising the possibility that their distinctive feature was part of the ancestral human mother tongue.

They are the click languages of southern Africa. About 30 survive, spoken by peoples like the San, traditional hunters and gatherers, and the Khwe, who include hunters and herders.

Each language has a set of four or five click sounds, which are essentially double consonants made by sucking the tongue down from the roof of the mouth. Outside of Africa, the only language known to use clicks is Damin, an extinct aboriginal language in Australia that was taught only to men for initiation rites.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/18/science/social/18CLIC.html

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End-Time Interpreters See Biblical Prophecies Being Fulfilled

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A58894-2003Mar7.html

Washington Post
March 8, 2003
By Bill Broadway
Washington Post Staff Writer

Ever since Jesus said that only God knows the hour or day of the Second Coming, preachers and self-appointed doomsayers have been trying to predict when it will happen -- and watching the sun rise on another generation. Even those who chastise date-setters nearly always say, "God's final judgment is coming soon, probably in our lifetime, so get ready."

In recent weeks, the prophetic interpreters have been citing a new reason they believe the end is coming: the impending U.S. war with Iraq. Anxious discussions have arisen on prophecy Web sites, in Bible study groups and churches, and at such gatherings as last month's 20th International Prophecy Conference in Tampa. Its title: "Shaking of Nations: Living in Perilous Times."

Many see evidence of Iraq's significance in end-time scenarios in key passages of the apocalyptic book of Revelation. Chapter 16, which includes the only mention of Armageddon in the Bible, carries a direct reference to the Euphrates River, which runs through modern-day Iraq.

"The sixth angel poured out his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East," writes John, possibly the apostle, of a container of God's anger emptied on the ancient land of Babylon, now Iraq. The kings will move their armies through the Euphrates valley en route to Har Megiddo (Armageddon) in northern Israel.

The Euphrates appears a second time with one of seven angels whose blaring trumpets warn that the Final Judgment is near. "Release the four angels who are bound at the great river Euphrates," a voice commands the sixth angel of God, whose compliance unleashes agents of death who "had been kept ready for this very hour and day and month and year and were released to kill a third of mankind."

Then comes the clincher. In Chapter 9, Verse 11 -- yes, that's 9:11 -- John says the leader of an army of locusts released to fight humankind is named Abaddon in Hebrew, Apollyon in Greek. Both words mean Destroyer, one of several meanings for the name "Saddam."

"Iraq fits like hand in glove," Irvin Baxter Jr., founder of Endtime magazine and pastor of Oak Park Church in Richmond, Ind., said of the role he believes the country will play in world-ending events if U.S.-led forces invade Iraq.

Baxter, a lifelong student of Old and New Testament prophecies, said casualties will be tremendous, not only of combatants in Iraq but of people in neighboring countries hit by retaliatory missiles of mass destruction and Americans who fall victim to terrorists armed with portable nuclear weapons.

And other countries will take the opportunity to pursue their own interests -- China trying to retake Taiwan, or India making an all-out assault on Kashmir -- leading to World War III, he said. The result, Baxter concludes, could be a nuclear holocaust that takes the lives of 2 billion people, the "one-third of mankind" stated in Revelation.

Such talk bothers Craig C. Hill, professor of New Testament at Wesley Theological Seminary in Northwest Washington and one of many biblical scholars who say end-time interpreters distort Scripture to fit their own point of view. Most claim to read the Bible "literally" yet take bits and pieces from books written centuries apart under different circumstances, he said.

Ezekiel, one of the most popular end-time texts, was written in the 6th century B.C. by a Judean priest exiled in Babylon who dreamed of the Jews' return to Israel and the restoration of the temple. Revelation was written 600 years later, about A.D. 95, by an exiled Christian leader encouraging churches in Asia Minor to persevere under the hardships of Roman control.

Yet prophetic interpreters will take verses from each and combine them to create a reading that justifies their point of view, said Hill, author of "In God's Time: The Bible and the Future."

"In trying to create one overarching interpretation, they are not allowing for the complexity of the biblical witness to come through," he said. "The irony is, in their quest for accuracy, biblical literalists are forced to misread the Bible."

More problematic is the fatalistic worldview of apocalyptic thinking, Hill said. Many who obsess about the end of the world fail to enjoy the life they have or reach out to help others in an effort to improve society, he said. They become "morally complacent."

Those criticisms are of little concern to millions of Americans who were caught up in end-time fever long before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the explosion of the shuttle Columbia fueled even greater speculation on how the world might end.

One of the greatest indicators of that interest has been the phenomenal success of the "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins. Since 1995, when their first book appeared, LaHaye and Jenkins have sold more than 38 million copies of 10 novels set during the end-time period known as the Great Tribulation. The 11th novel, to be released April 8, is titled "Armageddon" and set partly in Baghdad.

"Readers tell me they're dying to know who survives Armageddon for the Glorious Appearing," Jenkins said in a statement. "And I can't wait to see what they think when they get to the end."

Interest in prophecy increases at times of great instability, said Mark Hitchcock, author of several books on prophecy and pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmonton, Okla. "People want to know what's going to happen, that there's an end [to the turmoil], that someone's in control."

