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NHNE News Brief 75
Friday, August 22, 1997
"A thought-provoking exploration
of the extraordinary times in which we live."
862 days until January 1, 2000
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A Life Worth Saving
Maryland Fish Threat
Spanking Leads to Bad Behavior
Whales, Hippos & Cows
THE LIGHTER SIDE:
So Much for Divine Intervention
Butterflies vs. Confetti
Back to Basics
NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
Connexions Unlimited WorldVision
A MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER:
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
This Bold Move
I Will Get My Information Elsewhere
Way to Go!
Offloading Freeloaders is Poor Judgement
A Matter of When
A Network of NHNE News Providers
Dinner and a Movie
Oh Yah, Another Sunrise
The Bible & UFOs
New Technology for the Blind
Satellite to Scope Seascape
The Most Distant Galaxy in the Universe
World Toilet Storage
Medical Benefits of Garlic Confirmed
The Dangers of Fiberglass
Fake Fat in Trouble
ABOUT NHNE & HOW TO JOIN US
A LIFE WORTH SAVING
"A man risked his life by swimming through a treacherous rip tide to save a youngster from being swept out to sea. After the child recovered from the harrowing experience, he asked the man, 'What can I do to thank you for saving my life?' The man answered, 'Just make sure that your life was worth saving.'"
---Adapted from "More Sower's Seeds", by Brian Cavanaugh
MARYLAND FISH THREAT
(Sources: CNN ONLINE, 8/8/97; Mary Hager & Larry Reibstein, NEWSWEEK, 8/25/97)
Thousands of fish have died recently along a five-mile stretch of the Pocomoke River which flows into Chesapeake Bay on Maryland's Eastern Shore. Initial indications are that the fish are being killed by a particularly virulent organism known as Pfiesteria piscicida. Pfiesteria is a microorganism that can cause sores and lesions in fish, and a number of disfigured fish have been caught in the Pocomoke near Shelltown. 10 people who swam or worked in the river have also reported physical reactions such as skin lesions and memory loss. Pfiesteria is not new. Scientists think it may have been responsible for the deaths of up to a billion fish in North Carolina over the last few years (News Brief 36). Environmentalists are blaming the runoff from the region's 600 million chickens, which raise the levels of phosphorus and nitrogen in rivers, which promotes the growth of pfiesteria. In North Carolina, runoff from hog farms is blamed for their outbreaks. JoAnn Burkholder, a controversial botanist at NORTH CAROLINA STATE UNIVERSITY has written a new book, "And the Waters Turned to Blood," to bring attention to the problem. Meanwhile, Maryland's natural resource officials say there's no immediate threat to public safety, and warned against "Pfiesteria Hysteria." According to officials, the crabs, rockfish and bass this region is known for are safe to eat. (JG)
(Sources: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 8/13/97; REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 8/14/97; CNN ONLINE, 8/16/97; Gary Tuchman, CNN ONLINE, 8/11/97)
Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont are pressing the U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY (EPA) for new curbs on power plants and factories from Alabama to Wisconsin to cut their pollution to help get rid of smog blowing into their region. "In New York City, if you shut down all of industry and forbade people from driving their cars, the city would still exceed the federal health-based air quality standards, and that's precisely because of interstate pollution," says William Becker of the ASSOCIATION OF LOCAL AIR POLLUTION CONTROL OFFICIALS. THE AMERICAN AUTOMOBILE ASSOCIATION (AAA) points out that "interstate pollution" does not mean highway traffic -- a study of air pollution in 24 major cities shows that more than 70 percent of the chemicals that cause smog come from factories, utility smokestacks, refineries and other stationary sources in other states, not from vehicles. No matter what their location, everyone agrees smog is a problem and certainly a cause for concern this year. "The leading cause of childhood admission to hospitals today is asthma, and asthma is significantly worsened on bad ozone days," says John DeVeillers of the EPA. The EPA has indicated that it intends to pursue tighter pollution controls on coal-burning power plants and some factories, both high emitters of nitrogen oxide, a component of smog. But some additional tightening of emissions from automobiles has not been ruled out. (JG)
SPANKING LEADS TO BAD BEHAVIOR
(Sources: CNN ONLINE, 8/14/97; REUTERS, 8/15/97; Stephen Williams, NEWSWEEK, 8/25/97)
