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NHNE News Brief 66
Friday, June 20, 1997
"A thought-provoking exploration
of the extraordinary times in which we live."
925 days until January 1, 2000
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Looked Like a Thief
Sex Urge Reduces Male Lifespan
Genetic Marker for Social Skills
Endangered Birds on Rebound
Mom Neglects Kids, Surfs Net
THE LIGHTER SIDE:
Star Trek Fans Addicted
Researchers Recruit Pot Smokers
Scientists Create Glowing Mice
Odds Favor ET Life
Words for a New Millennium
Pets are Big Business
The Hair is Human, To Shave Divine
NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
Weddings in Sedona
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
A Key Human Right
Home Study Remote Viewing Course
There IS a Cure for Staph Infection!
Yet Another Roswell Explanation?
Belief in Aliens Higher Than Ever
Setting the Record Straight
ANCIENT CIVILIZATION WATCH:
What Happened in Greenland?
Solution in a Nutshell
Now It's "Salmon-Safe" Wine
Better Than New
Power to the People
ABOUT NHNE & HOW TO JOIN US
LOOKED LIKE A THIEF
A man whose axe was missing suspected his neighbor's son. The boy walked like a thief, looked like a thief, and spoke like a thief. But the man found his axe while he was digging in the valley, and the next time he saw his neighbor's son, the boy walked, looked, and spoke like any other child.
---Traditional German, from the book "Stories of the Spirit, Stories of the Heart," Edited by Christina Feldman & Jack Kornfield
SEX URGE REDUCES MALE LIFESPAN?
(Source: REUTERS, 5/27/97)
American women live to an average age of 79, compared with 72.5 for men. David Gems of LONDON'S UNIVERSITY COLLEGE says that males may, in fact, may be programmed to live longer than females -- but their sex urge gets in the way. Gems arrived at this theory after studying the nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans. While most worms are labeled hermaphroditic, in every worm population there are a few true males. Gems found that they died at about 10 days of age. But when males were separated from other males, their lifespans doubled to 20 days -- four days longer than the average female lifespan. Gems believe the isolated worms' lifespans increased because they no longer needed to restlessly move about, compete for mates and defend worm-territory. He believes there is a "threshold" of activity which, once passed, limits lifespan. "Males are naturally above that threshold, and so their lifespans are shorter." Of course, worms are a far cry from the evolutionary complexity of modern Homo sapiens, but Gems believes his nematode studies are backed up by work in other species. He points to the case of male marsupial mice, which normally live just a few weeks and according to Gems, "spend 5 to 11 hours a day copulating." However, those lifespans grow considerably longer if the rodents lose their sex drive -- castrated marsupial mice can live for years. But what about humans? Gems points to a 1969 study of 319 human eunuchs, which revealed their average lifespan to be 13.5 years longer than intact males. And he notes that while women, on average, live longer than men, men form the majority of those surviving past 90 years of age. (JG)
GENETIC MARKER FOR SOCIAL SKILLS
(Source: REUTERS, 6/12/97)
A new study suggests there may be a gene on the X chromosome inherited from the father that determines social savvy. Dr. David Skuse, Head of the Behavioral Sciences Unit at the INSTITUTE OF CHILD HEALTH in London and colleagues made the discovery by looking at 80 girls and young women with Turner's syndrome. While most females have two X chromosomes -- one from each parent -- those born with Turner's syndrome have only one. The researchers found that females who inherited their X chromosome from their mother had greater difficulty interacting socially with their peers than those who inherited the X chromosome from their father. The study suggests that a process known as imprinting is taking place in the X chromosome, and that the gene shuts off if it is inherited from the mother, but turned on if inherited from the father. The finding may have the most significance for behavior in boys, who inherit only one X chromosome -- always from their mother. If the new study is correct, their "social cue" gene would always be inactivated. The findings may help explain why males are more susceptible than females to speech, language and reading, or attention problems, as well as more severe conditions such as autism, in which children are extremely withdrawn and unable to communicate with the world. And it also may explain why males, in general, have to work harder at picking up on social cues. The good news is that social sensitivity can be learned, as seen in the girls with Turner's syndrome, the British researcher noted. (JG)
ENDANGERED BIRDS ON REBOUND
(Source: NEWSWEEK, 6/23/97)