Hitchcock is a member of a prophecy study group run by LaHaye and generally supports the sequence of events on which the "Left Behind" story is based: the Rapture, the Antichrist's rise to power and the seven years of "hell on Earth," Armageddon, and the return of Jesus in the Glorious Appearing -- all occurring before Jesus's 1,000-year reign on Earth.

He said he and other "pre-trib guys," those who believe Jesus will "rapture" believers before the Great Tribulation, are convinced that the Antichrist will rule the world from a restored Babylon. That's why Hitchcock, too, thinks an invasion of Iraq will be a catalyst for end-time events.

According to biographers and news reports, Saddam Hussein fancies himself a modern Nebuchadnezzar, the 6th-century B.C. king who conquered and enslaved the Israelites and brought great prosperity to the land. And he has begun fulfilling prophecy by rebuilding the ancient city of Babylon, Hitchcock said.

But he won't be around to enjoy it.

"Once the U.S. gets Saddam out of the way," sanctions will be lifted, oil wells will flow again at full capacity and Iraq (Babylon) will regain its power, allowing the Antichrist to mount an army for an assault on Israel, he said. The stage is thus set for the Rapture, Armageddon, the Glorious Appearing and the other stages.

Hitchcock said he supports the war because the world will be a better place without Saddam Hussein, not because -- as some prophecy aficionados have said -- it will be a catalyst for the final days.

Will Invasion of Iraq Beget Armageddon?

Some Bible interpreters believe a war against Saddam Hussein will set in motion apocalyptic events that have been anticipated for centuries. One of their proof texts is the 16th chapter of Revelation, which names the Euphrates as a gathering point for armies en route to Armageddon and echoes Jesus's warning that his return will "come like a thief" in the night.

"The sixth angel poured out his bowl [of God's wrath] on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up to prepare the way for the kings from the East. Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet. They are spirits of demons performing miraculous signs, and they go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them for the battle on the great day of God Almighty.

"Behold, I come like a thief! Blessed is he who stays awake and keeps his clothes with him, so that he may not go naked and be shamefully exposed. Then they gathered the kings together to the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon."

(Rev. 16: 12-16, NIV)

A Beginner's Guide To the End Times

Prophecy specialists, all claiming the authority of Scripture, disagree about such details as whether Jesus will return to Earth before or after a 1,000-year period of Christian prosperity. Most, however, agree on certain major events. Here is the scenario described by those who believe He will return before the millennial period to save followers from a chaos about to ensue.

The Rapture. Amid political and religious turmoil on Earth, Jesus descends from Heaven to resurrect the bodies of believers who have died and to transform living believers into a "glorious presence" that lasts for eternity.

Rise of the Antichrist. The disappearance of millions of people leaves the world in chaos, and leaders of various countries call for a single, international government to bring peace and economic stability. To run this one-world operation, they select a charismatic leader who in reality is a puppet of Satan (or Satan himself).

The Great Tribulation. This seven-year "hell on earth" begins with the signing of a peace agreement between Israel and the Antichrist, who orders the rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem. Forty-two months later, he announces on the Temple Mount that he, not Jesus, is the Messiah and begins gathering armies for a forceful takeover of Israel.

Armageddon. At the end of the tribulation, enemies of Israel amass on its northern border and fight one of several great battles against the Israelis and their allies in the valley below Har Megiddo (Armageddon). Satan's forces push their opponents back to Jerusalem, where they are cornered in a small valley between the Temple Mount and the Mount of Olives.

Glorious Appearing. Jesus hears the cries for help and descends on the Mount of Olives to lead the Israeli troops -- most of whom profess belief in him as Messiah -- to victory. Jesus chains Satan in the bottomless pit for 1,000 years, during which time He establishes a kingdom on Earth.

Satan's Revolt. Satan is released and starts a rebellion of non-believing holdouts. In the final battle of Good vs. Evil, Jesus rains death and destruction on Satan and his minions and casts them into a lake of everlasting fire.

The Eternal State. Jesus creates a new Heaven and a new Earth, with the New Jerusalem as its capital for all who have achieved eternal life. The city floats through space and is a cube, each side 1,400 miles square -- large enough to hold 100 trillion souls.

SOURCES: "Are We Living in the End Times?," by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins; "The Complete Book of Bible Prophecy," by Mark Hitchcock.

Raelians Disrobe to Protest Iraq War

http://abcnews.go.com/wire/US/ap20030309_858.html

Members of Raelian Sect, Which Recently Claimed to Clone Human, Disrobe at L.A. Anti-War Rally

The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES March 9 —

The federal building in Westwood became a focal point for anti-war demonstrators, with a few women stripping to their thongs and a separate group led by actor Danny Glover marching down Wilshire Boulevard to protest a possible war with Iraq.

The women who shed their clothes Saturday were followers of the Raelian sect, who believe life on Earth was created by space aliens. In December, Clonaid, a group started by the Raelians, claimed to have produced the first human clone. But the group has failed to produce the child for DNA testing.

An Unsentimental Reverie on the Life Cycle of Nature

March 9, 2003
By PETE BODO

On a bright but blustery and cold day in early December some time ago, I came upon a riveting sight while wading through shallow water on the Salmon River, near the upstate town of Pulaski, N.Y. There, in about a foot of water at the edge of a pool, lay an enormous, partly decomposed king salmon.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/09/sports/othersports/09OUTD.html?ex=1048991191&ei=1&en=3ff0bd036ec266fc

Kerala's magic school casts a spell

Note: Kerala is a state in India.