Researcher Murray Straus of the UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAMPSHIRE has found that corporal punishment is counterproductive and results in more antisocial behavior by children in later years. The more spanking a child received at the beginning of the study, the higher level of antisocial behavior at the end, according to the researcher. Antisocial behavior was defined as cheating, lying, disobedience at school, breaking things deliberately, not feeling sorry after misbehaving or not getting along with teachers. The pattern crossed class, ethnic, and gender lines. While parental warmth and support tended to lessen the effects of spanking, it did not cancel them, Straus said. The results of this study are likely to be debated, because previous research has shown that 90 percent of U.S. parents spank their children. A majority of pediatricians and psychologists also do not discourage occasional corporal punishment. In addition, corporal punishment in the classroom is still legal in 23 states. Spanking has been linked to low self-esteem, depression and low educational attainment. (JG)
WHALES, HIPPOS & COWS
(Source: REUTERS, 8/14/97)
The whale, hippopotamus and common cow share a common ancestor from about 60 million years ago, said a team of Japanese researchers from the TOKYO INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY. According to research team member Norihiro Okada, the common ancestor was probably a terrestrial herbivore. The team looked at retroposons, a genetic element that does not change as evolution progresses, to link the three to the common ancestor. About 100 million years ago, the three were in a grouping that included pigs and camels, but whales, cows and hippos derived from a separate ancestor some 60 million years ago. The findings contradict current paleontological and morphological studies that indicate whales first appeared as primitive aquatic creatures. While most research holds that mammals and birds diversified after the extinction of dinosaurs about 65 million years ago, the Japanese team's research indicates the change may have started as early as 100 million years ago. Their findings should will likely prompt scientists to reexamine fossil records. (JG)
THE LIGHTER SIDE:
SO MUCH FOR DIVINE INTERVENTION
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 8/12/97)
Lava from the Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii has destroyed a 700-year-old temple considered by some to be the most sacred of ancient Hawaiian temple sites. Wahaula Heiau is a complex of stone platforms situated at a remote area on the southeastern coast of Hawaii Island. The temple was threatened by lava in 1989 and 1990, but on those occasions the molten rock was diverted around the temple's four-foot-high walls. This time, the lava crept over the temple's walls engulfing the temple compound before flowing into the sea. Steam could be seen rising from the ocean at four separate points on both sides of the complex. The volcanic activity also has destroyed nearly 300 homes and a village in the area, along with a smaller temple site. Kilauea has been erupting almost continuously since January 1983. (JG)
BUTTERFLIES VS. CONFETTI
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 8/18/97)
Instead of throwing rice or bird seed, or releasing birds or balloons after wedding ceremonies or special occasions, orange-and-black monarchs or yellow-and-black eastern tiger swallowtails are being used to add a touch of beauty and whimsy to the events. The symbolism of butterflies can even comfort mourners at a funeral. For about $100, a dozen live butterflies can be shipped overnight, arriving enclosed in envelopes that participants can open, releasing the creatures into the air. Jenny Woods, a spokeswoman for PEOPLE FOR THE ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS, questioned the conditions in which the butterflies are transported, but butterfly growers said the bugs often sleep while shipped. "My No. 1 priority is the care of these delicate creatures," said Bethany Homeyer, of MICHAEL'S FLUTTERING WINGS in Swinney Switch, Texas. She said she usually ships only to regions where the butterflies are native, and in climates where they can survive. Some people like the feeling that they are returning butterflies to nature. Others say it's a good replacement for throwing rice at weddings, or they go for the mysticism. (JG)
BACK TO BASICS
(Source: William Underhill, NEWSWEEK, 8/25/97)