In 1972, a number of imperiled bird species were poised on the brink of extinction due to pesticide poisoning: bald eagles pairs numbered less than 500, there were only 39 breeding pairs of peregrine falcons and less than 8,000 breeding pairs of ospreys. In the 25 years since DDT was banned, bird numbers have experienced a remarkable rebound: there are now more than 5,000 pairs of bald eagles, 993 pairs of peregrine falcons, and the osprey count is up to 14,246 pairs. (JG)
MOM NEGLECTS KIDS, SURFS NET
(Source: REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 6/16/97)
A mother of three has been arrested on child-neglect charges for allegedly leaving her children to take care of themselves while she surfed the Internet. Sandra Hacker, 24, was charged after police received a report that she was spending up to 12 hours a day at her computer while keeping her children -- aged 5, 3 and 2 -- locked in a playroom in her apartment. Police paid her a visit and found the playroom littered with debris, including broken glass and human feces. David Greenfield, a psychologist from Hartford, Connecticut, said that the case had all the earmarks of Internet Addiction Disorder. (JG)
THE LIGHTER SIDE:
STAR TREK FANS ADDICTED
(Source: REUTERS, 6/13/97)
A British study has determined that some Star Trek fans suffer withdrawal symptoms just like drug addicts when deprived of their favorite television show. One Trekkie spent her whole holiday worrying that her video recorder had not been set properly at home to catch the latest installment. Another spent $10,000 on Star Trek merchandise every year. After studying fans of the science fiction cult show for four years, psychologist Sandy Wolfson said: "My research found that about 5 to 10 percent of fans met the psychological criteria of addiction. They show withdrawal symptoms such as frustration and agitation if they miss an episode and develop higher tolerance levels, so they need increasing doses." But the news is not all bad. "Most Trekkies have made friends and even met spouses through their love of the series and they are intellectually challenged by the range of moral and ethical dilemmas presented in the show," Wolfson said. (JG)
RESEARCHERS RECRUIT POT SMOKERS
(Source: UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 5/9/97)
The BOWMAN GRAY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE in Winston-Salem, N.C., is looking for 20 adults to smoke marijuana four times a week and practice driving on a simulator to study of the effects of the drug on balance and judgment. Because health experts don't want anyone to start smoking marijuana because of their study, they are only asking for volunteers who already smoke marijuana. Volunteers will smoke marijuana grown on a Mississippi farm and rolled into joints at a government-approved facility in North Carolina. The $50,000 study is intended to give the federal government more information about marijuana's effects. Studies have shown that about one-third of people treated in hospital emergency rooms for serious injuries have traces of marijuana's active ingredient THC in their blood. Volunteers receive $200 and will be picked up and driven home by taxi. (JG)
SCIENTISTS CREATE GLOWING MICE
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 6/13/97)
Glowing green mice were created recently in a laboratory at OSAKA UNIVERSITY after Japanese geneticists injected mouse embryos with the DNA of bioluminescent North American jellyfish. Under ultraviolet light, their bodies appear a gleaming green. "We have developed the technology to make specific cells glow as markers, so the effects of research can be observed without killing the animals and opening them up," said Dr. Shuichi Yamada, a member of the team. Yamada said the green mice will be able to pass on their unique characteristic to offspring for five generations. At the moment, the researchers say they have no intention of marketing the mice as glow-in-the-dark pets. (JG)
ODDS FAVOR ET LIFE
(Sources: REUTERS via CNI NEWS 6/16/97)
Growing suspicion that there could well be "something out there," has led a British bookmaker to recently slash the odds to 33 to 1 that humans will make contact with other forms of intelligent life by January 1, 2000. Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe said: "We've been lowering the odds over the past couple of months. There was all the excitement about possible life on Mars, and now speculation about what lies beneath the seas on Jupiter's moons. People are beginning to accept that there is more out there than has been given public airing." At one point, odds of discovering extraterrestrial life were as high as 1,000 to 1. (JG)
WORDS FOR A NEW MILLENNIUM
(Source: SEDONA SPECTRUM, 6/97)
"Frankenfood" -- genetically-engineered plant and animal foodstuffs, such as genetically-enhanced tomatoes and chromosome-tinkered cows.
"Greenlock" -- massive traffic jams during peak seasons in national and state wilderness and parks.
"Velcroid" -- a person who makes a point of staying in close proximity to an important leader in order to gain media visibility.
