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NHNE News Brief 73
Friday, August 8, 1997

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

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Calm the Moving Waters

Sony Investigating ESP
China Seeks to Discredit Dalai Lama
Russian Army Faces Collapse
Fear of Foreigners Sweeping Africa

"The Way of the Force"
"Super-Oxygenated" Bottled Water
New York Cabs Talking Back
Satellite Tracks Cows & Horses

More Favorite Movies

Some of My Top 20 Movies
Add "Powder"
Our Next Step in Evolution
In My Humble Opinion
Mr. Roger's Utopia
An Objective Review

U.S. Lied to Explain UFO Sightings
New Explanation for Phoenix UFOs

ECR Changes Format

Did the Walls Come Tumblin' Down?

Making the Most of Trees
Whales Still Fighting For Survival

Automated Highway "Really Dull"

Mars Weather




"Only let the moving waters calm down, and the Sun and Moon will be reflected on the surface of your Being."

---Rumi, Sufi poet, thanks to Mary Anne Buchowski


(Source: OMEGA DIRECTORY, 8/97)

SONY CORP. is taking a giant leap into the unknown with a multi-million dollar research program to investigate X-ray vision, telepathy and other paranormal phenomenon. "If we can understand the mechanism of telepathy, it would totally transform communication methods," says Yoichiro Sako, Director of SONY's Psychic Research Department, also called "The Institute of Wisdom." He claims the company is on the brink of a technological breakthrough. SONY is already building a machine to reveal psychic powers in people that uses little-known Oriental techniques. One of his most gifted subjects, a person only identified as "T.I.," has the ability to identify in which of two identical containers an object is hidden 70 percent of the time. The statistical probability is 50 percent. SONY says they have identified 100 other people who are almost as talented as T.I. (JG)


(Source: Scott Hillis, REUTERS, 8/1/97)

In a campaign to wipe out his influence, Chinese political education teams are entering monasteries and temples throughout Tibet to convert monks and nuns to Beijing's view of the Dalai Lama as a separatist and a threat to Buddhism. Li Ruihuan, the top official in charge of religious affairs, has also slammed the exiled religious leader as a tool of foreign forces opposed to China and the biggest obstacle to the normal development of Tibetan Buddhism. Beijing has tried to weaken the influence of the Dalai Lama, worshipped as a god-king in deeply devout Tibet, by banning the display of his photograph. Previous crackdowns on religious activity in Tibet have led to violence, with monks and nuns staging riots and blowing up government buildings. The Dalai Lama, who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent campaign for more autonomy for his homeland, denies he is seeking Tibetan independence but says he does seek a higher degree of self-government for the region's 2.4 million people. (JG)


(Source: Chris Bird, REUTERS, 8/4/97)

A group of disgruntled generals opposed to Russian President Boris Yeltsin's military reform say that his plans threaten the armed forces with collapse. "They don't fly, they don't sail, they don't train," said General Igor Rodionov, a former Defence Minister. The Cold War's end and Russia's tough journey to the free market have left behind the country's once-respected army. Morale is low among Russia's soldiers and officers, who go unpaid for months and are often forced to live in tents or railway carriages. Their poor condition was made painfully clear by their humiliation at the hands of lightly-armed guerrillas in Russia's breakaway republic of Chechnya. Last month Yeltsin told the new defence minister, Igor Sergeyev, to launch a publicity campaign to explain the reforms. His opponents counter that no amount of explaining will make the problem go away. (JG)



A fear of foreigners with the alleged power to shrink penises is spreading through Africa. The scenario is consistent: someone who makes brief physical contact with a stranger on the street claims to get a chill, then declares that his penis is shrinking. Bystanders react by going after the alleged "sex stealer" -- often a foreigner -- and mercilessly beating him. "The phenomenon is becoming very alarming," says an official at the main police station in Dakar, Senegal. Dakar psychologist Serigne Mor Mbaye blames the mob mentality on "fear of castration" among ill-educated African males, coupled with a loss of identity "in the face of an increasingly-complex world." (JG)


(Source: DRUDGE REPORT, 7/31/97)

It seems our report in News Brief 70 that the filming of the Star Wars prequels had already begun was a little premature, although the word from Matt Drudge now is that filming of the first prequel could begin in a matter of weeks in London with the working title: "The Way of the Force." And there is some talk around FOX that a second and third prequel will not be shot back-to-back with "The Way of the Force," as had originally been planned. In the first of his new films, George Lucas is playing up the spiritual aspect, with a Jedi philosophy that is almost a direct teaching of Buddhism. (JG)


