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NHNE News Brief 78
Friday, September 19, 1997

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

Millennium Countdown:
834 days until January 1, 2000

Total Subscribers:
Last Week: 848
This Week: 866

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CONTENTS:
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QUOTABLES:
Driving for Life

NEWS WATCH:
A Cure for the Millennium Bug?
A Prayer Vigil for the Earth
Global Birthrate Slowing Down
Heavy Rains Expected from El Nino

THE LIGHTER SIDE:
Mother Teresa Doll
Lots in Space
Own a Piece of Mars
The Last of the Mohicans

A MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER:
Lazarus

DANNION BRINKLEY WATCH:
Brinkley Takes Turn for the Worse

MILLENNIUM NOTES:
Catholics Put Positive Spin on New Millennium
First to the Millennium

ECO WATCH:
Bad News for East Coast Rivers
The Troubled Sea

SPACE WATCH:
Martian Magnetic Field Detected

TECH WATCH:
This Wired World
Cleaner Wash -- Less Water
Lava Lamp Randomness

HEALTH WATCH:
Polymer Sponges for the Blood
More Qigong
The Benefits of Broccoli Sprouts

NHNE STAFF
ABOUT NHNE & HOW TO JOIN US

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QUOTABLES:
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DRIVING FOR LIFE

"As slow as possible, as fast as necessary."

---Slogan of the LAND ROVER DRIVING SCHOOL, Manchester, Vermont

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NEWS WATCH:
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A CURE FOR THE MILLENNIUM BUG?
(Source: CNN ONLINE, 9/14/97)

Want to make a lot of money quickly? Invent a cure for the Millennium Bug. This seems to be precisely what Nicholas Johnson, 14-year-old New Zealand boy, has done. He claims he has designed a program to topple the world's biggest computer glitch. Computer analysts have estimated that fixing the bug will cost between $300 billion and $600 billion. As many as 80 percent of all computers are affected. Johnson, who has tinkered with puzzles since he was a toddler, is keeping his information under tight wraps and will not divulge how the program works, pending a patent. Andrew Siddall, a computer analyst, has studied Johnson's solution and considers it a remarkable breakthrough. "Nick has come up with something very clever. There are a couple of attempts I've seen on the Internet so far, but none of them solves the problem like Nick does." (JG)

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A PRAYER VIGIL FOR THE EARTH
(Source: THE WORLD PEACE PRAYER CEREMONY Press Release, 9/15/97)

The fifth annual 30-hour PRAYER VIGIL FOR THE EARTH will held on The Mall in Washington, D.C. starting at sunrise on September 27, 1997. The vision is that the rising Sun on September 27 be greeted in each time zone by people of good will, seeking to heal the Earth and honor her sacredness. This wave of prayer will come in as many different forms as there are cultures, traditions, and people participating. Some may express through dance, others song, words or mantras. While nations failed to reach basic accord at Earth Summit II, the organizers feel the grass-roots language of the heart will plant a seed for future success. For more information, visit: <www.oneprayer.org>. (JG)

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GLOBAL BIRTHRATE SLOWING DOWN
(Source: NEW SCIENTIST & SYDNEY MORNING HERALD via NEXUS, April-May/97)

The global birthrate is slowing down, according to U.N. Population Division's report, "The Future Population of the World," considered the most sophisticated assessment of its kind. If the present trend continues, the world's population will peak at about 10.6 billion in 2080. One of the main reasons for the dramatic slowdown is that the birthrate worldwide is falling faster than expected. By 2050, according to the report, India will pass China to become the world's most populous nation with 1.6 billion people. (JG)

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HEAVY RAINS EXPECTED FROM EL NINO
(Source: FEMA Press Release, 9/12/97)

The FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY (FEMA) is urging U.S. residents to prepare for increased flooding as a result of this year's powerful tropical Pacific Ocean climate pattern called El Nino. El Nino, characterized by warm, long-lived ocean currents, can mean heavier than normal precipitation and above normal temperatures for many areas in the U.S. During 1982-83, El Nino resulted in extensive flooding in California, Utah and Louisiana. FEMA recommends people protect their property by purchasing flood insurance through the NATIONAL FLOOD INSURANCE PROGRAM (NFIP), which is available to residents of communities that adopt and enforce sound floodplain management practices. To find out whether a community is participating in the NFIP program, homeowners can call the NFIP general information toll-free hotline: (800) 638-6620. Regular El Nino climate updates and predictions for the coming seasons are available via the CLIMATE PREDICTION CENTER website at: <http://nic.fb4.noaa.gov> under the section entitled "El Nino." (JG)

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THE LIGHTER SIDE:
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MOTHER TERESA DOLL
(Source: USA TODAY. 9/17/97)

It was bound to happen -- we are just surprised at how fast. THE BLESSINGS DOLL COLLECTION has dedicated its fall catalogue to Mother Teresa. The catalogue, out next week, features a Missionary of Charity doll on its cover. The cost of the doll is $189, and 10 percent of the sale price goes to the Missionaries of Charity in Chicago. (JG)

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LOTS IN SPACE
(Sources: FLAGSTAFF LIVE! 9/11/97; THE DRUDGE REPORT, 9/16/97; Shannon Tangonan, USA TODAY, 9/17/97)

As the beleaguered Mir space station limps along from mishap to misadventure -- including the recent near miss with some space junk that sent cosmonauts scrambling into the escape pod while simultaneously battling with the fourth computer failure in three months -- Russian space officials are looking for creative ways to raise money to keep the whole operation afloat. When the Mir cosmonauts aren't patching up their space station, they are making TV commercials. A 90-second commercial for TNAVA, Israel's biggest food manufacturer, shows Mir Commander Vasily Tsbilyev swallowing a floating globule of long-life milk that he has just squeezed out of a Hebrew-lettered carton. The company budgeted $450,000 for the commercial and paid a fee to the Russian space agency. In May, two Mir cosmonauts on a space walk were filmed deploying a large replica of PEPSI's new blue can. And now there is an unconfirmed report from Matt Drudge that CNN is planning to send science correspondent John Holliman into space to do a series of specials from the Space Station Mir sometime in the next few months. (JG)

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OWN A PIECE OF MARS
(Source: 21ST CENTURY SPACE NOVELTIES Press Release, 9/14/97)

First it was three men from Yemen who claimed they owned the entire planet of Mars and were suing NASA for trespassing (News Brief 72). Now you can buy your own piece of the Red Planet -- the Martian Consulate is selling plots of Mars and maintains a list of registrants' names, addresses, "claim" coordinates and serial numbers in its registry in Geneva, Switzerland. By a trust established by The Martian Consulate, this information will be presented to a legitimate government on Mars when such a government is established. Each registrant receives a 11" by 14" Certificate of Deed Registration and a map which pinpoints the claim location on Mars. Claims are one square mile and are priced at $29.95. For more information, pay a visit to the Martian Consulate at: <http://www.martianconsulate.com/>. Martian Consulate jumbo coffee mugs, golf shifts, tie-dye T-shirts and custom-embroidered baseball caps are also available. (JG)

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LAST OF THE MOHICANS
(Source: USA TODAY, 9/10/97)

The LOS ANGELES CITY SCHOOL BOARD has decided that the use of native names for high school teams and mascots depicts Native Americans "in inaccurate, stereotypic and often violent manners," and has given the schools one year to come up with alternatives. The change means the end of University High's Warriors, the Mighty Braves of Birmingham High and the last of Gardenia High's Mohicans. (JG)

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A MESSAGE FROM THE PUBLISHER:
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LAZARUS

We all know the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead. As the story goes, Larazus was a personal friend of Jesus and many of Jesus' closest associates knew him, and loved him. Word reached Jesus that Lazarus was near death, but Jesus did nothing. Instead he waited, saying that the situation developing around Lazarus was for the glory of God. Finally, four days after Lazarus had died and everyone thought all hope was lost, Jesus arrived. As a great crowd gathered, Jesus had the stone rolled away from Lazarus' tomb and he worked one of his most memorable miracles -- raising not only his dear friend, Lazarus, from the dead, but also instilling a new depth of hope in the hearts of all those who saw what he had done.