For more new words, see Anne H. Soukhanov's new book, "Word Watch." (JG)
(Source: NEWSWEEK, 6/23/97)
A few moths ago, when MATTEL launched their new "Share a Smile" Becky handicapped Barbie doll complete with pastel wheelchair, the toy company behaved like a proud parent showing off its latest offspring. That glow has now changed to red-faced embarrassment with the discovery that Becky's wheelchair can't fit through the doors of Barbie's Dream House. Says MATTEL spin doctor Lisa McKendall, "We are looking at the accessibility of all Barbie accessories." (JG)
PETS ARE BIG BUSINESS
(Source: Kendall Hamilton, NEWSWEEK, 6/9/97)
Pets are big business these days. In the U.S., where 56 percent of households have pets, $25 billion is spent each year on such products as microwavable dog chews, cat hammocks, heated doggie water beds, and organic veggie burgers for iguanas. This is a trend that experts say will stay with us into the New Millennium. One reason is that as the line between home and office becomes blurred and our lives become more efficient, the need for something warm and cuddly becomes more important. "When you can do everything you need to do in your life through your computer, you need to compensate for all the high tech with some 'high touch,'" says Vreij Kolandjian, a vice president of KAL KAN, a pet food maker. (JG)
THE HAIR IS HUMAN, TO SHAVE DIVINE
(Source: CNN ONLINE. 5/29/97)
Each year, millions of pilgrims visit the Tirupati Temple in southeastern India. Most of them are poor, and don't have any gift to give to their lord, Venkateswara Swami, so they surrender their hair. "By offering our hair, we are offering our beauty to the god," said one pilgrim who submitted to the shearing. The Hindu temple has 600 barbers to shave the heads of the thousands of devotees who bow their heads to the razors 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Pilgrims pay two rupees (about 20 cents) for the haircuts, which are administered in assembly-line fashion. Since the god doesn't come to collect the offerings, temple workers sweep up the shorn locks and bring them to a nearby warehouse, where the hair is combed out, separated according to shade and texture, and then sold to wigmakers in Europe and the U.S. HAIR RAISERS in London, for example, buys tons of Indian hair each year. Some of the tresses become toupees, other locks become fake sideburns and whiskers, but the best of the pickings are made into women's wigs. Last year, the temple made more than $1.5 million from the sale of human hair. The donors don't mind that their offerings are being turned into a money-making enterprise. After all, they point out, each year the temple provides free food and lodging for pilgrims, as well as operating schools and hospitals for the poor. (JG)
NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
"For the last few months, I have enjoyed reading your News Briefs free on the Web. Now I'm happy to pay for the privilege and to lend support to your organization. I hope others do likewise. Thanks for your thought-provoking and enlightening spin on sometimes troubling news."
---Sandy Schlenk, Canton, Georgia
"I have not seen the Dutch video made by Otto de Bruijne and his crew, but I have these thoughts based upon Otto's comments as mentioned in News Brief 65: There is fear in his heart. Perhaps time will show the experience in Sedona to be that point where he began to accept and deal with this fear. Are you guys 'too nice' to people? This man obviously hasn't read a lot of your News Briefs."
---Mary Koch, Napa, California
"I have seen you on Dutch television and I became interested in your ideas. Today I visited your site. Great info on great issues!"
---Edward van Munster, Amersfoort, The Netherlands
A KEY HUMAN RIGHT
"To an outsider, the Steven Greer controversy (Special Reports 6/6/97 and 6/8/97) seems almost as if there were a sinister conspiracy subverting the cause of getting UFO information out of the realm of hearsay and superstition and into the public/governmental mind as a valid topic for discussion. The Greer/CNI incident further reinforces how necessary it is for NHNE and CNI NEWS to be impeccable in their role of providing objectivity and clarity on issues that tend to be exaggerated or obscure. As you've seen, a slip-up in reporting can serve to muddy the waters even further. So, what's the fundamental lesson here? For me, it's the issue that the government should no longer keep secret any information such as UFO sightings and/or contacts. Maybe in the '50s or '60s it was justified because it might have been a Soviet secret weapon, or revelations might have caused widespread panic. But in these times of vast bureaucracies, mass media and disinformation, 'The Right to Know' is a key human right."