Thiruvananthapuram, March 16

Pens do not turn into swords or bags into melons as one steps into a unique 'school for wizards' in a quiet, tree-lined area here, not knowing what to expect.

From inside a hall entitled "Wonder Land" come strains of peppy music and sound of feet practicing dance steps. And then, one is ushered into a room to meet Kerala's Magic Man Gopinath Muthukad, who, instead of conjuring rabbits out of hats, is flipping open his laptop to view a CD.

As you begin to wonder at the very ordinariness of this extraordinary place, which finds mention in 'Lonely Planet' as the only institution of its kind not only in India but the whole of Asia, a major purpose of the centre is being fulfilled.

For, when 37-year-old Muthukad, virtually a household name in Kerala, started his 'Magic Academy' in 1996 to train a new crop of magicians, an important objective was also to rid magic of the miasma of superstition and chicanery surrounding it.

"Magic, specially in Kerala, has always been associated with street performers who would often put a human skull before them prior to starting their show.

"This had given magic a shady image when it is nothing but a skill of manipulation", says Muthukad.

On the other end are so-called Godmen, who 'establish' their supernatural powers by conjuring things out of air. Again, there is nothing supernatural in this. It is only a sleight of hand, says Muthukad even as vibhuti drops from his hands, which were seemingly empty minutes before.

Describing magic as "an art firmly rooted in the basic principles of science", Muthukad says that it was his dream to spread the message that "magic is not superstition but an art connected to science".

To some extent the Academy seems to have achieved its goal with Kerala recently becoming the first, and so far the only, state to recognise magic performances while conferring the Sangeet Natak Akademi awards, says Muthukad.

Since its setting up nearly seven years ago, Magic Academy has trained nearly 2,000 aspirants in the art of magic. Not surprisingly, among the large number who have joined the courses - ranging from three months to a year - are professionals such as doctors and engineers who are curious to know the tricks of the trade.

Students, businessmen and even housewives have also been among Muthukad's students. Says Raja Murthy, a jeweller who was among the first batch of magicians to be trained in 1986, "the element of surprise is what hooks one on to magic and makes it a great form of entertainment".

And luckily for Muthukad's students, magic shows are catching on as a form of entertainment. "I manage to get about 10 to 12 bookings, including birthday and dinner parties, in a month. Restaurants are also hiring magicians to entertain customers with 'table top magic' as they wait for their order to be served.

"In fact, I am getting so swamped with offers that my business is turning into a hobby and my hobby is turning into a business", quips Murthy.

Muthukad says that this is indeed a far cry from the days when he chucked his Law Studies in 1986 to take up magic as a full-time profession. "It was so hard to convince anyone about holding magic performances. No financial institution would be willing to give money to a budding magician".

UNI

http://headlines.sify.com/1759news2.html

IIT scientists start work on cow urine

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and IIT, Kanpur have launched a project for carrying out experiments on the use of cow urine.

"The two IITs in coordination with our ministry are working on cow urine," Minister of State for Science and Technology Bachi Singh Rawat said on Sunday.

He was addressing the national convention of rural agro industries, organised by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission.

Singh said cow urine has caught attention in India especially after one of the US firms had got a patent related to it.

UNI

http://headlines.sify.com/1805news3.html?headline=IIT~scientists~start~work~on~cow~urine

Woman sees 'Allah' inside a brinjal

Note: Bhubaneswar is in India.

By Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneswar

A housewife while cutting a brinjal for cooking discovered the sign of Allah inside vegetable.

On seeing the 'miracle,' she informed the Imam of the local mosque, who in turn ordered that the brinjal be kept in the mosque.

This has happened in the Mendhasal village, about thirty kilometres from Bhubaneswar.

The wife of one Mohammad Khalil discovered on cutting the brinjal into two that the seeds spelled 'Allah' in Urdu.

The Imam had taken the brinjal to the mosque where prayers were offered and namaz were read.

The villagers believe the incident as a miracle and the Khalil's family is consdered a blessed one.

http://headlines.sify.com/1711news4.html?headline=Woman~sees~'Allah'~inside~a~brinjal

Silver Fleece awards

From:Bill Steele SKEPTIX@efn.org

University of Illinois at Chicago
14-Mar-03

'Silver Fleece' Awards Aim to Expose Anti-Aging Propaganda

The second annual "Silver Fleece" Awards, a lighthearted effort to make the public aware of anti-aging quackery, will be announced March 13.

Noted aging expert and author S. Jay Olshansky will announce the winners as part of a presentation in Chicago at the Joint Conference of The National Council on the Aging and the American Society on Aging in which he will participate in a debate on the topic of anti-aging medicine. The presentation is at 2 p.m. at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, 301 E. North Water St.

Olshansky, professor of epidemiology at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, will present two awards, one for a product and one to an organization, that he says "make the most outrageous or exaggerated claims about human aging."

The award -- a bottle of vegetable oil labeled "Snake Oil" -- will be presented (in absentia) to each award winner.

The awardees were selected by three leading scientists in the field of aging: Olshansky; Leonard Hayflick of the University of California, San Francisco; and Bruce Carnes of the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. Olshansky and Carnes are authors of "The Quest for Immortality: Science at the Frontiers of Aging" (Norton, 2001). Hayflick is author of "How and Why We Age" (Ballantine, 1996).

