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NHNE News Brief 68
Friday, July 4, 1997

"A thought-provoking exploration
of the extraordinary times in which we live."

Millennium Countdown:
911 days until January 1, 2000

Total Paid Subscribers: 124
Total Online Update Mailing List: 818

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CONTENTS:
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QUOTABLES:
UFOs Are Real

NEWS WATCH:
Mexican Volcano Threatens
Quiet Car
Solar Collectors Disguised
Souls Can't Be Cloned

THE LIGHTER SIDE:
"X-Files" Movie in Production
Heavenly Thoughts
Don't Look Up

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Dvorak on Macs

UFO WATCH:
A Blimp By Any Other Name...
Governors & UFOs

SPACE WATCH:
Pathfinder Lands on Mars July 4
Mathilde Reveals Her Secrets
Earth's Second Moon Discovered

PSI WATCH:
Psychic Prostitution

TECH WATCH:
Shuttle, Test Thyself
The Future of Identification
Organic Magnets

ECO WATCH:
Victims of Global Warming

HEALTH WATCH:
Breast Milk vs. Formula

LIFESTYLES:
Avoiding the Courts

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QUOTABLES:
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"UFOs are real -- the Air Force doesn't exist."

---From a Bumper Sticker

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NEWS WATCH:
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MEXICAN VOLCANO THREATENS
(Source: Henry Tricks, REUTERS, 7/1/97)

In its biggest explosion in 70 years, the 17,890-foot Popocatepetl Volcano sent a cloud of ash and acrid gases over Mexico City, 33 miles to the southeast. A drizzle of dirty black ash clogged car windshields and forced the closure of Mexico's main airport. Authorities urged the city's 18 million residents to stay indoors. Those who needed to go outside were advised to wear goggles and face masks. The volcano has already blown out ash and steam on numerous occasions this year, but this explosion marked the first time the grit-like ash reached Mexico City. The ash cloud extended as far as Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico, 180 miles away. During the 35 minutes of fiercest activity, which started at 6:55 p.m. EDT June 30, burning rocks pounded down the volcano's sides, threatening nearby villages. Interior Minister Emilio Chauyffet said authorities were standing by to evacuate people, but the volcano's activity appears to be diminishing. (JG)

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QUIET CAR
(Source: DISCOVER, 7/97)

We are assaulted by noise on every side, so it is gratifying to learn that James Barger of BBN SYSTEMS & TECHNOLOGIES has invented the QuietChip. The premise is simple: just as two waves on a pond wipe each other out if the crest of one meets the trough of the other, two carefully matched sound waves can cancel one another and produce near silence. Barger's company has been producing "antinoise systems" for ships and commercial airplanes for years, but it was only recently that he was able to squeeze all the circuitry onto a chip small and cheap enough to be used for domestic applications, such as cars. Microphones and other sensors installed in the engine and passenger compartments feed the noise to the QuietChip which then feeds the appropriate antinoise to the car's audio speakers (which work even when the sound system is playing). BBN SYSTEMS & TECHNOLOGIES expects to start selling the chip to auto companies next year, which should launch a whole new generation of quiet cars. (JG)

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SOLAR COLLECTORS DISGUISED
(Source: DISCOVER, 7/97)

One reason people resist putting solar collectors on the roofs of their houses is that they are ugly. In a move that made people wonder why it hadn't been thought of before, Subhendu Guha, the Executive Vice President of UNITED SOLAR SYSTEMS in Troy, Michigan invented solar shingles. They operate on the same principles as conventional solar cells: sunlight falls on thin layers of silicon and stimulates electric current. The real innovation is in the way they are manufactured. Giant rolls of stainless steel sheeting, each about a foot wide and half a mile long, are fed through a series of machines that lay down a nine-layer coating of silicon. The silicon layers are in turn coated with a semiconducting film that tints them to match the color of roofing shingles. The sheets are cut into eight-inch strips and wired together into seven-foot shingles. Roofers nail them down just as they do normal shingles, except the leads are wired into the home's electrical system. One third of a roof covered in solar shingles could provide all the electrical requirements of a conventional home. (JG)

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SOULS CAN'T BE CLONED
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via USA TODAY, 6/25/97)