---Mike Mariner, Boulder, Colorado
"We expect to be moving to Boulder, Colorado in the next two months. If I told you what will happen in the next few years, you guys would probably not believe me. Good luck. You guys will need it because you're on the wrong side of the Rockies."
---Daniel, Port Washington, New York
[We wish you and your wife all the best in Colorado. A lot of good folks are relocating there these days. If, perchance, we end up under water, it would be somewhat of a relief. The days are pretty hot out here at the moment -- and we could use a nice vacation. David Sunfellow]
HOME STUDY REMOTE VIEWING COURSE
"I just read your Special Report on Remote Viewing on the NHNE Web site. You are so right -- there is a 'package' of so-called RVers who are simply off this planet. Then there is a group who are serious: Angela Thompson, Paul Smith, Joe McMoneagle and Lyn Buchannan. I have had personal contact with all of these people, and have done a course with Angela Thompson, who is regarded as one of the world's top female RVers, and am about to do one with Paul Smith. My own remote viewing tells me that the human race has lost its 'mission' but is about to flick into a totally different universal mindset before the end of the millennium. In fact, I see quite a bit of evidence of this already happening -- synchronicities and events that I have not noticed before. I get the impression that this is the stillness before the storm. I'm getting remote view impressions of total upheaval, then sanity and a new level of consciousness -- that is, I think our race will once again develop a 'mission.' For the information of your readers, Angela Thompson and I have produced an RV course for home study. It is an interactive software-based training system priced at $95. I've got details up on my site at <http://malls.com/australian-lateral-thinking/prodmain.html>."
---Jim Francis, Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia
THERE IS A CURE FOR STAPH INFECTION!
"This is in response to your 'Germ Unstoppable?' article in News Brief 64. The U.S. CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION (CDC) is afraid of Staphylococcus aureus because they don't have a pill to control the bacteria. But there is a cure out there for staph infection. I almost lost my life to a systemic staph bacterial infection I had due to a broken-off tip of a root-canal file. It took the medical profession almost nine years and a number of combinations of antibiotics before they even found out the source of my infection. I finally got rid of this systemic staph infection with Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments. It took over 40 of them to get my body and blood back into normal condition after having the infection for so long, plus to repair the damage of long-term medication usage on my liver and kidneys. Hyperbaric Oxygen Treatments saved my life when the medical profession couldn't. If you have any questions regarding this type of treatment, 'Alternative Medicine' by FUTURE MEDICINE PUBLISHING can guide you. Hyperbaric Oxygen can't be sold in a pill, shot or even at your everyday doctor's office, so the CDC considers it alternative medicine. Maybe one day they will recognize that we need to put the emphasis on saving lives, and not just making new drugs."
---Rhonda Linn McCloud, Huntington Beach, California
YET ANOTHER ROSWELL EXPLANATION?
(Source: Michael Lindemann CNI NEWS, 6/16/97)
Just in time for the 50th Anniversary UFO bash in Roswell, rumors are rampant that the AIR FORCE is about to issue yet another "final" explanation of what "really" happened near that fabled New Mexico town in July 1947. This time, if the rumors are true, the explanation could really be a disappointment for UFO enthusiasts. The book, called "The Roswell Report: Case Solved" is expected to provide a highly plausible scenario of a crash event involving only human-created elements, yet accounting for most of the strangeness that has become emblematic of Roswell.
While the book's exact contents are still under wraps and its release date has not been set, it definitely does exist -- its ISBN number is 9997911156. Its author is Captain James McAndrew, USAF, who was also a co-writer of the previous "final" USAF report on Roswell, released in September 1994, that put forth the now infamous "Mogul Balloon" explanation of the 1947 events. The new book is an official AIR FORCE/DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE report published by the GOVERNMENT PRINTING OFFICE (GPO). The GPO says it was originally due for release in April, then in late May, and now, "pretty soon." List price is $52. You can place an order online at AMAZON BOOKS (www.amazon.com). CNI NEWS has received reliable information that the book should be out any day, and that a paperback version will be available for less than $15. (JG)
BELIEF IN ALIENS HIGHER THAN EVER
(Sources: CNN ONLINE 6/16/97; AUFORA NEWS UPDATE 6/12/97)
A new CNN/TIME poll released June 15 showed that 80 percent of Americans think the government is hiding knowledge of the existence of extraterrestrial life forms. While nearly three-quarters of the 1,024 adults questioned for the poll said they had never seen or known anyone who saw a UFO, 54 percent believed intelligent life exists outside Earth. 64 percent of the respondents said that aliens have contacted humans, half said they've abducted humans, and 37 percent said they have contacted the U.S. government. Despite all the recent hoopla over Hale-Bopp, only 9 percent said they believed there were any aliens near the Comet. As for the Roswell incident, nearly two-thirds of the respondents said they believed that a UFO crash-landed in a field outside the New Mexico town 50 years ago. Were they to meet an alien, 44 percent said they expect to be treated as friends, while 26 percent think they'll be treated as enemies. 39 percent don't expect aliens to appear very humanoid, although 35 percent said they probably look "somewhat" human.