And the winners are:

The Silver Fleece Award for an Anti-Aging Product goes to a substance known simply as Longevity, which is being sold on the Internet by Urban Nutrition Inc. On its web site, http://www.findlongevitynow.com, Urban Nutrition states that Longevity includes as its primary component 2-AEP, which "was originally discovered and patented by world-renowned Doctor, Scientist and Physicist, Hans A. Nieper, M.D."

This award is given to "the product with the most ridiculous, outrageous, scientifically unsupported or exaggerated assertions about aging or age-related diseases," said Olshansky.

According to information presented on Urban Nutrition's web site, "Longevity delivers 2-AEP directly to the outer cell walls to strengthen, seal, and protect your cells from toxins and diseases entering and infecting your healthy cells. This rejuvenation of your cells slows the aging process."

"Longevity is just one of many products being sold throughout the world with the claim that it will slow or reverse human aging," Olshansky says, "These products have never been proven to do anything but line the pockets of those selling them. The irony in this case is that not only is the inventor of Longevity dead, but so are many of the famous people Dr. Nieper claims to have treated with the product."

According to the web site, "Dr. Nieper's former patients include Princess Caroline of Monaco, John Wayne, Yul Brenner, Anthony Quinn, Natalie Woods (sic), Red Buttons, Fred McMurray, Russian Party leaders, the modern German King of Hanover, and many other worldwide dignitaries including members of the KGB before Communism fell..."

The criteria for this award included an evaluation of the purported health and longevity benefits, claims about scientific evidence supporting the product, the degree to which legitimate scientific research is exaggerated and the profit potential for those selling it.

A one-month supply of Longevity containing 90 pills currently sells for $44.99 on the web site.

The recipient of the Silver Fleece Award for an Anti-Aging Organization goes to CLONAID(TM). This award "honors" the organization that contributes the most to disseminating misinformation and/or products associated with the claim that human aging can now be stopped or reversed.

According to the company's website, www.clonaid.com, "CLONAID(TM) was founded in February 1997, by Rael, the leader of the Raelian Movement, an international religious organization which claims that a human extraterrestrial race, called the Elohim, used DNA and genetic engineering, to scientifically create all life on Earth."

The group now claims to have 55,000-60,000 devotees worldwide.

According to Rael, the self-proclaimed leader of CLONAID(TM), "Cloning will enable mankind to reach eternal life. The next step will be to directly clone an adult person without having to go through the growth process, and to transfer the memories and personality into this person just as the Elohim do using their 25,000 years of advanced scientific knowledge. Then, we will wake up after death in a brand new body just like after a good night sleep!"

"Choosing CLONAID(TM) as a recipient of the second annual Silver Fleece Award was a no-brainer," according to Hayflick.

Says Carnes, "It is unfortunate that so much anti-aging quackery is surfacing just when scientists are making substantive progress on understanding the processes of aging. I believe that the research being done today will eventually give rise to interventions with the capacity to modify the biological rate of aging in humans."

As authors of hundreds of scientific articles on aging, Olshansky and his colleagues are thoroughly familiar with both the legitimate, ongoing research in the fields of aging and the anti-aging claims that have been made historically and in recent years. Last June they issued a position statement (http://www.sciam.com/explorations/2002/051302aging/) with 51 scientists warning the public that "no currently marketed intervention has yet been proved to slow, stop or reverse human aging," and they warned consumers again in their article entitled "No Truth to the Fountain of Youth" which appeared in the June 2002 issue of Scientific American.

"Although there is reason to be optimistic that scientists will eventually be able to intervene in one or more processes associated with human aging, it is not currently possible to stop or reverse aging," says Olshansky. "In spite of this fact, a large number of anti-aging products are now being sold by entrepreneurs and administered by physicians and other health care practitioners in the United States and abroad under the pretext that they will stop or reverse aging and/or combat major fatal diseases."

In their book, Olshansky and Carnes say, "The life extension industry begins with a grain of truth but quickly gets mixed with a tablespoon of bad science, a cup of greed, a pint of exaggeration and a gallon of human desire for a longer, healthier life -- a recipe for false hope, broken promises and unfulfilled dreams."

The first Silver Fleece Awards were announced last winter at a meeting sponsored by the International Longevity Center-USA.

For more information about UIC, visit www.uic.edu


Monday, March 17, 2003

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

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IN THE NEWS

Today's Headlines – March 17, 2003

A WORLDWIDE ALERT ON MYSTERY ILLNESS
from Newsday and The Associated Press

Health officials throughout the world are on high alert over a deadly, mysterious respiratory disease outbreak that appears to have begun in the fall in China and, in the past three weeks, shown up in several Asian locales and Canada.

No cases have been confirmed in the United States. A doctor who attended a medical conference in Manhattan last week was hospitalized with symptoms on the flight home to Singapore, during a stopover in Germany. He had treated two patients diagnosed with the ailment before flying to New York and had begun to feel ill before leaving New York. But the doctor treating him in Frankfurt said yesterday it was unclear if he had the mysterious illness or typical pneumonia.