Traffic jams in Europe are becoming so severe -- the EUROPEAN COMMISSION calculates that at any given time there are at least 25,000 miles of traffic jams on European Union roads -- that some radical solutions are being explored. London, Stockholm, Dublin and Bordeaux, for example, are looking to streetcars as the answer to their traffic woes. According to the latest wisdom, subways were a mistake: too expensive and too inflexible, especially if you have to change routes or add stops. Streetcars, on the other hand, use existing infrastructure and run on time -- these days, on-board computers direct the streetcars of Zurich with clockwork precision. Other European solutions include car-free zones in city centers, promotion of bicycles, and free bus tickets for commuters who park at the outskirts of town. (JG)
NEWS BRIEF SPONSOR:
This issue is sponsored by:
CONNEXIONS UNLIMITED WORLDVISION
CONNEXIONS UNLIMITED WORLDVISION'S mission is "to put the tools of transformation into the hands of as many people as possible." Our principal product and service is "The Higher Purpose Principle in Business", a series of 9 booklets and an experiential training program that creates fundamental change in organizations. The methodology, evolved over 12 years, is a revolutionary, whole system approach to change -- a way to build whole companies where whole people can grow and prosper. It also leads them to sustainability, employee ownership/profit sharing and community responsibility. Our vision is to create an international franchise network that helps build a new civilization. We have a free newzine, "Changing Course".
Alice H. Mack, Ed.D., CEO
6336 N. Oracle Rd. #326-314
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A MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER:
On Monday, August 11, we announced some sweeping changes at NHNE: the termination of our offline publications, an increase in rates for online subscriptions, a month delay in posting new material on our award-winning Web site, and, most drastic of all, the end of sending out Web site updates and general announcements to non-subscribers. For me, these were difficult decisions. Will they enable us to create a more focused, committed and powerful network for personal and planetary transformation? Will they insure NHNE's survival? Time will tell.
While we wait to see how these most recent changes unfold, we've included a few of your thoughts, and our's, in our "Letters to the Editor" section. As always, we read and ponder everything we receive. We hope you will, too. And we also hope you will continue to share your thoughts with us. I can't tell you how many times a kind letter has lifted my spirits, or an angry one has made me ponder things more deeply.
Finally, a special edition of WIND & WINGS will be replacing the News Brief next week. It will contain information that we hope will inspire, perhaps even change, the lives of many like-minded people.
With Love & Best Wishes,
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
THIS BOLD MOVE
"I feel that you are right about this change and perhaps people will realize in dollars how important your work is toward planetary transformation. I am sure that they have money for things a lot less important than your News Brief and maybe not hearing from you every week will make them take a more serious look at their priorities. Your work is not about money but about spiritual concerns and transformations that will eventually affect everyone. I could never give you enough dollars to pay for the benefits that my family has received from the work that has been done by you and your associates. I hope that others that have had similar benefits will show some understanding. I am sure that your work will continue to manifest a positive light for those of us who sit in darkness and for those of us who just need a little sunshine in their lives. You all deserve a standing ovation for your work and this bold move."
---Brenda Johnson, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
I WILL GET MY INFORMATION ELSEWHERE
"So you want to make a profit? The information you provide is too important, and in my view should not be restricted to the elite few who can afford $50 or $100. I will get my information elsewhere. This means I will not be logging onto your Web site. Was this your intended goal?"
---Steve Glanz, San Mateo, California
[Perhaps you missed the part in our recent update that said we wouldn't turn anyone away for financial reasons. If subscribing to our network is a problem for you because of how much we are charging for our services, we would be glad to work something out you felt you could afford. Our intention is not to turn anyone away who is sincerely interested in our work. We just need to tighten things up so our time and energy is going to those who are most interested, and most committed, to the work we are doing. David Sunfellow]
WAY TO GO!
"Way to go! I especially love the idea of your info showing up in newspapers -- sort of like Steve Newman's EARTH WATCH. Sure takes persistence, even when you know you are on your perfect path. And then there is all that inner work while you move forward on physical fronts."