(Source: Rhonda Rowland, CNN ONLINE, 8/5/97)

The newest trend for health aficionados who want to feel better is a blast of good, old-fashioned oxygen, and oxygen bars and oxygen clinics have been springing up from Tokyo to Toronto (News Brief 62). While most doctors say there is no reason healthy people need extra oxygen, oxygen fans claim it gives them energy and clears up their sinuses, and many exhausted athletes swear that a quick hit at the sidelines can help them get back into the game. That concept is being taken one step further -- "super-oxygenated" bottled water is poised to burst on the market. The company that produces it says it did a study showing that drinking the water shaved an average of 31 seconds off a runner's 5-kilometer time. Experts are skeptical, saying that while running, you would have to guzzle up to 200 bottles per minute to get any oxygen benefit. (JG)


(Source: Jeanne Moos, CNN ONLINE, 8/5/97)

Starting this month, every cab in New York City is required to have pre-recorded celebrity messages promoting safe travel and urging passengers to buckle up. This onslaught of stars touting public service messages was dreamed up by New York Taxi & Limousine Commissioner Diane McGrath-McKechnie. So far, seven celebrities have recorded messages, ranging from Judd Hirsch, who used to star in the old "Taxi" sitcom, to Yankees manager Joe Torre. One of the most interesting voiceovers is done by Eartha Kitt, who purrs, "Cats have nine lives, but unfortunately, you have only one, so buckle up." While passengers seem seduced by the celebrity voiceovers, most cab drivers are less than lovestruck. "It's ridiculous," says one perturbed driver. "I have to hear it 60 times every day." However, one driver is taking it in stride. He's had practice hearing the same voice over and over. "I'm 39 years married," he explains. (JG)


(Source: REUTERS, 7/31/97)

Two cows and a horse are being tracked by satellite in an unprecedented experiment to monitor grazing on a French mountainside from space. Satellite beacons strapped to cows Marguerite and Claudie and mare Garance enable computer-based herdsmen see whether animals are better than machines or chemicals at clearing mountain pastures. The transmitters locate the animals' position to within 10 feet on a mountainside in central France which is overrun by brambles, weeds and bushes. The animals are among 36 cows and 12 horses being used in the experiment by the NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF AGRONOMIC RESEARCH (NIAR). Farmers have steadily abandoned such upland areas as unprofitable. The dense vegetation that takes over makes the areas inaccessible to walkers and tourists. He said it would be impossible for human herdsmen to keep such close track of the animals. The NIAR thought of putting solar panels on the cows instead of using batteries for the satellite beacons, but it was too difficult. (JG)



David Sunfellow and I had so much fun picking our top ten movies for News Brief 69, that we thought we'd share the rest of our top 20 list with you this week.

David's list:

11. Powder
12. The Last of the Mohicans
13. The Star Wars Trilogy
14. Mr. Holland's Opus
15. Chances Are
16. The Butcher's Wife
17. The Shoes of the Fisherman
18. Touch
19. Resurrection
20. The Natural

James' list:

11. Wizard of Oz
12. Resurrection
13. The Empire Strikes Back
14. Somewhere in Time
15. The Man Who Would Be King
16. Contact
17. Enemy Mine
18. The Boat
19. The Elephant Man
20. The Return of the Jedi

As you can see by these lists, David and my tastes diverge somewhat.

We've had a positive response to our choices from our readers, some of whose letters we include in this issue. We'd like to hear about your favorite spiritual or uplifting movies -- what touched your heart or your soul?

James Gregory



"News Brief 70 was an exceptionally good issue -- couldn't stop reading it! I agree with several movies on your lists. Here are some more that make my top 20:

The Fisher King
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
The Emerald Forest
The Milagro Beanfield War
Scent of Green Papaya

I would be interested if any of your readers know of any other poignant movies that truly reflect the world view of tribal peoples. 'Dances with Wolves' was a step in a healthy direction, but I wouldn't call it predominantly spiritual."

---Michael Mariner, Boulder, Colorado



"Just wanted to add 'Powder' to your favourite movies list -- an excellent portrayal of potential of the human species. I still get a massive boost every time I see the final scene."