Human cloning would not result in identical souls because only God can create a soul, concluded the ACADEMY OF LIFE, a panel set up by Pope John Paul II to look into the morality of cloning. The panel expressed concern that cloned humans would pay the price psychically for being aware of "the 'virtual' presence of the other." The Academy called for cultural, social and legislative efforts to stop any human cloning project. (JG)

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THE LIGHTER SIDE:
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"X-FILES" MOVIE IN PRODUCTION
(Source: DRUDGE REPORT, 6/20/97)

Production of the first "X-Files" movie at FOX is up and running, with the working title "Blackwood." The plot involves a virus spread by infected bees that is killing off the human race, a topic touched on in a number of episodes of the show. The script contains scenes described as "mature," which will likely result in an "R" rating. FOX hopes to turn the series into a movie franchise. NEWS CORP President and Chief Operating officer Peter Chernin is fighting to keep the budget for the film in check after the "Volcano"/"Speed 2"/"Titanic" fiascoes. (JG)

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HEAVENLY THOUGHTS
(Source: USA TODAY, 6/20/97)

A recent poll performed by TELENATION for U.S. WORLD REPORT to explore what people think about heaven, came up with this curious fact: while only 67 percent of American adults are certain there IS a heaven, 88 percent are certain THEY are going to heaven. (JG)

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DON'T LOOK UP
(Source: NEW SCIENTIST via FLAGSTAFF LIVE! 6/19/97)

Commercial aircraft could be responsible for spreading dangerous viruses around the world because of sewage from onboard toilets dumped while in flight. Researchers who tested waste pumped from commercial jets discovered that nearly half the samples contained infectious viruses that had survived the chemicals in the planes' sewage tanks. (JG)

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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DVORAK ON MACS

"I regularly read and have enjoyed the News Briefs since Issue #12. I have all of them archived on my computer at home for my own reference. Your article in News Brief 60 incorrectly states that APPLE computers do not support the Dvorak keyboards. In fact, users can obtain a keyboard layout directly from a Dvorak Web site. The URL is: <http://ccwf.cc.utexas.edu/~marcosh/download.html.>"

---M. G. Zavadiuk, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

[We stand corrected. The following general information was taken from the Dvorak Web site:

Macintosh users can choose from three Dvorak Layouts.

-- The QDvorak Layout does not alter traditional key combinations.

-- The DI Dvorak Layout, a product of DVORAK INTERNATIONAL, uses the Dvorak keys in everything.

-- The Dvorak Layout, which is like the DI layout, but also contains PICT of the layout.

Why Dvorak? Keep typing in QWERTY if you want to, but consider this -- the original purpose of the QWERTY layout was to make typing as difficult as possible. Those who try Dvorak never want to go back.

For more information, contact:

DVORAK INTERNATIONAL
PO Box 44
Poultney, VT USA 05764-0044

Phone: (802) 287-2343
Email: "dvorakint@aol.com"]

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UFO WATCH:
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A BLIMP BY ANY OTHER NAME...
(Sources: CNI NEWS, 7/1/97, UFO ROUND UP, 6/29/97)

On the evening of June 21, 1997, WHITMAN'S CHOCOLATES used its 130-foot-long company blimp for a promotional flight over the Sydney Football Stadium during a rugby match between Australia and France. While the blimp had flown over Melbourne, Canberra and Adelaide, this was the first time it had put in an appearance in Australia's largest city. The giant fluorescent-yellow, football-shaped object was seen by thousands of Sydney residents as it floated across the city from Bankstown Airport to the stadium and back again later in the evening. At night, the blimp sheds a golden, orange light from two 1,000 watt bulbs and features Whitman's logo written across it in green ink.

A police spokeswoman said police and radio station switchboards were jammed with reports of the strange bright light, some from as far away as Sydney's northern beaches. NATIONAL UFO HOTLINE senior operator Ross Dowe said the Melbourne-based service recorded its busiest night in five years with more than 1,000 calls from worried Sydney residents.

Here are sampling of what callers reported seeing:

-- "A cloud-like illumination stopping and then moving again towards the western sky, followed by six orange illuminations."

-- "A fluoro [fluorescent] white, upside-down banana-shaped illumination moving towards the northwest sky."

-- "A bright orange-yellow tubed or line-shaped object."

-- "A lime-green line with a golden football-shaped illumination halfway up the line."

-- "A foggy white football-shaped object with [a] line of light on either side."

-- "A stationary tube-shaped illumination."