---Joya Pope, Fayetteville, Arkansas
OFFLOADING FREELOADERS IS POOR JUDGEMENT
"I was sorry to see the News Briefs go the way of 'subscribers only,' and I think the new move to 'offload' the freeloaders is equally poor judgement. I honestly don't know if you are making a better return on subscriptions then you would have by continuing to seek donations. Personally, if I put out 100,000 newsletters and had a donation rate of 5 percent at an average of $5, I would consider it far better than acquiring the same amount from fewer subscriptions. Why? Exposure -- meaning that there are that many people viewing the newsletter. If I was to pursue making more money, I would try to sell 'ads' in the News Briefs, instead. Keep them short and to the point, and people would read them. Sell the ads dirt cheap, or on a commission basis. Remember, I am but one person, and yet I took the time to forward your newsletters to two additional people that did not have access any other way. They, in turn, shared that information with others. And had the News Briefs contained ads, they would have been exposed to them, too, and perhaps reacted to those ads. I am not trying to tell you how to run your business, I am only saying that the more exposure the News Briefs have, the better your chances are for returns.
---Tom O'Hara, Phoenix, Arizona
A MATTER OF WHEN?
"It seems a good thing always ends up costing money. It wasn't a matter of 'if' -- it was just a matter of 'when.' It seems you people get your audience and then decide to make a killing off us."
---Robin Goolsby, Fort Smith, Arkansas
[Our decision was prompted by two primary concerns: The first is surviving -- staying financially viable so that we can continue our work. NHNE has been on the Net for three years now and we have yet to make enough money to cover our basic expenses. Second, a significant amount of our time and energy has been going to people who are only marginally committed to the work we are doing. We felt a better use of our time and energy was to focus primarily on those people who felt the work we were doing was important to them -- and, of course, were willing to financially support it. NHNE has never turned anyone away for financial reasons. If someone cares enough about our work to want to be a part of it, they can be. David Sunfellow]
A NETWORK OF NHNE NEWS PROVIDERS
"Some feedback and thoughts about your announcement: I believe your News Briefs are worth the $100 per year subscription -- after starting our own Web site (www.spiritnet.dk), I have an idea about what time and commitment it demands. However, as a European, I feel that the news is in many ways 'local American' news. I think that non-American readers have extra issues to ponder about. I suggest a network of NHNE news providers, where each local NHNE news provider would then supply you with relevant 'local news' with global interest. In exchange, the local provider gets the benefit of being 'associated' with NHNE and allowed to quote/translate extracts from the global NHNE news. For example, I would like to translate any fast-breaking news about a discovery in Bimini or Gaza -- if or when they are verified. This idea is a spin-off from the fact that we Intend SPIRIT NET to be the primary source for alternative news on the Net for Denmark."
---Kim Hjortholm, Copenhagen, Denmark
DINNER AND A MOVIE
"$100 -- that's dinner and a movie three times a year for most folks. They can afford it. Check's in the mail."
---Sherry Stultz, Ocean Springs, Mississippi
OH YAH, ANOTHER SUNRISE
"I don't know how you have the time and resourcefulness to research and edit and organize and post so many various news items from so many walks of life. You make it seem so effortless, that it's easy for me to forget to send compliments -- it's like watching a sunrise, and saying, 'Oh yah, another sunrise.' While monumental universal powers are being orchestrated before my very marvelously God-given eyes, appreciation remains one of my biggest challenges.
---Steve Haag, San Jose, California
THE BIBLE & UFOS
(Sources: Rita Elkins, FLORIDA TODAY & Skipp Porteous, FREEDOM WRITER MAGAZINE via CNI NEWS, 8/16/97)
Suddenly, the religious press is full of articles about UFOs. In Florida's May edition of DISCOVERY CHRISTIAN NEWSPAPER, Berkeley-trained scientist and Christian author John Weldon expounded on his views about UFOlogy theology. July's CHARISMA MAGAZINE featured Christian evangelist and author Paul McGuire cited the books of abduction author Whitley Strieber as an example of a progressive deception. "Both the seemingly benign and the hostile entities will play an increasing role in preparing a segment of humanity for the reception of the Antichrist," writes bestselling authors David Allen Lewis and Robert Shreckhise in their book "UFO: End-Time Delusion." B. Fox, a researcher for the MUTUAL UFO NETWORK (MUFON), made the premise in his book, "The Agenda: The Real Reason They're Here," that aliens will take the credit for the Rapture.