---Adam Williams, Hong Kong, China



"I just saw 'Contact.' My main observation of the movie was that this society is too analytical, demanding physical proof, otherwise they won't believe anything. This correlates to my real-life observations. People do not know how to trust their own intuition. In the movie, it was perfect that Jodie Foster, who was a die-hard scientist (logical, rational), experienced the 'knowing,' yet was unable to prove it to anyone else because there was no physical proof. That is exactly the point! The 'knowing' will never come from outside sources -- it must come from within. This is our next step in evolution.

"And if someone can still go hunting after the deer scene in 'Powder,' then there's no hope for a smooth planetary transition to the new age.

---Stephen H. Kapit, Boulder, Colorado



"Please sign me up for your updates. Just thought you might like to know that your site is one of very few for which I have used an URL-minder. In my humble opinion, NHNE is truly one of the best sites on the Web. And I say that as a veteran seeker. Keep up the great work."

---Morgana, Syracuse, New York



"Your article 'Seeds of Peace Take Root' by Gail Rossi (News Brief 71) reminded me of a collection of brief essays in OMNI MAGAZINE about what Utopia would mean to various respected thinkers. The one that stood out to me was the one by Mr. Rogers (of 'Mr. Rogers Neighborhood'):

'If we could live inside of somebody else, we'd know that everyone wants to be loved. We'd know what hampers other people, because we would know about their childhood, what made them the way they are today. I think the spirit that judges others without knowing them is the real evil. For instance, since we worked in Moscow, I will never think of Russians in generalized terms again. I think of Lucy, Victor, Tatyana, Nona, and all the people who worked with us. The idea of being able to live inside of each other -- this is my Utopia. If I lived inside of someone else, I might understand why that person is glum or why that person rubs me the wrong way. That understanding would lead to peace. It certainly would lead to coziness.'

Until we are able to literally do this, then committed listening will have to be our next best attempt. The work being done by the Seeds of Peace people seems to be doing just that. Thank you for some good news about what our human neighbors are up to.

---Steve Haag, San Jose, California



"I have always had an interest in psychic phenomenon but it's difficult to know who really has been given the gift. Edgar Cayce, who seemed to have a true gift, was interested in helping others and didn't seek self-glorification or profit. The world needs groups like NHNE that objectively review the predictions of those who claim to have physic powers in order to weed out those who are less than honest. I would point out that many of the predictions that Gordon-Michael Scallion has made were made by others before him. In particular, his Egyptian/Atlantean predictions sound very much like Cayce's."

---Richard Meister, Southington, Connecticut


(Sources: Jim Wolf, REUTERS, 8/4/97; Richard Wolf, USA TODAY, 8/4/97; ASSOCIATED PRESS via CNN ONLINE, 8/3/97)

In what amounts to the first admission of federal deception on the issue, a study recently released by the CIA said U.S. national security officials systematically lied to explain reports of UFOs at the height of the Cold War. The survey, entitled, "CIA's Role in the Study of UFO's 1947-90," claimed that most reports of unidentified flying objects in the 1950s and 1960s stemmed from glimpses of supersecret U.S. spy planes developed to photograph enemy targets from high altitudes. Rather than disclose the existence of these aircraft, the military put out false stories.

According to CIA officials who worked on the U-2 and Blackbird spyplane projects, "Over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950's through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights" over the U.S. This led the Air Force to make misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay public fears and to protect an extraordinarily-sensitive national security project. The Air Force typically explained away sightings of its spy planes as the effect of atmospheric phenomena, such as ice crystals and temperature inversions.

Both the CIA and the Air Force defended the decision to keep the U-2 and Blackbird intelligence-gathering programs secret rather than put them at risk by giving a truthful explanation of the unusual observations. "We sometimes take extraordinary means to protect national security assets," said Gloria Cales, an Air Force spokeswoman. "We have classified programs that we need to protect." But Steven Aftergood, director of a project on government secrecy at the private FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS in Washington, said the official deception contributed to a loss of confidence in government. "We pay an enormous price for official deception in terms of the loss of public trust," he said. "At the time, this probably seemed like an insignificant white lie, but over the years it has mushroomed into a significant culture of paranoia."

The study was written by Gerald Haines, a historian at the NATIONAL RECONNAISSANCE OFFICE, the Pentagon arm that operates the satellites that replaced manned spy flights. His article was published by the CIA in STUDIES OF INTELLIGENCE, a once-secret journal of intelligence-related material. The article is available at: <>.