If you missed being polled by CNN, but would like to make your views on UFOs and aliens known, MSNBC would like to hear from you. Are they extraterrestrial visitors, military aircraft, swamp gas, beings from parallel dimensions? Voting on their Web site only takes a second: <http://www.msnbc.com/news/79556.asp>. If you wish to send them a more detailed written comment, they can be reached at: "email@example.com". (JG)
SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT
(Source: CNI NEWS, 6/16/97
Senator Strom Thurmond, who wrote the foreword to the new bombshell book, "The Day After Roswell," co-authored by William J. Birnes and Col. Philip Corso (News Brief 64), announced on June 5 that he now wants to distance himself from it. According to his press statement, Thurmond was told that the book was to be a memoir titled "I Walked with Giants: My Career in Military Intelligence," and that there was "absolutely no mention, suggestion or indication that the book dealt with UFOs and a government conspiracy to hide the existence of such space vehicles." On learning the actual content of the book, Thurmond stated that "I did not, and would not, pen the foreword to a book containing a suggestion that the success of the U.S. in the Cold War was attributable to the technology found on a crashed UFO."
Birnes responded to Thurmond's statements with the following comment: "The foreword the senator wrote for Phil Corso's first manuscript 'I Walked with Giants' was returned to him by Col. Corso. Corso [subsequently] spoke to Senator Thurmond in person in DC and told him what he was writing in 'The Day After Roswell,' and that he was even including an anecdote about [the senator] in the book. Senator Thurmond agreed to write the new foreword and sent it to Corso. I have copies of both forewords as well as Thurmond's signed release to use his new foreword in 'The Day After Roswell.'" (JG)
ANCIENT CIVILIZATION WATCH:
WHAT HAPPENED IN GREENLAND?
(Source: Kathy A. Svitil, DISCOVER, 6/97)
In the 10th century, the North Atlantic was in the throes of a warm spell and parts of southern Greenland were actually green. Norse Icelanders established two settlements on Greenland totaling some 6,000 inhabitants at their peak. The settlers built farms and large stone churches, raised animals, traded with Europe and struggled to survive. But at the end of the 13th century, temperatures started to chill with the onset of a prolonged cooling trend called "The Little Ice Age." The Western settlement succumbed first, sometime in the middle 1300s; incredibly, the Eastern settlers hung on until the mid-15th century. But were there other factors besides temperature that resulted in their demise?
It seems that mainland Europe was totally unaware of their fate. In the late 13th century, vast amounts of sea ice began to clog navigation lanes, making travel to and from Greenland difficult, even during the summer. "As late as the 1600s, the Pope was still appointing bishops to Greenland, who of course never left Rome," says archeologist Thomas McGovern of CITY UNIVERSITY in New York, who has studied the rise and fall of the Greenland culture. "As far as he was concerned, Greenland was still a functioning part of Christendom."
When disaster came, it came quickly. Excavations of the colonies have turned up many expensive items that would have probably been removed by the settlers in an orderly evacuation. Had the population gradually diminished, the wood used in the construction of many of the farms -- a valuable commodity in a place with few trees -- would have been scavenged by the few remaining settlers. McGovern points out that on one farm, "we found the bones of a number of cows -- about the same number as lived in the barn -- and mixed in with them are a bunch of ptarmigan feet." In McGovern's opinion, this is famine food. He thinks the settlers starved to death.