The spirit of this great story captures very much how I have felt about NHNE. We've been sick, lingering on the verge of death, calling out for help. Like Lazrus, we've been surrounded by caring friends and loved ones who desperately wanted to help us -- but didn't know how. A few weeks ago, I thought NHNE was dead. Boxed in from all sides, there seemed to be no way out of our tomb. Our crippling financial situation seemed destined to crush us into oblivion.

And then a bolt of lightning struck.

In our case, the Master's touch came in the form of asking all of you to switch your long-distance phone company. On the surface, this seems like a relatively insignificant gesture. Underneath, however, there is a revolution brewing. One person, struggling alone, can't move a boulder. But call in a thousand others, and all that is required is a gentle touch from each one. By changing your long-distance phone service to support us, you will be helping unleash a tidal wave of hope. We have already received many supportive letters from people anxious to support NHNE by switching their long-distance phone service. We have also been contacted by other struggling businesses who are planning to follow our lead. Next week, I will be writing more about these events and inviting you to put your long-distance phone bill where it can really make a difference!

With Love & Best Wishes,
David Sunfellow

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DANNION BRINKLEY WATCH:
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BRINKLEY TAKES TURN FOR THE WORSE
(Sources: Art Bell Website, 9/16,17 &18/97, thanks to Kathy Renbarger)

Even though things seemed to be looking up last week for Dannion Brinkley, who was in an unspecified southern hospital recovering from multiple brain aneurysms (News Brief 77), things suddenly took a turn for the worse on September 14 when the largest of the clots broke loose and caused a dangerous build up of fluid on his brain. Even though he was conscious and talking, the situation was extremely serious. Brain surgery was scheduled for September 17, an irony which didn't escape Dannion -- it was 22 years to the day that he was first struck by lightning.

On September 17, as Brinkley was being wheeled into the operating room, the doctors made a last-minute decision not to open his skull, but to perform a less intrusive procedure -- drilling two small holes through the skull to relieve the pressure on his brain. Initially, it seemed that the operation was a success and the crisis had passed. Brinkley was recovering in intensive care, and Art Bell had flown out to be at his side. Immediately after the operation on September 17, Bell reported that Brinkley was "out of the woods," but by the next day, his optimism was more guarded and he was using words like "hour to hour" to describe Brinkley's condition, and admitted he had a long way to go before he'd be out of immediate danger.

At Brinkley's request, Bell took some video and still pictures at the hospital for posting on his website as a way to let people "visit" Brinkley safely. The pictures show him looking pretty rough. One of the problems is that Brinkley still has to take large doses of the blood thinner Cumidin (one of the ingredients in rat poison) which leaves him very weak and vulnerable to infection. Prayers and healing golden light are requested. For the latest updates on Brinkley's condition, see: <http://www.artbell.com/topics.html>. (JG)

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MILLENNIUM NOTES:
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CATHOLICS PUT POSITIVE SPIN ON NEW MILLENNIUM
(Source: OMEGA DIRECTORY, 3/97)

The Roman Catholic Church is putting a positive spin on the dawning of the year 2000 by claiming it as the second millennial birthday of Jesus, and calling for reconciliation, spiritual renewal and hope. "It's a significant moment where people look back and forward," said Rev. Dale Fushek, Chairman of the Church's NEW MILLENNIUM COMMITTEE of Phoenix. "As we see the year 2000, I think we are going to see people saying. 'Where's my life going and what's the deeper meaning of my life?'" In addition to the Jubilee 2000 Celebration, the Church has activities planned all the way up to the beginning of the new millennium; for example, in 1999 the pope has called for joint meeting of the many diverse Christian churches for an interreligious dialogue. The Church also intends to acknowledge the crimes it has committed over the last two millennia and seek forgiveness.