Despite the government's apparent desire to come clean, there are those who say the deception continues. "They're still lying," says Richard Hall, Chairman of the FUND FOR UFO RESEARCH. "The American public is not stupid," adds Walter Andrus, International Director of the MUTUAL UFO NETWORK. "They've been lied to by the government so often over the years that they're not going to believe it." (JG)


(Source: CNI NEWS, 8/1/97)

In the latest round of highly-dubious explanations for UFO phenomena, official sources now claim that the Maryland AIR NATIONAL GUARD (ANG) was running an exercise called OPERATION SNOWBIRD on March 13, the night mysterious lights appeared over Phoenix, Arizona. According to Captain Eileen Bienz, public affairs officer for the ARMY AND AIR NATIONAL GUARD, the exercise reportedly involved eight A-10 aircraft and a lot of high-intensity flares over the Goldwater Gunnery Range southwest of Phoenix.

Local military officials had denied that they had anything to do with the bizarre display of lights seen by thousands of Arizona residents, but Bienz said no one had considered the possibility of visiting aircraft. She said OPERATION SNOWBIRD brings air squadrons from bases in the northern U.S. to fly maneuvers in Arizona between the months of November and April. Bienz concedes that the A-10 maneuvers don't explain everything reported by witnesses that night, but she thinks they do explain the prominent display of lights videotaped by several witnesses and shown repeatedly on national television.

According to Captain Drew Sullins of the Maryland ANG, the planes were equipped with high-intensity magnesium and cesium flares that were dropped at various points in the exercise. Before returning to base, Sullins said, the aircraft dropped all their remaining flares, because they were not allowed to land with flares on board. The flares are suspended from small parachutes and take a long time to drop, Sullins said. Such flares, dropped from 6,000 feet, would be visible for 150 miles on a clear night.

But several researchers in the Phoenix area found the latest official explanation of the March 13 events hard to swallow. Jim Dilettoso of VILLAGE LABS, told reporters that his analysis of photos and videotapes show the lights couldn't be flares. He also said that a computer simulation based on eyewitness data places the lights nowhere near the gunnery range.

Researcher and eyewitness Bill Hamilton added, "No one from Phoenix ever saw these flares. The reason: mountains to the south obstructed our view. The amber-orange light formation that Tom King and I saw and videotaped was at low elevation in front of the Estrella Mountains and just over the Gila River. There were no aircraft of any kind visible or audible in the vicinity of these lights. Through a telescope, these lights appeared to be rapidly pulsating orbs that bore no resemblance to flares."

Kenny Young of TRI-STATE ADVOCATES FOR SCIENTIFIC KNOWLEDGE (TASK) asked, "Why a 5-month delay in coming clean about this? Why didn't the Maryland ANG come forward the following morning [March 14] during the unprecedented public outcry, to set the record straight? There is nothing but criticism warranted for those-in-the-know, who would allow their activities to forment the sort of public hysteria that ensued for this duration of time."

Problems with the flare theory clearly remain unresolved. And add to this the fact that on the night of March 13, as well as on other nights both before and since, lighted objects were also seen moving between Kingman and Paulden to the north, as well as moving lights as far south as Tucson. These facts are not easily reconciled with military flares and A-10 maneuvers. (JG)


(Source: Gordon-Michael Scallion, EARTH CHANGES REPORT, 8/97)

Gordon-Michael Scallion is making big changes to his monthly EARTH CHANGES REPORT (ECR). Citing exhaustion, poor mail service and escalating printing and paper costs, Scallion is making the following changes effective immediately:

-- The monthly publication will be published only nine times a year.

-- The number of pages will be reduced from 12 to 8.

-- The format will change from four-color glossy magazine to a traditional two-color newsletter.

-- The newsletter will be folded and mailed in a #10 envelope for efficiency and privacy.