On Saturday, the World Health Organization issued an extremely unusual global alert for "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)," characterized as "an atypical pneumonia for which cause has not yet been determined." The alert noted that travelers and hospitals throughout the world should be vigilant for appearance of unusual respiratory disease cases.

The WHO estimates that 500 people have been sickened worldwide. Nine deaths have been reported, seven in Asia and two in Canada, where a woman and her grown son died in Toronto after visiting Hong Kong.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hsgerm173177455mar17,0,682860.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

BROAD MOVEMENT IS BACKING EMBRYO STEM CELL RESEARCH
from The New York Times

In state capitols, universities, charitable foundations, hospitals and companies around the country, a scattershot movement is under way to counteract President Bush's 2001 order sharply limiting federal money for embryonic stem cell research.

Lawmakers in New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Washington and Massachusetts are considering bills authorizing embryonic stem cell research, according to advocates of the research and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some bills go further, as one passed in California did last year when it authorized the use of state money to support research using embryonic stem cells, which scientists contend could eventually yield treatments for diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, heart disease, cancer and other ailments.

Mr. Bush and others who oppose such research say it is immoral because human embryos are destroyed when the cells are extracted.

Private groups, meanwhile, have greatly increased their support of stem cell research. The Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, the Wellcome Trust, the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation and others have given tens of millions of dollars to various laboratories, many in Europe.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/16/science/16STEM.html

PROFICIENCY WITH PROTEINS
from The Chicago Tribune

In a move that could boost Chicago's biotechnology profile significantly, Argonne National Laboratory is seeking to become the country's leading producer of research proteins.

Argonne scientists already do pioneering work to automate protein production, but the research protein production center as envisioned would put the DuPage County-based national lab in a league of its own.

While genes have grabbed much attention in recent years with the human genome mapping project, scientists must now study proteins if they are to translate their newly acquired genetic information into useful new drugs and other medical products.

Building a public protein production center makes sense, and Argonne is well-positioned to do the job, said Lee Makowski, director of Argonne's bioscience division.

http://www.chicagotribune.com/business/chi-0303170002mar17,1,3376525.story

NEW DEMANDS SPUR FOCUS ON ANCIENT CRAB
from The Washington Post

Horseshoe crabs have been around for more than 200 million years -- they predate flying insects, dinosaurs and humans -- but scientists know little about them. That is changing, now that the species is playing critical roles in assuring biomedical safety and in a major environmental dispute.

In fact, there is now a Horseshoe Crab Research Center, at Virginia Polytechnic Institute in Blacksburg. The director of the five-year-old center, Jim Berkson, said the horseshoe crab historically was seen as unworthy of study because it had no culinary market, and for many years there was no obvious sign that the species was suffering a major population decline.

Two things changed. In the 1970s, a chemical in horseshoe crab blood, Limulus amebocyte lysate (LAL), was found to be useful in testing whether vaccines, intravenous tubes and implantable devices are safe for human use. A handful of biomedical companies began capturing horseshoe crabs, taking some of their blood and returning them, live, to the sea.

Then, horseshoe crabs proved useful as bait for eel and conch, two species for which there are lucrative culinary markets. Beginning in the mid-'90s, fishermen caught 2 million to 3 million horseshoe crabs for bait -- far more than just a few years earlier. An additional 200,000 were caught, bled and returned alive to the sea by the biomedical industry.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A35529-2003Mar16.html

AIR FILTERS: WORKING ALL THE TIME
from The Washington Post

Plastic sheeting and duct tape have gotten all the headlines (and many of the punch lines) in the terrorism-preparation discussion, but some experts think there are ways to make your home safer that need not involve sealing off a single window with either product.

Instead, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Ready.gov Web site suggests buying a portable air purifier -- typically an under-$200 purchase.

While such devices are generally used by people with asthma or allergies to catch dust or cat dander, they might also help clear the air of harmful agents.

Richard L. Garwin, a senior fellow for science and technology at the Council on Foreign Relations, calculates that a typical room air cleaner could reduce the number of microbes in the air by 83 percent. Plastic sheeting over air vents could provide further protection in the event of an attack.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A30702-2003Mar15.html

FOR SMALLER FUEL CELLS, A FAR SHORTER WAIT
from The New York Times

AMERICANS may have to wait 20 years, if not longer, for cars powered by fuel cells to become a familiar sight. But much smaller forms of fuel cell technology may well power electronic devices like laptop computers, video cameras and cellphones by the end of this decade.

Prototypes of long-lasting fuel cells that can replace batteries are being tested in laboratories in the United States and overseas. "Every big electronics company in the world is working on fuel cells in one way or another," said Jerry Hallmark, manager of Motorola's Energy Technology Lab in Phoenix. Some, like Intel, are going a step further and investing millions of dollars in start-up companies like PolyFuel and Neah Power Systems to accelerate development.

"There are some applications that are getting very close to commercialization," said Mike Lynn, head of a unit at the 3M Company that makes fuel cell components.

Mr. Lynn declined to be more specific, but many analysts expect fuel cells for consumer electronic devices to begin appearing next year in Japan. The betting is that the first to reach the market will be Toshiba, which is demonstrating a prototype of a methanol-powered cell this week at a trade show in Hanover, Germany. Toshiba says the cell could be sold next year with laptops.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/16/business/yourmoney/16FUEL.html

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Dead man gets phone bill - sent to cemetery

Further proof of life after death

http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_760099.html?menu=news.quirkies.quirkygaffes

A man who died in 1997 has received a telephone bill at the cemetery where he is buried.