As a matter of historical record, Jesus may have been born anytime between 7 BC and 7 AD. And according to Jewish authorities, who use a different reckoning system, the beginning of the New Age began on January 1, 1981. (JG)

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FIRST TO THE MILLENNIUM
(Source: Jeannye Thornton, U.S. NEWS & WORLD REPORT, 2/3/97)

As can be imagined, the arrival of the new millennium will be a bonanza for just about every bar, restaurant and hotel on Earth, and this is especially the case where the millennium first dawns. Just who gets to lay claim to that distinction is the center of a controversy swirling in the central Pacific.

The trouble started in the small Pacific island nation of Kiribati. The international dateline used to pass right through the chain of islands, so that when it was Sunday in eastern Kiribati, it was Monday in western Kiribati -- an administrative nightmare. Kiribati solved the problem in 1995, by simply redrawing the international dateline to snake around Caroline, Kirbati's easternmost island -- therefore making it the first landmass to see the new day. While that move was done without any regard for millennial implications, Tonga, an island chain southwest of Caroline, has taken offense. Before the dateline change, it had already claimed "first in the millennium" status for itself and was taking bookings at its International Dateline Hotel for the big day. While Tonga's tourism chief asserts that no one is taking Kirbati's change seriously, mapmakers are already redrawing the line.

Enter the ROYAL GREENWICH OBSERVATORY with the definitive word: Since the Sun shines nonstop on the South Pole from September until March, the millennium will dawn first on the bottom of the Earth. (JG)

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ECO WATCH:
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BAD NEWS FOR EAST COAST RIVERS
(Sources: Tom Stuckey, ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/10/97; Carol Jouzaitis, USA TODAY, 9/15/97; ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 9/15/97; SIERRA CLUB ACTION, 9/17/97, thanks to Chris Czech)

Things are going from bad to worse on the East Coast: Fish with lesions have shown up in three more Eastern Shore river systems recently, suggesting the problem is more widespread than earlier thought. Fish with lesions had previously been found in a 12-to-13-mile stretch of the Pocomoke River in Maryland that has been closed since August 29 (News Brief 75). A medical team reported that a toxin released by Pfiesteria -- an organism that can emit a poison that kills fish and causes health problems in humans -- likely made 18 people ill and killed tens of thousands of fish.

Fish with lesions have now turned up in King's Creek and the Chicamacomico River in Maryland and Virginia's Rappahannock River, three completely different watersheds, "suggesting that this is a broader-based problem," according to Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening. Fish were coming to the surface of the water and swimming around erratically, signs that they are under stress, and many had the deep round sores near their tails that are characteristic of Pfiesteria. The Eastern Shore of Maryland has a $1.5 billion dollar/year poultry industry that contributes massive tonnage of nitrogen and phosphorous to local streams and rivers annually, yet farmers face few regulations on manure management. The large amounts of nutrients entering the shallow, slow-moving bodies of water seem to trigger the outbreaks of Pfiesteria, which in turn attack the fish and infect people in contact with them. While the MARYLAND DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES has closed all three of its affected waterways, citing a strong connection between the Pfiesteria outbreaks and human health hazards, such as rashes, eye irritation, nausea, and short-term memory loss, Virginia officials assert that there is "no health hazard" in its infected river. Virginia Gov. George Allen explains, "We don't think you should hype things up and cause a stampeding panic."

As the 25th anniversary of the CLEAN WATER ACT approaches (October 18), it is clear that despite the great progress made in cleaning up U.S. waters, there are still some serious threats yet to address. The runoff of pollutants into lakes, rivers and streams from agricultural lands, factory farms and urban streets poses an increasingly dangerous public health threat. (JG)

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THE TROUBLED SEA
(Source: CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR via CLARINET, 9/9/97)

In a single generation, overfishing and poor management have devastated fish stocks around the world. 13 of the world's 15 major fishing regions have seen a decline in total catch, putting an estimated 100,000 fishermen out of work and threatening the food supply of millions. But the deterioration of the world's fisheries is just the tip of the iceberg.