While many of his followers are pressuring Scallion to publish more earth-change predictions, he claims that the recent release of his Future Map of the World marked the end of the cycle for sharing these visions, stating: "The time for analyzing and re-analyzing our collective visions of Earth changes is over." (JG)


(Source: ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/18/97)

A month-long dig by two Italian archaeologists has turned up no evidence to support the biblical story that the ancient city of Jericho was sacked by the Israelite commander Joshua. According to the Old Testament, Joshua and his troops stormed the city around 1400 B.C., and the walls of Jericho tumbled down after Joshua's priests circled them for seven days, blowing trumpets. But the two UNIVERSITY OF ROME archaeologists, Lorenzo Nigro and Nicolo Marchetti, said their dig found no layer of rubble and ash or other evidence that the city was levelled during the time of Joshua. In fact, based on the section they excavated, Jericho's ancient walls seem to be still intact. Observant Jews revere Joshua as Moses' successor who led the Israelites into the Promised Land, with the battle of Jericho a key moment in the campaign. The dig was the first foreign expedition in the West Bank since Palestinian self-rule began in 1994. The Palestinian envoy to Italy, Nemer Hammad, said he hoped the expedition's findings would not have negative political repercussions. (JG)


(Sources: Dan Ronan, CNN ONLINE, 7/25/97; Jeff Flock, CNN ONLINE, 7/23/97)

Saw mills are working smarter to maximize wood production. For example, most houses are framed with boards made of soft wood, like pine, but many trees don't grow perfectly straight. Even a slight curve in the trunk can seriously reduce the amount of lumber that sawmills can get out of a log. Now GEORGIA-PACIFIC CORP. has come up with an innovative solution that involves a computerized system of cutting curved boards.

Before the cutting begins, a computer takes a close-up look at the log, deciding the most efficient way to cut up the raw wood. "Scanners take a picture in increments down the log and consider the shape, the diameter of the tree, and then calculate what the maximum yield out of that tree would be," said spokesman Al Hopkins. Then, instead of cutting a straight line against the curving grain, the saws maneuver within the wood, following the grain. The result is boards the full length of the log. "That equates to higher yield and higher value," he said. The boards come out of the saws curved, but can be dried straight.

"Because trees and timber have become more valuable than they once were, it's encouraged people to put more management effort into it. Therefore they're getting more volume per acre, better wood characteristics, better growth than we got 20 years ago,"

In a related story, loggers in Wisconsin, Canada and Brazil have developed a technique to log under water. This was prompted by the fact that some of the finest wood in the world sits on the bottom of lakes and rivers. Thousands of logs of red birch, grey elm, oak and maple, for example, are sitting on the bottom of Lake Superior, perfectly preserved by the cold waters.

How did those logs get to the bottom of Lake Superior in the first place? At the turn of the century, northern Wisconsin was the top timber-producing state in the U.S. In a single winter in the 1890s, 10,000 men logging the area cut more than 500 million feet of wood. Huge loads of logs were hauled from logging camps to the lake and some sank in the process.

Wisconsin state Rep. Barb Linton sponsored the legislation allowing the deep-water harvesting by such companies as SUPERIOR WATER-LOGGED COMPANY of Wisconsin. "Treasure hunter" and owner Scott Mitchen explains that sophisticated side-scan sonar is used to map what's on the lake bottom. When logs are located, divers are sent down as deep as 60 feet to attach airbags to the logs, which, when inflated, easily pull the logs to the surface where they are loaded onto barges by floating cranes. Once landed, the logs are sent to sawmills to be milled and dried.

The harvesting of sunken logs and deadheads provides a double service: it makes use of a resource that would otherwise be wasted, and clears boating lanes of possible hazards. Craftsmen all over the world are paying top dollar to make musical instruments and fine furniture from this ancient wood. Country star Johnny Cash, for example, plays a guitar made from this ancient wood. (JG)


(Sources: Elaine Robbins, E MAGAZINE, May-June/97; REUTERS via CNN ONLINE, 7/15/97)

Are whales any better off now than they were 25 years ago when the "Save the Whales" campaign first kicked off? A recent article in E MAGAZINE claims that they are not. Whale populations still haven't rebounded from the dramatic declines caused by centuries of overhunting. "We are seeing very little progress in a relatively short time span," says Gerald Leape, GREENPEACE's Legislative Director for Ocean Issues. "Fish can bounce back in a couple of years. Whales reproduce more slowly than humans." Seven of the eight great whale species decimated by whaling are still on the Endangered Species List. To make matters worse, this June at the CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES, several whaling nations filed to downlist six species of great whales from their present endangered status. If approved, this would virtually re-open full-scale commercial whaling.

In light of this pending decision, some points to consider:

-- The northern right whale ("right" because it was slow and yielded plenty of oil) is the most endangered of all whale species, with only 295 remaining in the world. There are so few, that biologists have given a name to each one.

-- The population of beluga whales in the St. Lawrence River is so contaminated by DDT and PCBs, that when one dies, the carcass has to be disposed of as toxic waste.