And according to an unconfirmed report in FREEDOM WRITER MAGAZINE, Pat Robertson, television evangelist and head of the Christian Coalition, has advocated death by stoning for UFO enthusiasts. A segment on the July 8, 1997 broadcast of "The 700 Club" featured news of the Mars Pathfinder mission, and employing the historical event as a starting point, Robertson allegedly launched into a diatribe against those who entertain the existence of space aliens and UFOs. In a rambling discourse, he said that if such things exist, they are simply demons trying to lead people away from Christ. The threat is so serious, according to Robertson, that people who believe in space aliens should be put to death by stoning. Here is an excerpt of the Bible quote he used to justify his rash position: "If there is found among you any who have gone and served other gods and worshipped them, either the Sun or Moon or any of the hosts of heaven which I have not commanded you, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has committed that wicked thing, and stone them to death." (Deuteronomy 17:2-5)
Then, you have Joe Jordan, a State Section Director for MUFON who claims, "The similarity between the abduction experience and demonic possession is very, very close." Jordan swears he has three verifiable cases in which apparent abduction experiences were halted by believers who called on the name of Jesus. Jordan speculates that as many as 400 cases may be documentable nationwide. "If these beings are extraterrestrial at all, why would they respond to that name?" Jordan asks. "We think we found the answer in Mark 16:17 where Jesus said, 'In my name, they shall cast out demons.'" (JG)
NEW TECHNOLOGY FOR THE BLIND
(Sources: Sandeep Junnarkar, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/6/97; Heidi Juersivish, USA TODAY, 8/11/97)
Computer scientists, biologists and ophthalmologists from the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA at Berkeley, HARVARD, and the MASSACHUSETTS INSTITUTE OF TECHNOLOGY have created "bio-devices" that may someday restore sight to the blind. In a healthy eye, the lens in the cornea focuses an image to the retina which is composed of rods and cones collectively known as photoreceptors. This analog electrochemical system passes the signal to subsequent layers of cells. Eventually the signal reaches the output cells of the retina known as ganglion cells, which convert the analog signals into digital signals before sending them to the optic nerve. This nerve transmits the data to the visual centers in the brain. Computer scientists, biologists and ophthalmologists are using the similarity between a video camera and the human eye to create devices that allow visual data to bypass damaged photoreceptors.
Researchers readily admit that it is easier to simulate retinal output than it is to actually supply that data to the brain. There are two main approaches, each with pluses and minuses. One method is to connect electrodes against the output cells of the retina itself, while the other approach involves bypassing the retina and attaching electrodes directly into the nerve fiber layer.
The advantages and disadvantages of both methods are complementary. Placing even a small chip in the extremely fragile retina can easily damage it, while a connection in the brain -- which is said to be more tolerant and less sensitive -- would be more stable and less damaging. But the disadvantage of placing a device in the brain is that by the time a signal arrives to the nerve fiber layer, it has already been modulated and modified quite extensively, by processes that are not fully understood. A retinal device, on the other hand, simulates signals that are well understood and passes them onto the body's remaining processing system. The military, Veterans Administration hospitals and private capital are steadily increasing financing for retinal implant projects.
While the technology to restore sight to the blind is within reach, researchers are quick to point out that the prosthetic eyes they are creating will potentially work only for those suffering diseases that destroy the light-sensitive membrane lining the inner eyeball.
In a related story, scientists have invented a device that performs many of the functions of a seeing-eye dog. "GuideCane" is a computerized, sonar-equipped developed by researchers from THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN College of Engineering's Mobile Robotics Laboratory. It weighs eight pounds and rolls along the ground on two wheels at the end of a long handle similar to the white cane currently used by many blind people. Ultrasonic sensors and a computer detect obstacles in the user's path and automatically steer around them.