-- "A large bright white-line-shaped illumination in the southeastern sky. The illumination was as long as a little finger at arm's length." (JG)

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GOVERNORS & UFOS
(Source: Paul Davenport, ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNI NEWS, 7/1/97)

In one of the weirdest turns yet in the ongoing Arizona UFO saga, Governor Fife Symington called a press conference on June 19, 1997 to announce a serious investigation of the UFO sightings that have rocked the state since March. The governor, an admitted "Star Trek" fan, said he was ordering a state investigation into a strange, boomerang-shaped light formation reported over Phoenix on March 13, 1997 (News Briefs 54 & 67). "Obviously it wasn't an AMERICA WEST airliner or something like that," Symington said in the news conference. "The video that I saw was intriguing, so I'm going to order a full investigation."

A few hours later, the governor called reporters to his office for a second news conference to announce "important leads" in the case. With DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY officers beside him, Symington said that the source of the lights had been found. At that point, Chief of Staff Jay Heiler entered the room in a glittery, pink-and-silver space alien costume. "This just goes to show you guys are entirely too serious," Symington said, while his aides laughed heartily.

No one seemed able to explain the governor's bizarre response to the UFO controversy. Outraged UFO researchers were quick to point out that Symington is currently on trial for multiple charges of fraud.

In an oddly-related story, CNI NEWS recently published an unconfirmed report that on June 22, when New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson was asked by an Albuquerque TV reporter what he thought about all the Roswell hoopla, the governor responded that Roswell really happened and it was alien and that he had access to information that the public was not privy to but he couldn't say anything else about the matter. However, when a call was placed to the governor's office a couple of hours later, the governor's press secretary stated that what Gonernor Johnston said was "tongue in cheek" and that there was no substance to it. He had no further comments and there would be no printed statement handed out. (JG)

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SPACE WATCH:
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PATHFINDER LANDING ON MARS JULY 4
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNI NEWS, 7/1/97)

On July 4, NASA's Mars Pathfinder is scheduled to gently parachute to the rocky surface of the red planet. If successful, Pathfinder will be the first earthly craft to touch down on Mars since NASA's twin Viking landers in 1976. There have been four U.S. and Russian Mars-bound flops in the last decade, including America's $1 billion Mars Observer that was lost in space in 1993.

Pathfinder is headed for Ares Vallis, a vast, ancient flood plain about 525 miles southeast of where Viking 1 landed. After touchdown, Pathfinder will release Sojourner (nicknamed "Rover"), a 22-pound, solar-powered rover about the size of a microwave oven -- the smallest planetary craft ever. "Initially, [Sojourner] will just look at geochemistry of areas that look like they've been flooded with water, places we're most likely to find ancient evidence of life," says Wesley Huntress Jr., NASA's Space Science Chief in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, instruments aboard the Pathfinder lander, which should operate for a month, will take color pictures and compile a Mars weather report.

Pathfinder is a flagship in NASA's push to develop "faster, cheaper, better" missions. It should provide what scientists call "ground truth" for more distant observations by the Mars Global Surveyor, which was launched in November 1996 and is set to begin orbiting the red planet September 11. In a 10-year program of Mars exploration, NASA plans to launch pairs of orbiters and landers every 26 months, to bring rock samples back home by 2005, and have humans on the planet as early as 2011. (JG)

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MATHILDE REVEALS HER SECRETS
(Source: NASA Press Release, 6/30/97 thanks to Chris Czech

A 25-minute flyby of Asteroid 253 Mathilde by NASA's Near Earth Asteroid Rendezvous (NEAR) spacecraft on June 27 has resulted in spectacular images of a dark, crater-battered little world assumed to date from the beginning of the solar system. The Mathilde flyby is the closest encounter with an asteroid to date and the first with a C-type asteroid. "The Mathilde encounter was one of the most successful flybys of all time," said Dr. Robert W. Farquhar, of the Applied Physics Laboratory, NEAR Mission Director. "We got images that were far better than we thought possible, especially since the spacecraft was not designed for a fast flyby."