By all indications, the Norse toughed it out for generations under steadily worsening conditions, yet they apparently clung steadfastly to a European way of life, even after being cut off from the continent. Thule Inuit peoples had begun emmigrating from northern Canada to the island around 1100, but the Norse suspiciously avoided all contact with them. It's too bad. The Norse could have learned a lot from the Inuit, who developed a complex hunting technology which allowed them to hunt through the ice and along the edge of the ice for ringed seals. "They didn't adopt harpoons, they didn't adopt skin clothing, and they didn't adopt skin boats," says McGovern. "The extinction of the Norse in Greenland possibly could have been avoided if they had picked up more of those Arctic adaptations from the Inuit. These folks managed to maintain ethnic purity at the expense of survival." (JG)
SOLUTION IN A NUTSHELL
(Source: Ann Kellan, CNN ONLINE, 5/21/97)
The popularity of pecans is good news to producers and processors, but they would be even happier if there were more ways to use the inedible half of each crop -- the shells. New Mexico's SUN DIAMOND PECAN PROCESSING plant, for example, produces between 35,000 and 40,000 pounds of pecan shells a day during its peak season. While some of these shells become ground cover along roadways and on farms, thousands of pounds of the shells are taking up space in landfills.
Now, researchers at a small lab at NEW MEXICO STATE UNIVERSITY believe they're on the trail of a new and cost-efficient way to use shells -- as an activated carbon filter. "By treating them chemically and thermally, you can get these materials to absorb certain chemicals out of the water, to remove organics and heavy metals," said David Rockstraw, a researcher at NEW MEXICO STATE. Pecan shells appear to hold several advantages over other activated carbons. They're cheaper to make, because it takes less energy and lower temperatures to grind and convert them into activated carbon.
One possible beneficiary of this new technology is Texas-based INTERNATIONAL GARMENT PROCESSORS, which stone-washes blue jeans for major manufacturers. Denim is made rigid in the mills so it'll be easier to sew, but most consumers like to wear softer jeans -- thus stone-washing to give jeans that lived-in look. But washing blue jeans gobbles up lots of water and dyes the water blue. In the desert, water is a precious commodity, and the jean factory is the biggest water user in El Paso. INTERNATIONAL GARMENT already re-uses some blue-jean water, after it's biologically treated in holding ponds, to irrigate its alfalfa and pistachio fields, but most of it goes down the drain.
If the pecan-shell filter proves to be a cost-effective way to take the blue out of blue-jean water, the company could potentially save thousands of dollars and millions of gallons of water a year. The company is currently funding a trial run of the pecan shell filters at the plant. (JG)
NOW, IT'S "SALMON-SAFE" WINE
(Sources: NEWSWEEK, 5/26/97; CNN ONLINE 4/26)
First it was "dolphin-safe" tuna; now it's "salmon-safe" wine. The Oregon-based PACIFIC RIVERS COUNCIL is spearheading a campaign aimed at getting Northwest vintners and farmers to practice salmon-friendly agriculture along streams where the fish spawn. The non-profit council rewards those who reduce runoff and pollution with a "Salmon-Safe" seal of approval. The campaign still doesn't address one of the biggest threats to salmon -- the hydroelectric dams which hamper their migration.
In a related story, in April the MARINE MAMMAL FUND bought an ad in the LOS ANGELES TIMES accusing GREENPEACE of selling out by supporting a bill that redefines "dolphin-safe tuna." The MARINE MAMMAL FUND objects to a clause in the bill that would allow tuna to be caught by purse seine nets, which are known to trap dolphins. GREENPEACE and several other environmental groups say they support the bill because it creates tuna fishing restrictions for several nations that currently have none. (JG)
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/16/97)
Scientists are planning to feed genetically-altered potatoes to human volunteers in hopes of tricking the immune system into fighting a common intestinal bug. The research at the UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND is a collaboration with the BOYCE THOMPSON INSTITUTE FOR PLANT RESEARCH in Ithaca, N.Y., which conceived the idea and grew the potatoes. The university will run the clinical trial and evaluate the results in what is the first test of an edible plant vaccine. The target is a strain of E. coli that produces diarrhea and regularly afflicts people living in conditions with poor sanitation. The image of children eating locally-grown vaccines is irresistible to science. "It's the ultimate oral immunization," said Dr. Myron Levine, the director who founded the university's CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT and has become internationally known as a leader in vaccine research. "And it's as cheap as can be." Plant vaccines hold special promise for developing countries which could use them while bypassing manufacturing costs. Trials are slated to begin this summer. (JG)
(Sources: ORGANIC GARDENING & NEW SCIENTIST via SPECTRUM, May-June/97)
Rot-resistant pressure-treated wood is popular in the U.S., with four billion board feet being sold every year. The reason pressure-treated wood is invulnerable to termites, mold and other pests is that it is impregnated with poison -- chromated copper arsenate (CCA). What most people don't realize is that what is deadly to other living organisms is usually deadly to humans too. Manufacturers of pressure-treated wood admit that arsenic leaches from their product, but they claim that the amounts are not dangerous. However, soil samples taken from under decks made of pressure-treated wood by the CONNECTICUT AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION in New Haven were found to contain up to 35 times the legal limit for arsenic. The current allowable level of arsenic in drinking water is 50 parts per BILLION, and the ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) is considering stricter limits. The U.S. PUBLIC SAFETY COMMISSION (PSC) found that merely touching CCA-treated wood can leave traces of arsenic on your skin.