White canes have the drawback that they are of limited use in busy or unfamiliar territory; guide dogs are more reliable in such situations, but require frequent exercise and are not a viable option for older blind people. Both require extensive training before they can be used effectively. New users of the GuideCane, on the other hand, reported that they were able to easily use the device without any training. The prototypes still have some shortcomings -- they cannot distinguish doorways from walls; cannot tell the difference between a paved path and grass; and are not as effective at avoiding obstacles at faster walking speeds. GuideCane is expected to be available in a couple of years at a price of about $4,000. (JG)
SATELLITE TO SCOPE SEASCAPE
(Source: Kristi Coale, WIRED, 8/1/97)
The recent launch of the SeaStar spacecraft with its Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor (SeaWiFS) represents the end of a long drought. Since the loss of function of the NIMBUS 7 in 1986, researchers have been starved for data that would help them understand the Earth's environmental processes such as the status of ocean productivity and its effect on climate change. No instrument is available today to help them scientists see what the effect all of these factors have on the environment. What SeaWiFS strives to do is to give scientists a way to take Earth's vital signs. Oceanographer Gene Carl Feldman with NASA's GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER explains: "The number of measurements we'll be able to take in one minute [would take] a ship traveling at 10 knots over a decade to collect. We're going to measure the pulse of the planet and see the effect of seasonal changes. After a couple of years, we'll have a movie that lets us watch the Earth pulse with life."
The satellite will capture images from 440 miles above the Earth's surface that hold clues to the content of microscopic marine plants. Ocean color varies with the concentration of such elements as chlorophyll and other plant pigments, so the greener the water, the more vegetation present. "We'll be able to use the color data to create models that will tell us how the ocean is behaving -- whether the phytoplankton are getting the proper nutrients or if they're dying off," said David Glover, a chemical oceanographer with the WOODS HOLE OCEANOGRAPHIC INSTITUTION. With such information, scientists can learn more about the global carbon cycle, including how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceanic vegetation.
All of this will help forward Earth's self-knowledge -- a commodity that's sorely lacking. More than 70 percent of the living space on this planet is in the oceans, and Feldman is astounded at how little the Earth's occupants have seen of them, relative to the heavens. "Maps of the ocean are much less accurate than maps of Venus, the Moon, or Mars," he said. For example, "we've never seen a live [great] squid -- it's 60 feet in length, we have records of its existence, seen pieces of it dead. Who knows what else is down there?" (JG)
THE MOST DISTANT GALAXY IN THE UNIVERSE
(Source: NASA Press Release, 7/30/97, thanks to Chris Czech
An international team of astronomers has discovered the most distant galaxy in the universe, by combining the unique sharpness of the images from NASA's Hubble Space Telescope with the light-collecting power of the Keck Telescopes in Hawaii, with an added boost from a gravitational lens in space. The results show the young galaxy is 13 billion light years from us, based on an estimated age for the universe of approximately 14 billion years. This would place the galaxy in the formative years less than a billion years after the birth of the universe in the Big Bang. The detailed image shows bright dense knots of massive stars, blazing with the brilliance of more than ten times our own Milky Way. "We are fascinated to be witnessing the very early stages of the construction of what could well become a massive galaxy like our own Milky Way," says Garth Illingworth of the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Santa Cruz.
Predicted by Einstein's theory of general relativity, gravitational lenses are collections of matter (such as clusters of galaxies) that are so massive they warp space in their vicinity, allowing the light of even more-distant objects to curve around the central lens-mass and be seen from Earth as greatly magnified. The object is so far away, observing it in such detail would tax the capabilities of both Hubble and Keck, but due to a rare and fortunate alignment of the young galaxy behind the foreground cluster, astronomers gain a magnified view that is five to ten times better than Hubble alone can yield for an object at such a great distance.