The cemetery received the bill for David Towles at Hillside Cemetery, Evergreen Section, Auburn, Massachusetts, United States.

Mr Towles was buried there in December 1997. He died aged 60.

Cemetery Superintendent Wayne Bloomquist says he was surprised to see the bill from the telephone company Sprint for 12 cents, including 10 cents for a call on February 16, five years after Mr Towles died.

"Our clients here don't usually get mail," he said. "I wondered if maybe we should start putting mailboxes on the monuments."

A call to Sprint's automated service on March 6 showed charges on the unpaid account had increased the bill to $3.95.

The bill has been handed over to interim Town Clerk Ellen Gaboury, who says she will hold on to it for a while.

"I'll have to," she said. "Mr Towles' credit could be affected if it remains unpaid."

© Associated Press

Story filed: 13:15 Thursday 13th March 2003

[He's not dead. He's just metabolically challenged.]

Science In the News

The following roundup of science stories appearing each day in the general media is compiled by the Media Resource Service, Sigma Xi's referral service for journalists in need of sources of scientific expertise.

For accurate instructions on how to subscribe or unsubscribe to the listserv, follow this link: http://www.mediaresource.org/instruct.htm

If you experience any problems with the URLs (page not found, page expired, etc.), we suggest you proceed to the home page of "Science In the News" http://www.mediaresource.org/news.htm which mirrors the daily e-mail update.

In the News

Today's Headlines - March 14, 2003

BLOOD TEST FOR CANCER RISK
from Newsday

The long-sought goal of finding a simple, noninvasive test that can warn a person of cancer risk may yet become reality, scientists announced yesterday.

A research team in Baltimore has devised an ordinary blood test that detects when a subtle gene-control mechanism called imprinting makes an error. The mistake "turns on" an extra copy of a growth control gene, an important step on the way to cancer's uncontrolled growth.

At least in colorectal cancer, that error is detectable in blood tests.

Currently, a colonoscopy is considered the "gold standard" test for detecting colon cancer in its early stages. But only about half of Americans age 50 and older get the recommended screening for the disease, which will kill about 57,000 people this year, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study released yesterday.

http://www.newsday.com/news/health/ny-hscanc14q3172854mar14,0,5778591.story?coll=ny%2Dhealth%2Dheadlines

FDA PROPOSES MANDATORY BAR CODES FOR HOSPITAL DRUGS
from The Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Supermarket-style bar codes will soon be required on every medication given to hospitalized patients, to help ensure they get the right dose of the right drug at the right time.

Thursday's proposal by the Food and Drug Administration is part of a series of new government steps to help prevent deadly medical mistakes that claim tens of thousands of lives each year.

One type of medical mistake is a drug error, such as giving the wrong drug or wrong dose to someone. Scientists estimate at least 7,000 hospitalized patients die annually because of those drug errors alone.

With a bar-code system, health care industry workers use computer equipment to scan an identifying code on a patient's wristband that reveals what medicines he or she needs - and when. Then they scan the intended medication. If they picked the wrong drug, the wrong dose, or a pill version when a liquid was required, the computer beeps an alarm.

http://www.nandotimes.com/healthscience/story/805458p-5733238c.html

SCIENTISTS: MARS RADIATION WOULD POSE SERIOUS RISK TO ASTRONAUTS
from The Associated Press

NASA's Mars Odyssey spacecraft has confirmed suspicions that the intense radiation on Mars could endanger astronauts sent to explore the Red Planet.

The data also suggest that any extraterrestrial life that might call the planet home would have little chance of surviving unless shielded below the planet's dusty, cold surface, said Cary Zeitlin of the National Space Biomedical Research Institute working on the mission.

"It would have to be pretty robust against all kinds of environmental horrors," he said.

The conclusions stemmed from new data released Thursday by scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory who recapped the first year of scientific results from the $300 million mission.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/03/14/state0344EST0021.DTL

NASA WAS ASKED TO 'BEG' FOR HELP ON SHUTTLE PHOTOS
from The New York Times

HOUSTON, March 13 — A senior structural engineer at the Johnson Space Center here wrote in an e-mail message to his managers during the flight of the shuttle Columbia that he and other engineers saw "big uncertainties" about the extent of damage when debris hit it. The engineer said NASA should "beg" other agencies for help in photographing the spacecraft.

In his message on Jan. 21, the engineer, Alan R. Rocha, offered suggestions on revising the re-entry plans. But Mr. Rocha said that without the pictures, it would be impossible to know how to adjust the re-entry.

The message, sent five days after the shuttle was launched on Jan. 16, is the first internal NASA communication to show that engineers foresaw a need for different options for re-entry and suggested discussing those alternatives.

Senior NASA officials have said that they did not shift plans because they concluded that there was no threat of serious damage and that the standard re-entry pattern was the best available.

http://www.nytimes.com/2003/03/14/national/nationalspecial/14SHUT.html

NO CATACLYSM BROUGHT DOWN MAYA
from The Washington Post

Beginning in the 8th century and continuing for 150 years, the great Mayan civilization of the Petén rain forest in present-day Guatemala fell apart. Cities were abandoned, people fled and wars raged across the encroaching wilderness.