ORGANIC GARDENING MAGAZINE concludes that pressure-treated wood should not be used in or near a garden, and some groups are lobbying to have pressure-treated structures removed from playgrounds. Care should also be taken when cutting and working with pressure treated wood. Wear gloves, as well as some kind of breathing protection to avoid ingesting toxic sawdust. Burning scraps of the toxic wood in fireplaces and wood stoves is also not recommended.
In a related story, surveys show that many consumers who use dangerous products around the house do not read warning labels. To help them "get the message," the EPA is developing talking labels that make use of HALLMARK's talking greeting card technology to verbally describe the hazards associated with a particular substance. (JG)
BETTER THAN NEW
(Source: DISCOVER, 7/97)
Thousands of concrete columns under California's highways are about to fall short of new earthquake standards because they are no longer considered strong enough to resist earthquakes. Traditionally this meant "hoop steel" -- steel jackets bolted or welded around the columns -- a technique which is expensive and time consuming because the steel casings must be custom-manufactured off site and require heavy equipment to install. Larry Cercone, an engineer with the San Diego-based research and development firm XXSYS TECHNOLOGIES, thought he could do a better job by exploiting high-strength carbon composites, which pound for pound are several times stronger than steel.
Cercone's invention, a fiber-winding robot called "Robo-Wrapper," works at a rate of 400 linear feet a minute, guiding 12 spools of fiber around a column like a bevy of spiders. Its operating crew of three can retrofit columns 5 to 10 times faster than their rivals in steel, without the need for cranes. A donut-shaped oven wraps around the column and cures the composite in two hours. The result: a seamless, noncorroding jacket as thin as 2/100ths of an inch that doubles or triples the seismic displacement each concrete column can handle.
Cercone has since built "Robo Junior" for tight corners, such as those found in parking garages, and is in the process of designing an underwater model for docks and other submerged structures. Gloria Ma, CEO of XXSYS TECHNOLOGIES has set her sights on the one third of all U.S. bridges that have been deemed structurally unsound -- a $78 billion repair headache. Ma brags that her company's technology can take rust-weakened and structurally-deficient structures, and "not only make [them] as good as new but actually stronger than new." (JG)
POWER TO THE PEOPLE
(Source: David Schneider, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 5/97)
Up until recently, the only way an environmentally-conscious homeowner who generated wind- or solar-powered electricity had to store the excess power was in huge banks of expensive batteries. Now, growing numbers of utility companies are offering homeowners a more convenient and less expensive option -- "net metering." Homeowners with alternative sources of electricity are fitted with a conventional electrical meter and tied into the grid; when the sun shines and the wind blows, the excess power they produce gets fed into the power grid through their meter, which runs backwards. At times when their demand exceeds the capacity of their system, they draw what electricity they need from the grid and their meter records the amount. What is unique about this arrangement is that the electric companies pay the same rate for the electricity they receive as what they charge the consumer. While some large utility companies are resisting the concept, net metering is now available in Japan, Germany, and 16 U.S. states, such as Hawaii and California. (JG)
David Sunfellow (DS)
James Gregory (JG)
Gail Rossi (GR)
Joya Pope (JP)
Palden Jenkins (PJ)
Kathleen-Blake Frankel (KBF)
Mary Koch (MK)
Robert Perry (RP)
Steve Haag (SH)
Chris Czech (CC)
Sandy Ezrine (SE)
Mark Nijenhuis (MN)
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