The suspected remoteness of the lensed object was confirmed when the team of astronomers made spectroscopic observations with one of the twin 10-meter Keck telescopes on Mauna Kea, to measure its redshift, and therefore its distance, based on the shifting of its light towards the red end of the visible light spectrum. The resulting high redshift corresponds to a very early era when the universe was just beginning to form galaxies.
Using Keck's spectroscopic capabilities, the astronomers have also, for the first time, been able to measure the motions of the gas within such a distant galaxy. The observations reveal gas flowing at nearly 500,000 miles per hour, presumably accelerated by energy from supernova explosions going off like a string of firecrackers. The strong winds suggest that galaxies may lose a lot of material when they are young and thereby enrich the empty space around them. It is striking that the most distant galaxy found to date is also the one that provides us the most detailed picture of events in such distant galaxies. Images are available at: <http://oposite.stsci.edu/pubinfo/PR/97/25.html>.
(Sources: USA TODAY, 8/1/97; REUTERS, 7/31/97; REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 8/12/97)
The CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST (CSPI) has petitioned the FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) to rule that food manufacturers be required to list caffeine content of their products on the food labels. "Caffeine is the only drug that is widely added to the food supply," said Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center. "Knowing the caffeine content is important to many people, especially women who are or might become pregnant."
The food industry opposes the effort, saying caffeine is safe, thus the amount of it found in their products is irrelevant. Consumer advocates said the amount of caffeine varies widely in foods and is too difficult for consumers to estimate. For example, a cup of Dannon Coffee Yogurt has as much caffeine as a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola, while a Dannon Light Cappuccino Yogurt has none. A Sunkist Orange Soda has more caffeine than a Pepsi, while Minute Maid Orange Soda has none, the Center said.
The FDA already requires food labels to list amounts of fat, chlorestrol and sodium. The FDA also requires food labels to list caffeine, if additional amounts have been added, but does not require identification of the amount.
In a related story, doctors from BRISTOL UNIVERSITY have discovered that if caffeine is added to bowel cancer cells immediately after radiation, the effectiveness of the treatment is boosted by up to 150 percent. The Bristol team found that adding caffeine immediately after radiotherapy caused many bowel cancer cells to self-destruct. Bowel cancer, which kills almost 20,000 people a year in Britain, is particularly dangerous because its cells can usually repair the damage done by both radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Unfortunately, the amount of caffeine required to accomplish this is toxic to humans, so the team is looking for less harmful substitutes. (JG)
WORLD TOILET SHORTAGE
Source: Mary Clare Jalonick, ASSOCIATED PRESS via AOL NEWS, 7/22/97, thanks to Joya Pope)
Half the population of the world does not have access to a toilet or even a decent latrine, UNICEF reports in its annual PROGRESS OF NATIONS, which warns of the heightened risk of wide-scale epidemics of cholera or other diseases. The number of people lacking decent sanitation has grown from 2.6 billion in 1990 to 2.9 billion now, driven by population growth, urban crowding and pressures on the budgets of developing countries.
The problem is most acute in rural areas, where only 18 percent of people worldwide have access to a toilet or latrine, according to U.N. statistics. In urban areas of developing countries, 63 percent have decent sanitation. The figures are rough because UNICEF used data from countries with widely varying definitions of "adequate" sanitation. Uganda, for instance, reports that 80 percent of households have access to adequate sanitation -- but the figure shrinks to 3 percent if pit latrines are excluded.