This prolonged event -- known traditionally as the Maya "collapse" -- is one of the enduring mysteries of pre-Columbian America and a subject of continued debate. How did it happen?

In research reported yesterday, a German-led team of earth scientists offered new evidence that a 200-year dry spell, punctuated by three periods of serious drought, may have played an important role.

"There's competition for food, there are wars, there's deforestation, and the climate is drier," said paleo-oceanographer Gerald Haug of Potsdam's Geoscience Center. "These were problems you could cope with to a certain degree -- but then you had the extremes. It's a subtle catalyst."

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A23311-2003Mar13.html

AGING EXPERTS GIVE TONGUE-IN-CHEEK AWARD TO CLONE GROUP
from The Associated Press

CHICAGO (AP) -- A group that claims to have cloned the first human babies, and capsules that purport to combat old age, are recipients of tongue-in-cheek awards from three prominent aging experts.

The "Silver Fleece" awards announced Thursday were created by S. Jay Olshansky, a scientist at the University of Illinois at Chicago, aging expert Leonard Hayflick of the University of California at San Francisco, and Bruce Carnes, who studies the biology of aging at the National Opinion Research Center in Chicago.

The trio contend the anti-aging industry's claims aren't backed up by science.

http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/news/archive/2003/03/13/state0211EST0308.DTL

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Sunday, March 16, 2003

WHAT'S NEW Robert L. Park Friday, 14 Mar 03 Washington, DC

1. ISS: RANSOM FOR CAPTIVE U.S. ASTRONAUTS PUT AT $50M EACH. Currently, two Americans and one Russian are on the International Space Station. With the three remaining U.S. shuttles grounded indefinitely, Russia controls all transportation to and from the station. Russia says it urgently needs $100M to build two more unmanned Progress supply spacecraft to ferry water, fuel and other supplies to the station. The standard tourist fare for a week on the ISS is $20M (WN 29 Jun 01), but perhaps astronauts travel business class. Russia grumbles that the loss of Columbia led to cancellation of commercial and space-tourist flights that would have brought in $31M. Plans are to reduce the ISS crew to two: one Russian and one American. Neither the Russians nor the Americans want to risk leaving the ISS completely unmanned.

2. EPHEDRA: WILL MAJOR SUPPLIERS HIT A REGULATORY HOME RUN? The results of an autopsy on Orioles pitcher Steve Bechler, released yesterday, confirmed that his death was linked to use of the herb ephedra, often sold as legal speed. He was the latest of a number of athletes who have fallen victim to the stimulant. Why hasn't it been banned? The 1994 Dietary Supplement and Health Education Act (DSHEA) exempts suppliers of natural supplements from any requirement to prove safety, efficacy or purity. The burden of proof falls on the FDA, which lacks the resources. But the FDA is now responding to the public outcry over ephedra by imposing new rules on the supplement industry, and ironically, the supplement industry's key allies on Capitol Hill are backing the new rules. According to the Hill paper, Roll Call, that includes Orrin Hatch (R-UT), whose home state is a center of the industry, and who was a key force in passing DSHEA. His son is a lobbyist for the supplement industry. So what are the rule changes? The industry still won't have to show that a supplement is safe, or that it actually works, but they will have to show it contains what it says on the label. The main effect, according to Roll Call, will be to eliminate the small companies, giving industry giants such as Metabolife a corner on the market.

3. TAIKONAUTS: CHINA AIMS TO EXPLOIT THE MOON' S VAST RESOURCES. Resources? On the Moon? Yes, according to today's New York Times, they plan to corner the market for helium-3. Oh! You've heard that one before. It comes up every few years. Rocks from the Moon's surface, brought back by the Apollo missions and the Soviet Luna robot missions, contain high concentrations of helium-3 as a result of cosmic ray bombardment. "High" is a relative term. Helium-3 would be great fuel for a fusion reactor, but its in pretty short supply on Earth. Every now and then someone gets excited about bringing it back from the Moon and solving the energy problem. Then they run the numbers. That's your homework assignment for next week.

THE UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND and THE AMERICAN PHYSICAL SOCIETY. Opinions are the author's and are not necessarily shared by the University or the American Physical Society, but they should be.

BBC NEWS

'Riots writer' attacks Obasanjo

The journalist whose newspaper article was blamed for sparking riots that killed more that 220 people in Nigeria has told the BBC of her anger at those who subsequently attacked her - including President Olusegun Obasanjo. Running clashes between Muslims and Christians began after Isioma Daniel's piece appeared in the ThisDay newspaper claiming that the Prophet Mohammed would not have complained about the Miss World competition being held in the country.

President Obasanjo was critical of Miss Daniel's role in the riots, saying she "should be brought to book" and that her article should not have been published.

But Miss Daniel defended herself, saying that Mr Obasanjo had simply been trying to make political capital out of the tragic events. "I think he was criticising the wrong person," she told Osasu Obayiuwana on the BBC World Service's Talkabout Africa programme. "I think he should have been criticising the people who were out in the streets who were killing and rampaging in the name of religion. "I think he should have been speaking out harder against the Northern Islamic religious leaders who had encouraged their followers to go out in the streets.