Dr. Joseph Veverka of CORNELL UNIVERSITY, Ithaca, NY, leader of the mission's imaging science team, said, "The degree to which the asteroid has been battered by collisions is astounding. At first glance there are more huge craters than there is asteroid." The imager found at least five craters larger than 12 miles in diameter just on the lighted side of the asteroid. Scientists wonder how the asteroid can remain intact after having been hit by this many projectiles, each probably at least a mile wide. The craters reveal evidence of the asteroid's makeup. The surface, which is twice as dark as a chunk of charcoal, is believed to consist of carbon-rich material that has not been altered by planet-building processes, which melt and mix up the solar system's original building block materials. "We knew that C-asteroids are black, but we did not expect their surfaces to be as uniformly black and colorless as Mathilde's surface turned out to be," Veverka said. "This blandness is an important clue telling us that asteroids such as Mathilde are made of the same dark, black rock throughout because none of the craters, which are punched deep into the asteroid, show evidence of any other kind of rock." Such uniformity seems to confirm that C-type asteroids are in fact pristine samples of the primitive building blocks of the larger planets.

The next major event of the NEAR mission will occur on July 3, when the spacecraft fires its engine to head back toward Earth. An Earth gravity-assist maneuver on January 23, 1998, will send the spacecraft winging towards its primary target, Asteroid 433 Eros. NEAR will reach Eros nearly a year later and will remain locked in orbit around the asteroid until February 6, 2000, when the mission ends.

The NEAR spacecraft was launched February 17, 1996, from Cape Canaveral Air Station in Florida. Mathilde flyby images and updates can be obtained on the Mathilde homepage at: <http://sd-www.jhuapl.edu/NEAR/Mathilde>. (JG)

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EARTH'S SECOND MOON DISCOVERED
(Source: OMEGA DIRECTORY, 7/97)

Paul Weigert, a postdoctoral fellow at YORK UNIVERSITY in Toronto, Canada has determined that the Earth has a second moon. The object is a two-and-a-half-mile wide "near Earth" asteroid known as Asteroid 3753. The asteroid was discovered in 1986, but it was only recently that Weigert's computer analysis of its orbital path proved that the heavenly body was under the influence of the Earth's gravity. "As far as we know, it's unique," said Wiegert of the asteroid. The object travels in what astronomers call a horseshoe pattern, that spirals forward along the solar orbital path of Earth. At its farthest point from the Sun, the asteroid comes close to Mars. Its closest solar pass approaches Mercury. Because 3753 is orbiting Earth, there is very little chance of it hitting us -- the closest the asteroid comes to Earth is nine million miles every 385 years. The origin and composition of the asteroid are still a mystery. (JG)

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PSI WATCH:
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PSYCHIC PROSTITUTION
(Source: Juliet Pfieffer, OMEGA DIRECTORY, 7/97)

Since their inception, psychic hotlines -- those 900 phone numbers that charge for psychic guidance by the minute -- have been a source of controversy. Are they legitimate or are they a hoax? Are they a bona fide service, or is money their only motivation? In the latest issue of OMEGA DIRECTORY, Juliet Pfieffer shared her first-hand experiences.

Pfieffer was a practising psychic spiritual counsellor who operated out of an office in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1992, business was slow, so when she heard that one of the biggest psychic phone networks was hiring and promising incomes of as much as $1,000 a week, she applied. After filling out a batch of paperwork, and passing muster in three test readings, she was accepted. She was required to install a separate phone line, and be on-call for a minimum of 21 hours a week on a schedule set by the Network. For her efforts, she was to receive 30 cents a minute out of the $4 a minute the Network charged clients who were directed her way. In the year that she worked for the Network, her rate of pay only went up 5 cents a minute.

Some of her clients were sincere seekers who needed help, but many were wary and suspicious skeptics. Some refused to give any personal information, expecting her, as the "mind reader," to know their thoughts. She even received calls from fundamentalist Christians who would rant on and on about how she was evil and going to hell -- all the while being charged $4 a minute.

The Network put a lot of pressure on their stable of psychics, expecting them to get the names and addresses of the callers in order to push club enrollments and newsletters. They were expected to follow scripts that consisted mainly of hype-filled ads promoting the Network.

Caught between the negative attitudes of many of her callers and the horrible pressure from the Network, Pfieffer's health began to decline and she suffered serious burnout. After a year, she had no alternative but to resign. The stress on this "sensitive and gentle, non-aggressive psychic" had taken its toll.

A few years later, found her in Bisbee, Arizona struggling once again to get by on her income as a psychic spiritual counsellor. Once again, economic pressures forced her to consider working for psychic network -- this time the busiest network in the country. Despite her previous bad experience, she was hopeful because this network promised more freedom -- she didn't have to log on at any set time. The downside was that she would receive only 25 cents a minute from the $5 the Network charged her clients.