There is growing concern about the general decline in marine life worldwide, as many ecosystems and entire seas falter under the combined effects of a wide range of human activities. Overfishing, habitat destruction, climate change, and the indiscriminate dumping of sewage, fertilizers, oil, and other wastes into rivers and seas are exacting a terrible toll on marine life. "Scientists who are most knowledgeable about the marine environment are looking at their study sites and their data and are getting really scared," says Elliot Norse, President of the MARINE CONSERVATION BIOLOGY INSTITUTE in Redmond, Washington.

The cumulative damage to marine life is most clearly seen in the world's semi-enclosed seas. Such seas typically have dense human populations ashore and a low rate of seawater "flushing" to the open ocean. Pollution, coastal development pressures, and fishing demands are concentrated with increasingly dramatic effects. The Black Sea is a sobering example. For millennia its bountiful fish and shellfish nurtured the human civilizations that populated its shores -- from ancient Greece to contemporary Turkey. But over the past two decades, large-scale commercial fishing and agriculture have rendered the sea virtually lifeless. 20 of 26 commercial fish species have vanished since 1970, while the anchovy harvest fell by more than 95 percent. In their place are monstrous algae blooms and the North American jellyfish that prey on them. The Mediterranean, Baltic, Yellow, and other seas suffer from similar combinations of human activities. Then there's the cost -- Baltic countries will need a shocking $23 billion just to address the very worst sources of pollution in the Baltic basin.

On the open ocean, concern has focused on the decline of fisheries. The Rome-based U.N. FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION reports that 60 percent of the world's top 200 marine-fish resources are highly exploited or in decline. The most dramatic collapses occurred on the famous groundfish banks off New England and Atlantic Canada. The seemingly endless stocks of cod, haddock, halibut, and flounder that first attracted Europeans to this part of the world were wiped out in a single generation. Modern technology allowed huge factory-trawlers to scoop up more fish than the sea could replace. The stocks collapsed, most fishing grounds were closed in 1992-93, and tens of thousands of fishermen lost their livelihoods. Four years later, cod and other groundfish remain at record-low levels, their ecological roles now filled by swelling numbers of skates and dogfish, neither of which have much commercial value.

Bottom creatures aren't the only ones losing their homes. Washington-based WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE estimates that humans have already cleared, drained, or filled half the world's salt marshes and mangrove swamps, which act as the nurseries of the sea. Coral reefs are in decline worldwide because of water temperature changes, pollution, disease, and the use of dynamite and cyanide to stun and capture reef fish for food or aquariums. If current trends continue, most of the world's reefs will disappear before the end of the next century, according to a report to the U.N. COMMISSION ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT. "The loss of coral reefs is something to be very concerned about," says Ira Rubinoff, Director of the SMITHSONIAN TROPICAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE in Panama City, Panama. "Next to the rainforests, reefs are probably the areas of highest biodiversity on the planet. They protect shores, build islands, fix carbon, and provide a wealth of food. It's a terrible loss."

The decline of species from Caribbean corals to Canadian cod eggs is being hastened by changing sea temperatures, raising concerns that global warming may also be playing a role in the decline of ocean systems. Scientists are now nearly certain that the world's use of fossil fuels is responsible for a 1 degree increase in average surface temperatures over the past century. The U.N. PANEL ON CLIMATE CHANGE estimates an increase of 1.5 to 6 degrees by 2100, triggering a sea-level rise of between 10 and 31 inches and putting tens of millions of people at risk. "The general predictions are that climate change will increase with latitude, and this appears to be what is happening," says Oran Young, Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at DARTMOUTH COLLEGE in Hanover, New Hampshire. The Arctic Sea ice cover declined by almost 6 percent between 1980 and 1994, and parts of the Antarctic ice shelves are breaking up as temperatures increase there.