The cost of providing an adequate toilet or latrine ranges from $5 to $60, UNICEF said. The agency blamed the problem partly on the huge payments that industrializing countries must make on loans taken out during the 1980s. Other experts blame the governments. Dennis Warner, Chief of Rural Environmental Health at the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION, said governments often prefer to ignore sanitation problems. "Sanitation is not a sexy issue. Governments often do not have a political commitment to work on it. They don't like to provide services to squatter settlements because it makes the aid official. They hope the problem will go away, but it doesn't." (JG)
MEDICAL BENEFITS OF GARLIC CONFIRMED
(Source: CNN ONLINE, 7/21/97)
While the medicinal powers of garlic have been acclaimed for more than 2,000 years, it has only been recently that scientific studies have demonstrated that chemical compounds in garlic are good for you. One study, at the MERCY CANCER INSTITUTE in Pittsburgh, showed that garlic helped slow the growth of tumors. "We have shown that some of these compounds prevent cancer in animals, and we hope that's the case in humans," said Shivendra Singh of the institute. The researchers in Pittsburgh hope to launch experiments involving humans next year. Studies at WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY (WVU) have found that garlic can inhibit the growth of breast cancer. Researchers at the university think garlic may also help boost the immune system in laboratory mice, thereby reducing the growth of cancerous cells. Whether it works on humans remains to be seen. "Garlic very significantly reduced the growth of bladder tumors in mice," added Dr. Donald Lamm of WVU. Other studies show that garlic may prevent everything from heart disease to the common cold.
And even if doctors are not yet ready to prescribe garlic as a panacea, they encourage people to add it to their diet regimen. "It's non-toxic and it's relatively inexpensive," Lamm said. "And I think it's clear from all the centuries of experience that garlic has a number of benefits. It can't hurt." (JG)
THE DANGERS OF FIBERGLASS
(Source: TOWNSEND LETTER FOR DOCTORS via SPECTRUM, July-Aug/97)
Over 90 percent of attic and wall insulation in the U.S. is fiberglass. It does not burn, will not rot, and is a cheap way to reduce heat loss. Its widespread use has resulted in measurable concentrations of fiberglass in the air over cities and in the country. Unfortunately, it now seems that this miracle material may cause cancer. In fact, according to the NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (NRDC), fiberglass poses even more of health risk than asbestos -- minute amounts can affect cellular processes, alter genetic structure, and impair the cellular immune system. Both the WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION and the U.S. NATIONAL TOXICOLOGY PROGRAM consider fiberglass a possible carcinogen and studies in several countries have shown significant elevations in lung cancers among workers in fiberglass manufacturing operations. The fiberglass industry denies that there is a problem.
Home owners with existing fiberglass insulation, should leave the product in place, as pulling it out may cause even more of a problem. However, if you are building a new home, you might want to consider safer alternatives, such as: cork, perlite, cellulose, or cotton. (JG)
FAKE FAT IN TROUBLE
(Sources: MOTHER JONES via SPECTRUM, July-Aug/97; Elizabeth Cohen, CNN ONLINE, 7/15/97)
In January 1996, the FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) approved PROCTOR & GAMBLE's "Olestra," the non-caloric fat substitute now being tested in several snack foods. One of the FDA conditions was that foods containing this substance carry the warning label, "May cause abdominal cramping and loose stools and inhibit the absorption of some vitamins and other nutrients." Concerned that this warning may put off potential customers, PROCTOR & GAMBLE have requested that the FDA tone down the wording.
This is not likely to happen, considering information recently released from a secret study by FRITO-LAY by the CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, which reported that Olestra caused "anal leakage" in up to nine percent of the people using it. In addition, Meir Stampfer, a scientist from the HARVARD SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH, has claimed that Olestra could increase the risk of cancer and other degenerative diseases by blocking the absorption of antioxidants and other vitamins. Stampfer said the FDA should take snacks made with Olestra off the market. So far the Olestra snacks have been available only in test markets in Ohio, Indiana and Colorado.
According to MOTHER JONES MAGAZINE, 9 of the 17 FDA panelists who voted to initially approve Olestra have links to companies that could benefit from its approval, including one "scientific expert" -- a paid P&G consultant -- who made the claim, "Americans can feel confident in the safety of snacks made with Olestra." Olestra behaves in much the same way as mineral oil, a petroleum-based non-food commonly (though unwisely) used as a laxative.
PROCTOR & GAMBLE asked some of the people who complained about the chips to try them again. The company claimed that when people did eat them again, they felt no different than when they ate regular chips. The Olestra manufacturer now hopes to take the chips nationwide sometime next year. In anticipation of customer complaints, the CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST has set up its own toll-free line: (888) OLE-STRA. (JG)
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