As before, most of the calls came from curiosity seekers. What made matters worse was that this particular Network offered the first five minutes free. Most often, callers would hang up after five minutes, even if Pfieffer was in the middle of a reading. The Network also penalized their psychics if their callers didn't stay on an minimum average of 13 minutes per call. The penalty was that they were placed lower down on the priority scale and received less calls, even if they were logged on.

Things got worse. The Network insisted that the psychics get callers' addresses and enroll them in "The Club." Their main goal was to send the callers more hype-filled junk mail to push the Network. After three months, Pfeiffer could no longer compromise her morality and the privacy of her callers, and was forced to resign.

From her experiences, Pfeiffer came to following conclusions:

-- "There are literally thousands of psychics logged on to such networks, and most of the psychics are sincere in trying to provide a genuine service to earnest seekers who call in."

-- "There are a few [psychics] who are in it for the money, behaving like telemarketers and aggressively keeping people on the line."

-- "These networks are NOT interested in the ability of a psychic to provide a good reading, but rather in keeping callers on the line in order to gain more revenue."

Pfeiffer ends with this warning: "This is a horrible racket which breeds devastating consequences in an age where people are trying to become more enlightened and aware. Through their greedy obsession for wealth [she maintains that the major networks make billions of dollars a year], these psychic networks falsely represent psychics and their abilities, while luring an ignorant public into their trap." (JG)

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TECH WATCH:
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SHUTTLE, TEST THYSELF
(Source: DISCOVER, 7/97)

X-33, the next generation of space shuttle, is being designed to be as functional as a bus, capable of landing one day, and being launched the next. One key to this functionality is the ability to test the systems quickly and accurately, instead of the current practise of essentially ripping the shuttle apart after each flight to look for parts that are failing under the enormous stresses of spaceflight.

To achieve this end, Mark Froggatt and his colleagues at NASA LANGELY RESEARCH CENTER in Hampton, Virginia set out to build an early-warning system that provided detailed information about minuscule cracks and deformations in the shuttle structure. What they came up with was a network of fiber optic cables glued to every structural aspect of the vehicle. Along its entire length, the cable network has a grating of tiny lines written with ultraviolet light. When a laser is shone down the fiber, the gratings reflect light unless they are attached to parts under stress, which distort the reflected beam. Since the light has to travel a little further to each successive grating and back again, measuring response times pinpoints the locations on the structure that are experiencing stress and undergoing deformation.

The sensor has already been tested successfully on a prototype of the X-33's fuel tank. The real test will come when the X-33 shuttle takes to the skies in 1999. If the system works, the next targets will likely be airplanes and bridges. (JG)

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THE FUTURE OF IDENTIFICATION
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/7/97)

In an attempt to thwart such crimes as the recent Jonathan Levin slaying in New York City, where a former student held the teacher hostage and tortured him until he divulged his PIN number, a new technology is being developed which uses sophisticated scanning devices to identify people, instead of bank cards and security codes. For example, currently being tested by CITICORP and other banks is a gadget developed by SENSAR INC., that enables an ATM to read a person's iris to verify their identity. An advantage of Sensar is that a person can stand up to three feet away from the camera to be identified, unlike technology that requires people to touch a sensor, such as fingerprint identification systems.

Not surprisingly, sensing devices first found a market in companies and government agencies concerned about security. The business market is growing fast. Already, companies such as COCA-COLA and AMERICAN AIRLINES are using RECOGNITION SYSTEMS' hand-recognition technology for employees instead of time cards and security badges. The devices "read" a hand's characteristics, such as size of knuckles and width, to identify employees.

The demand for scanning devices is growing rapidly. $25 million in biometric identity devices are expected to be sold this year, up 45 percent from 1996, according to PERSONAL IDENTIFICATION NEWS. That number is expected to double by 1999. A variety of factors are at work. Improvements in technology are driving down prices for the devices, making them more affordable to banks and other security-conscious businesses. And word is spreading about the benefits at a time of heightened concern about flaws in traditional methods such as ATM bank cards.