Nobody has easy answers on how to reverse the decline of marine ecosystems. Preventing eutrophication or global warming is enormously difficult because it requires significant costs and sacrifices by a wide range of industries and individuals whose livelihoods are not directly tied to the health of the oceans. Other problems are easier to address. Most experts identify overfishing as the most serious problem affecting marine ecology. Carl Safina, Director of the NATIONAL AUDUBON SOCIETY's Living Oceans Program in Islip, New York, says we could see dramatic improvements by simply "doing what everyone learns as a child when they first go fishing: Throw the little ones back and don't take too many." Others are promoting the establishment of "marine protected areas" to protect vital habitats and spawning areas from mining, bottom trawling, and pollution. "A network of protected areas, combined with good fisheries management, would serve as 'savings banks' for marine resources," says Cheri Recchia of the WORLD WILDLIFE FUND CANADA. She continues, "By protecting habitats and ecological processes in these areas, we can better ensure that the seas and oceans can continue producing the resources we rely on." (JG)

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SPACE WATCH:
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MARTIAN MAGNETIC FIELD DETECTED
(Source: NASA Press Release, 9/17/97, thanks to Chris Czech)

As one of its first acts, Mars Global Surveyor has confirmed the existence of a planet-wide magnetic field at Mars. The spacecraft's magnetometer, which began making measurements of Mars' magnetic field after its capture into orbit on September 11, detected the magnetic field on September 15. The current observations suggest a field with a polarity similar to that of Earth's and opposite that of Jupiter, with a maximum strength about 1/800th of the magnetic field at the Earth's surface.

The existence of a planetary magnetic field has important implications for the geological history of Mars and for the possible development and continued existence of life on Mars. Planets like Earth, Jupiter and Saturn generate their magnetic fields by means of a dynamo made up of moving molten metal at the core. This metal is a very good conductor of electricity, and the rotation of the planet creates electrical currents deep within the planet that give rise to the magnetic field. A molten interior suggests the existence of internal heat sources, which could give rise to volcanoes and a flowing crust responsible for moving continents over geologic time periods. A magnetic field shields a planet from fast-moving, electrically charged particles from the Sun which may affect its atmosphere, as well as from cosmic rays, which are an impediment to life.

If Mars had a more active dynamo in its past, as is suspected from the existence of ancient volcanoes there, then it may have had a thicker atmosphere and liquid water on its surface, conditions which would have been beneficial for the existence of life. It is not known whether the current weaker field now results from a less active dynamo, or if the dynamo is now extinct and what the scientists are observing is really a remnant of an ancient magnetic field still detectable in the Martian crust. (JG)

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TECH WATCH:
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THIS WIRED WORLD
(Sources: Rodger Doyle, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 7/97; Michael Myer, NEWSWEEK, 9/22/97)

As recently as 1986, the Internet was an esoteric tool used by a few thousand scientists. Since then, usage has exploded as the communication network developed into a popular diversion for some, and a "must have" commodity for many in business and education.

Consider the following statistics, as of January 1997:

-- The common protocol of the Internet links 71 million people in 194 countries worldwide.

-- The most densely-networked country in the world is Finland, with 63 hosts per 1,000 population (a host is any computer providing access to Internet services). New Mexico is the best-connected state with 202 hosts/1,000, reflecting the proliferation of connections with LOS ALAMOS NATIONAL LABORATORY. San Francisco is the most densely networked city.

-- The U.S. accounts for 58 percent of Internet hosts worldwide.

-- Two thirds of U.S. and Canadian users are male, who tend to be young to middle aged, highly educated and affluent.