"You know he is up for (re-) election and he's doing his best to keep everybody happy"

'Light-hearted comment'

And she maintained that her comment about the prophet Mohammed - that he may have chosen to marry one of the Miss World contestants - was a simple piece of satire that had been horribly misinterpreted.

For the rest of the story check:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/2843233.stm

Word is made flesh as God reveals himself... as a fish

Edward Helmore New York

The Observer

An obscure Jewish sect in New York has been gripped in awe by what it believes to be a mystical visitation by a 20lb carp that was heard shouting in Hebrew, in what many Jews worldwide are hailing as a modern miracle.

Many of the 7,000-member Skver sect of Hasidim in New Square, 30 miles north of Manhattan, believe God has revealed himself in fish form. According to two fish-cutters at the New Square Fish Market, the carp was about to be slaughtered and made into gefilte fish for Sabbath dinner when it suddenly began shouting apocalyptic warnings in Hebrew.

Many believe the carp was channelling the troubled soul of a revered community elder who recently died; others say it was God. The only witnesses to the mystical show were Zalmen Rosen, a 57-year-old Hasid with 11 children, and his co-worker, Luis Nivelo. They say that on 28 January at 4pm they were about to club the carp on the head when it began yelling.

Nivelo, a Gentile who does not understand Hebrew, was so shocked at the sight of a fish talking in any language that he fell over. He ran into the front of the store screaming: 'It's the Devil! The Devil is here!' Then the shop owner heard it shouting warnings and commands too. 'It said "Tzaruch shemirah" and "Hasof bah",' he told the New York Times, 'which essentially means that everyone needs to account for themselves because the end is near.'

For the rest of the story check: http://www.observer.co.uk/international/story/0,6903,915125,00.html

Woman sees 'Allah' inside a brinjal

By Bibhuti Mishra in Bhubaneswar

A housewife while cutting a brinjal for cooking discovered the sign of Allah inside vegetable.

On seeing the 'miracle,' she informed the Imam of the local mosque, who in turn ordered that the brinjal be kept in the mosque.

This has happened in the Mendhasal village, about thirty kilometres from Bhubaneswar.

The wife of one Mohammad Khalil discovered on cutting the brinjal into two that the seeds spelled 'Allah' in Urdu.

The Imam had taken the brinjal to the mosque where prayers were offered and namaz were read.

The villagers believe the incident as a miracle and the Khalil's family is consdered a blessed one.

http://headlines.sify.com/1711news4.html?headline=Woman~sees~'Allah'~inside~a~brinjal

IIT scientists start work on cow urine

Scientists at the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi and IIT, Kanpur have launched a project for carrying out experiments on the use of cow urine.

"The two IITs in coordination with our ministry are working on cow urine," Minister of State for Science and Technology Bachi Singh Rawat said on Sunday.

He was addressing the national convention of rural agro industries, organised by the Khadi and Village Industries Commission. Singh said cow urine has caught attention in India especially after one of the US firms had got a patent related to it.

UNI

http://headlines.sify.com/1805news3.html?headline=IIT~scientists~start~work~on~cow~urine

Kerala's magic school casts a spell

Thiruvananthapuram, March 16

Pens do not turn into swords or bags into melons as one steps into a unique 'school for wizards' in a quiet, tree-lined area here, not knowing what to expect.

From inside a hall entitled "Wonder Land" come strains of peppy music and sound of feet practicing dance steps. And then, one is ushered into a room to meet Kerala's Magic Man Gopinath Muthukad, who, instead of conjuring rabbits out of hats, is flipping open his laptop to view a CD. As you begin to wonder at the very ordinariness of this extraordinary place, which finds mention in 'Lonely Planet' as the only institution of its kind not only in India but the whole of Asia, a major purpose of the centre is being fulfilled.

For, when 37-year-old Muthukad, virtually a household name in Kerala, started his 'Magic Academy' in 1996 to train a new crop of magicians, an important objective was also to rid magic of the miasma of superstition and chicanery surrounding it.

"Magic, specially in Kerala, has always been associated with street performers who would often put a human skull before them prior to starting their show.

"This had given magic a shady image when it is nothing but a skill of manipulation", says Muthukad.

On the other end are so-called Godmen, who 'establish' their supernatural powers by conjuring things out of air. Again, there is nothing supernatural in this. It is only a sleight of hand, says Muthukad even as vibhuti drops from his hands, which were seemingly empty minutes before. Describing magic as "an art firmly rooted in the basic principles of science", Muthukad says that it was his dream to spread the message that "magic is not superstition but an art connected to science".

For the rest of the story check:

http://headlines.sify.com/1759news2.html

A lucky miniature Cup for Indian team

Chennai, March 16

C. Ravi (27), a graphite artist who has created a unique half-an-inch tall replica of cricket's most coveted trophy, says his mini cup is acting as a lucky charm for the Indian team. Dejected after India's humiliating nine-wicket defeat to defending champions Australia in a preliminary match, Ravi decided it was time to let faith take over.

He put hours of back-breaking hardwork and prayers of hundreds of his friends into making this unique sculpture and much to his delight the move has clicked.

Since the debacle against Australia, India has not lost a single match and has secured a berth in the semi-finals.

For the rest of the story check:

http://headlines.sify.com/1760news2.html


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