One possible bump in the road for the devices are worries among privacy groups that the use of these devices will encourage a sort of "Big Brother" ability to monitor an individual's activities in unseen ways, eroding privacy. "I think these technologies are really a double-edged sword," said David Sobel, legal counsel at the ELECTRONIC PRIVACY INFORMATION CENTER, a non-profit group based in Washington. "There will need to be a public debate about what the right way to use these systems might be." (JG)

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ORGANIC MAGNETS
(Source: Sasha Nemecek, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 5/97)

Scientists have discovered a way to make magnets from the same organic constituents that make up caffeine and blueprint dye. Non-metallic magnets work because magnetism is not a property of metals per se, but of the electrons in them. Electrons have a property called spin that makes them behave like tiny magnets, each with north and south poles, so when the spins on many adjacent electrons all point in the same direction, the overall effect produces magnetism. Certain metals, such as iron, are easy to magnetize because they have an abundance of electrons waiting to line up in magnetic order, but a number of nonmetallic substances have electrons to play with as well. Nonmetallic magnets have been around since 1985, but the early materials were impractical because they only became magnetic when cooled to nearly absolute zero. The new materials -- caffeine-like tetracyanoethylene (TCNE) and a Prussian blue-like organic compound -- display magnetic properties at temperatures up to 100 degrees F or more. Now that they've got these organic magnets working at room temperature, engineers are looking for ways to exploit their advantages over metals. For one thing, they should bend and spread more easily and they should also be cheaper. Flexible magnetic coatings and high-density magnetic data storage systems are two obvious possibilities. Another intriguing characteristic of some organic magnets is their unusual ability to change magnetic properties when exposed to light -- an attractive feature for high-density optical data storage systems. (JG)

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ECO WATCH:
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VICTIMS OF GLOBAL WARMING
(Sources: Thom Akeman, THE MONTEREY COUNTY HERALD, 6/28/97 thanks to James Francis Yax; OMEGA DIRECTORY, 7/97)

A research team at MOSS LANDING MARINE LABORATORIES has established that krill -- small, shrimp-like crustaceans at the bottom of the food chain and the favorite food of many whales, seals and penguins -- are disappearing in the Antarctic as the result of global warming. "This is an urgent wake-up call," said Valerie Loeb, an adjunct professor at the labs. "Our results show how relatively quickly the food webs are affected." Loeb and her colleagues have been working with the NATIONAL OCEANIC AND ATMOSPHERIC ADMINISTRATION in tracking the 50-year warming trend in the Admiralty Bay area, where the winter air has become 8 degrees warmer. That climate change has been melting the habitat for krill, which feed on algae that live on the bottom of icebergs. With less sea ice, there are fewer krill and, therefore, less food for the bigger species that feed on the krill. Krill populations have decreased 30 to 90 percent. "This is like destroying the rain forest," Loeb said. "You destroy the structure of the sea-ice habitat and you destroy the ecosystem." Loeb concluded, "This change has happened in our lifetime. It's real and it's significant." Climatologists have long predicted that the first indisputable effects of global warming would be seen in the Antarctic.

The effects of global warming are not just visible in Antarctica. All over the world, low lying areas are suffering the effects of rising sea levels. For example, 80 percent of the Maldives, a chain of 1,200 islands in the Indian Ocean southwest of India, lie no more than three feet above sea level, with the nation's highest point only six feet above the ocean. Already, beaches in the island chain are noticeably eroded, and increased damage due to severe storms and tidal swells have affected one third of the islands. In 1987, a fierce storm flooded the capital, Mali, and the nearby international airport. Also effected are such low lying areas such as Louisiana and Florida in the U.S., Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and several Carribean nations, where some low-lying coastlines have been pushed inland by nearly one-half mile.

It is estimated that world sea levels could rise as much as three feet in the next century. Threatened with the possibility of becoming the first nation to be submerged under the sea, the Maldives have actively campaigned for reducing industrial greenhouse gases and raising the issue of global warming at such international forums as the UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY and the 1992 EARTH SUMMIT in Rio de Janeiro. Results thusfar have been disappointing. The Rio Summit produced only a vague accord on greenhouse gases, due in large part to the U.S. and oil-producing nations' opposition to specific targets for reducing emissions.