-- Digital communications are growing by nearly 40 percent per year. At that rate, voice phone calls will account for less than 10 percent of all communications traffic by the year 2002. (JG)

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CLEANER WASH -- LESS WATER
(Sources: USA TODAY, 9/15/97; Debbie Howlett, USA TODAY, 9/12/97)

Given the fact that it takes about 46 gallons of water to wash a load of laundry, the U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY (DOE) has taken an interest in the development of a washing machine that operates more economically. Since June, the DOE has been conducting a study of 104 horizontal-axis washing machines in households in the parched town of Bern, Kansas. The machines, donated by MAYTAG, differ from top-loading models in that they have no agitator in the middle of the tub. Instead, the tub is tilted slightly forward and tumbles like a dryer. This innovative design, according to MAYTAG, uses less water and cleans better. The DOE test confirmed the claim, finding that the horizontal washers used 36 percent less water and 56 percent less power than conventional designs. The department is now testing refrigerators, air conditioners, heat pumps and other electrical appliances, and hopes to promote those found most environmentally friendly. (JG)

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LAVA LAMP RANDOMNESS
(Source: Ivers Peterson, SCIENCE NEWS, 8/9/97)

Random numbers are an immensely valuable commodity, not only for computer simulations but also for generating the strings of digits required to encode and decode sensitive information in cryptographic systems. The trouble is that no numerical recipe used by a computer produces truly random numbers. The computer simply follows a set sequence of steps, and restarting the process with the same initial number or seed value, produces the exactly the same digits.

One way to do better is to vary the seed number value randomly. Robert G. Mende Jr., Landon Curt Noll and Sanjeev Sisodiya of SILICON GRAPHICS in Mountain View, California have come up with a novel way to accomplish this task. After staring for hours at the slowly rising and falling colored globules in a lava lamp, they realized that they had their perfect random number generator. Using the movement of the globs as a starting point, they were able to generate a sequence of true random numbers. They call their invention "LavaRand."

A digital camera periodically photographs a set of six Lava Lite lamps. The resulting images are converted into a string of 1s and 0s. That string is mathematically manipulated according to scheme known as the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Secure Hash Algorithm, which scrambles and compresses the 921,600 bytes of the original images into a 140-byte package of digits. This packet then serves as the seed value for a computer-based random-number generator.

Noll and his colleagues feel that the unpredictable wanderings of the globs in the Lava Lite are a more convenient source of randomness than, say, the sporadic decay of a radioactive element. Plus, the researchers admit, "They are cool." (JG)

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HEALTH WATCH:
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POLYMER SPONGES FOR THE BLOOD
(Source: W. Wayt Gibbs, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, 4/97)

Americans spend billions of dollars each year to control cholesterol and phosphate levels in their blood. Some of the medications tinker with the complex machinery of the cells, some interfere with chemical messages, while others flip cellular switches to make them do something they normally wouldn't. GELTEX PHARMACEUTICALS has a another approach -- they have developed two products composed of polymers that they hope will pass right through patients without directly effecting a single cell. What they will do, though, is soak up specific chemicals in their sojourn through the digestive tract.

One polymer, called "RenaGel," contains a molecular docking slip into which phosphate fits very nicely. This could help patients with chronic kidney failure who have trouble removing phosphorus from their bloodstream. Swallowed with food, the RenaGel tablets expand into a gel that binds up much of the phosphate as it moves through the intestines. The company hopes to have the product on the market later this year.

GELTEX's next big gun is "CholestaGel," which does not bind cholesterol directly; instead, it seizes onto bile acid which the liver synthesizes from cholesterol. As the gel dredges bile acid from the system, the liver secretes more, drawing cholesterol out of the blood vessels where it is most dangerous. Trials completed in January, suggest that CholestaGel can reduce a patient's cholesterol levels by 30 percent without the bothersome intestinal problems associated with earlier medications. (JG)

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MORE QIGONG
(Source: Luke Chan, FOUR CORNERS, Feb-Mar/97)

[In News Brief 71, we published an introductory article on Qigong. The following expands on that subject.]