-- In the Southern Hemisphere, there are so few blue whales -- the largest animal on earth -- that they may be having problems finding each other to mate.

-- The growing cacophony of manmade sounds under the sea may be interfering with whales' ability to communicate with each other. To make matters worse, the SCRIPPS INSTITUTE OF OCEANOGRAPHY soon plans to start "broadcasting" 195 decibel sound blasts, for 25 minutes, six times a day for up to 10 years off the coasts of California and Hawaii to measure global warming. The intense sounds may drive whales mad.

-- With the depletion of 13 of the world's 17 major fishing stocks, humans have developed a taste for krill, the tiny shrimplike organisms which are the staple diet for baleen whales, such as humpbacks, fins, minkes, and blue whales.

-- As the ozone layer thins, whales are starting to suffer from sunburn and cases of skin cancer have been turning up in the species that live in the Antarctic, where ozone depletion is most pronounced.

-- Then there is the issue of whether whalers can be trusted. In 1993, Russia stunned the world with the revelation that throughout the '60s and '70s, Russian factory ships had killed 20 times the number of endangered whales as previously reported. The blue whale offers a particularly irresistible lure -- the market value of a fully-grown blue whale could reach $500,000! In 1993, biologists performed DNA tests on whale meat purchased at retail markets throughout Japan. Most of the samples were not the permitted minke, as advertised, but rather such endangered species such as humpback, fin, and blue whales.

The decline of these magnificent denizens of the deep is really only the most visible symptom of a disease that affects all the world's oceans. The cure lies in a multiprong approach, which includes the elimination of water and noise pollution, restricting the use of gill nets and drift nets, and a permanent ban on commercial whaling. The alternative -- that our finned brethren would only survive in aquariums, museums, and virtual memory -- is unthinkable. (JG)


(Sources: USA TODAY, 8/1/97; Steve James, REUTERS, 8/1/97)

Instruments on the Pathfinder probe are beaming back astonishing new details about weather on Mars. Instruments on the lander have found ice clouds in the predawn sky, temperatures that swing more than 100 degrees in a day and atmospheric pressures lower than anywhere on Earth. The unprecedented readings -- taken every four seconds for a whole day -- show Mars to have a turbulent atmosphere, with major oscillations in air pressure and huge fluctuations in temperatures. The pink clouds in the skies over Mars are composed predominantly of dust, but they also contained "waterized particles." Weather reports predict little likelihood of any rain on Mars.

Project scientist Matt Golombek said the data about Mars' atmosphere were some of the most significant discoveries of the Pathfinder mission, which landed on the planet July 4 and has achieved everything it was supposed to do in the 30-day planned period on Mars. While the mission was only designed to last one month, Golombek said the equipment will continue to rove and monitor until it eventually breaks down. Scientists hope the mission will last at least another 30 Martian days, which will bring the spectacular dust storms of the Martian fall season. (JG)


(Source: Martin Kasindorf, USA TODAY, 7/23/97; CNN ONLINE, 7/28/97)

The nation's first stretch of automated highway made its debut recently in San Diego, and its creators have proudly declared it to be "really dull." Once the computer takes over, drivers can take their hands off the steering wheel, their feet off the pedals and their eyes off the road. "It's really exciting for about the first 15 seconds," said Jim Rillings of the NATIONAL AUTOMATED HIGHWAY SYSTEM CONSORTIUM.

Magnets embedded in the asphalt at four-foot intervals on either side of traffic lanes enable the vehicle to constantly orient itself within the lane's boundaries. Test vehicles are also equipped with video cameras that track visual aids along the road such as cement barriers, and radar to monitor the distance to the next vehicle.

A prototype highway should be operational for public use until 2002. Its genesis was prompted by a 1991 federal law that empowered the TRANSPORTATION DEPARTMENT to develop "fully automated, intelligent highway systems." "We can't keep building ourselves out of traffic congestion, so we have to think about new technologies to enhance our freeways," says Hamed Benoouar of the CALIFORNIA DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION.

Supporters insist it will save millions of federal dollars because the concept relies on existing infrastructure and eliminates the need for building more freeway lanes. It would cost less than $10,000 to equip one mile of existing freeway with the new technology, compared with anywhere from $1 million to $100 million to build one mile of new highway. Other arguments for automated highways include: enhanced safety, more predictable drive times, and environmental protection, since cars can race along in each others' slipstreams, economizing on fuel. (JG)


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