As a small, isolated country, the Maldives have had difficulty getting other nations to take the environmental threat to their existence seriously. In the past, representatives of Saudi Arabia and Australia have suggested what they thought was a simple solution: to simply move all 245,000 Maldavians to another country, and abandon the low-lying islands to their watery fate. (JG)

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HEALTH WATCH:
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BREAST MILK VS. FORMULA
(Source: MS. MAGAZINE via SPECTRUM, Mar-Apr/97)

Breast milk contains at least 11 antibodies and anti-infectious factors that protect newborns from allergies and bacteria. Breast-fed babies have seven the times less risk of developing allergies, and they experience fewer ear infections, diarrhea illnesses, diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, cancer and overall hospitalizations. Universal breast feeding for the first three months could decrease the hospitalization bill for U.S. infants by $2 to $4 billion per year.

Yet, while almost all American babies were breast fed in the 1930s, by 1995 the number had dropped to less than half. Why? MS MAGAZINE proposes three reasons:

1) Women feel uncomfortable breast-feeding their babies in public.

2) The medical establishment receives millions of dollars in contributions from the baby formula industry to promote their products.

3) Formula manufacturers "donate" formula to hospitals in exchange for the right to give new mothers "discharge packages" containing samples of their formulas. Studies have shown that mothers given formula samples and coupons at time of discharge are significantly less likely to breast feed their children than those given the names of lactation support groups. (JG)

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LIFESTYLES:
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AVOIDING THE COURTS
(Source: Paul Bush, THE AMERICAN NEWS SERVICE, 4/7/97)

In Brevard, North Carolina, when an argument between two neighbors over the property line between their homes ended in a fistfight, the District Court judge was reluctant to hear their case. He could have found one of them guilty, but they would still be angry and still be living next to one another, so instead he decided to refer them to the local DISPUTE SETTLEMENT CENTER. Two hours later, the neighbors had solved the conflict themselves. All it had taken was a little help from two trained volunteers to get them talking and listening. "We find if we can get people to sit down and talk, we typically get an 85 to 90 percent success rate," said John Fenner, the center's Director. Across the country in Everett, Washington, Gail Robertson has seen the same thing in her 10 years as a volunteer mediator. "In over 200 cases, I can think of only two that bogged down," she said. "If they're willing to listen, speak and follow the process, it works."

The process is community mediation, used at nearly 500 centers around the U.S. in everything from disputes over barking dogs to child custody battles. In a nation where everything seems to end up in litigation, it is proving a popular alternative to the courts. The first community mediation programs were established in the late '70s. Today, most are nonprofit ventures that offer their services for free or for low fees, according to the NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY MEDIATION. "85 to 90 percent of the time they achieve resolution," said Larry Ray, the association's Executive Director. "When researchers call back after six months, 90 percent of them say they'd use it again."

The process centers on volunteers, who receive between 20 and 40 hours of training. Depending on the center, they may also serve year-long apprenticeships under experienced mediators. The volunteers act as impartial "traffic cops" ensuring that both parties involved in a conflict are heard. Once the two sides feel they're being listened to, they can begin negotiating a settlement.

Increasingly, people who take their grievances to small claims court are offered mediation instead of a judge's ruling. In those cases the mediation success rate is 70 percent, says Tim Hedeen, the Director of the DISPUTE RESOLUTION CENTER in St. Paul, Minnesota. With a judge, if the ruling is in your favor, "the likelihood you'd get payment is about 30 percent." Others emphasize that community mediation has reduced the caseload in courts. New York's 62 mediation centers, which are funded partly by the state, handle about 45,000 cases every year. "It's had quite a huge impact," said Tom Buckner, a Senior Court analyst for New York's court system. "The Family Court judges love this."

This impact on overburdened courts has led some states to support community mediation centers. North Carolina budgets nearly a million dollars for the 26 centers there. Michigan uses $2 from civil court filing fees to partially fund its 28 community mediation centers. Texas, Oklahoma and California do the same. In Florida, community mediation is being championed by the State Supreme Court Chief Justice, Gerald Kogan, who has asked the state legislature to fund Tallahassee's NEIGHBORHOOD JUSTICE CENTER as a model program for Florida. Going to court involves time, money and aggravation, Kogan says. "On most cases you don't need that at all. You just need to sit down with someone who's fair and impartial."

"People like mediation because of how it works. It gives them a chance to get involved and to be heard," said Scott Bradley, director of the MEDIATION NETWORK of North Carolina. "Mediation helps people to understand each other better." As Chief Justice Kogan put it, "It's the wave of the future."

For more information, contact Larry Ray, Executive Director, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR COMMUNITY MEDIATION, Washington, D.C., 202-467-6226. (JG)

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