Imagine a hospital without medicine, yet chronic ailments like cancer, diabetes, arthritis, deafness, coronary disease and lupus are cured regularly. A place where the doctors are considered teachers, the patients are students, and tuition is only $12 for a 24-day course of healing. As incredible as it sounds, such a place exists -- the Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Center (The Center) -- in the Chinese city of Fengrun, two hours by train from Beijing. The Center avoids medicine and special diets in favor of exercise, love and life energy (Qi). and is the largest medicineless hospital in the world, with a capacity of 4,000 students and teachers.

The healing method used at the Center is called "Qi-Lel" and is based on the 5,000-year-old concept of Qigong, as well as modern medical knowledge. Qi-Lel was developed by Pang Ming, reverently known as "the Teacher," the founder of the Center. Qi-Lel consists of four parts:

-- Strong belief: a belief that the life energy can heal all ailments.

-- Group healing: when a person enters the hospital for treatment, they are first diagnosed by a doctor, and then assigned to a class of 50 people for a 24-day period. The teacher begins by verbally synchronizing the thinking of the group to obtain life force from the universe and converts it into a healing energy field that surrounds the group.

-- Qi healing: teachers then bring healing energy from the universe to each individual in the group to facilitate healing.

-- Practice: students learn easy-to-follow Qi-Lel movements, which consist of visualizations combined with a series of gentle motions, and practise them until they are second nature.

The students have been assigned to a class, they spend most of each day practising Qi-Lel, without the distractions of television, radio or telephone. The emphasis is on the students healing themselves, and not to rely on the doctors. Not surprisingly, many of the doctors, Qi-Lel teachers and support personnel are former students who have recovered from serious illnesses and have returned to serve the sick for little pay.

The Center was established in 1988, and since that time has treated over 100,000 sick people, many of whom were considered incurable by more traditional medicine. According to "Zhineng Qigong's Healing Effects on Chronic Diseases," 15 percent of the patients were cured, 38 percent were much improved and 42 percent were improved, for a overall effective healing rate of 95 percent. There is verifiable proof of cancer tumors disappearing from view on ultra-sound machines in less than a minute while four Qi-Lel teachers emitted Qi into the patients.

The Center has Qi-Lel schools to train Qi-Lel professionals. The instructor training program lasts two years. Luke Chan, the first Qi-Lel Master to be certified outside of China is now touring the U.S. offering Qigong weekend retreats, which are the introductory course for the Instructor Certification Program. Qi-Lel can be easily learned by anyone who wants to improve and sustain their health and wellness. For more information, visit: <http://www.chilel.qigong.com>.(JG)

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THE BENEFITS OF BROCCOLI SPROUTS
(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 9/15/97)

Five years ago, a team at JOHN HOPKINS UNIVERSITY headed by Dr. Paul Talalay discovered that sulforaphane, found in broccoli, cauliflower and some other vegetables, prompted the body to make an enzyme that prevented cancerous tumors from forming. For example, the diet studies showed that eating two pounds of broccoli a week could provide enough sulforaphane to lower colon cancer risk by half. While the health benefits were undeniable, the thought of eating so much broccoli each week was unappetizing for most. To complicate matters, Talalay found that the sulforaphane content in broccoli could vary by a factor of 10 from grocery store to grocery store.

Now the good news: Talalay's research team has recently discovered that there is up to 50 times more anti-cancer chemical in broccoli sprouts than in the mature vegetable, and the sprouts don't taste like broccoli. Talalay says he is surprised to find that the sprouts contain such a high level of the anti-cancer compound. Broccoli sprouts resemble alfalfa sprouts now common in grocery stores, but they have more flavor.

Broccoli sprouts are not grown commercially at the moment, but Talalay says that if other researchers confirm the findings of his lab, it could encourage growers to start producing the baby broccoli as a new vegetable for health-conscious shoppers. "This is an important finding," says Michael Bennett, a professor at the UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS MEDICAL CENTER and an expert on diet and cancer. Diets rich in broccoli and other vegetables have a proven benefit to health, but "the important thing is getting people to eat them," he adds. (JG)

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