Friday, February 1, 2008

Louis J Sheehan Esquire 30226 bio

users can find builders working with the EPA to build homes that meet the government's Energy Star standards for energy efficiency. Another site, EcoBroker.com12, owned by EcoBroker International, Evergreen, Colo., can also help users find homes with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features.

Other sites specialize in information on school systems and crime statistics, areas that some real-estate agents aren't inclined to talk about because of concerns that their comments could be construed as steering people away from or toward certain neighborhoods.
"I'm very careful as to what I tell buyers when they ask those questions," says Toni L. Medjuck, owner of Beach to Bay Realty in Seminole, Fla. "I'd rather refer them to where they can find the information."
For Sergey Krasnovsky and his wife, planning a move to Seattle meant using GreatSchools.net13 to narrow their search to two school districts for their 8-year-old son. Only then did they look for a potential home to buy. "The site lets you analyze each school not only based on [statistical ratings] but also on real feedback from parents," Mr. Krasnovsky notes.
The site gives information for both public and private schools, including test scores, the ethnicity of students, student-teacher ratios and spending per pupil. In addition to written reviews, parents rate schools for principal leadership, teacher quality, extracurricular activities, parent involvement, and safety and discipline. The site is owned by GreatSchools Inc., a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Another site, SchoolMatters.com14, a service of the Standard & Poor's division of McGraw-Hill Cos., provides information on public schools only.
For crime statistics, Las Vegas-based AreaConnect LLC lets users compare data for more than 8,000 cities at www.AreaConnect.com/crime15. Family Watchdog LLC, based in Indianapolis, provides the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders at FamilyWatchdog.us16. The site also will send email and cellphone alerts if a registered offender moves into a given neighborhood.
For a much broader scope, YourStreet.com17, owned by San Francisco-based YourStreet Inc., lets users find recent news reports and commentary from blogs for any location in the U.S. The material includes crime reporting but also covers the full spectrum of community news. Users can also initiate or join discussions about local events. "We look at news as the foundation of what is really going on in a local community," says James Nicholson, YourStreet's CEO and founder.

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Jim Hammond is an elite athlete. He works out two hours a day with a trainer, pushing himself through sprints, runs, and strength-building exercises. His resting heart rate is below 50. He’s won three gold medals and one silver in amateur competitions this year alone, running races from 100 to 800 meters. In his division, he’s broken four national racing records. But perhaps the most elite thing about Hammond is his age.
He is 93. And really, there’s nothing much wrong with him, aside from the fact that he doesn’t see very well. He takes no drugs and has no complaints, although his hair long ago turned white and his skin is no longer taut.
His secret? He doesn’t have one. Hammond never took exceptional measures during his long life to preserve his health. He did not exercise regularly until his fifties and didn’t get serious about it until his eighties, when he began training for the Georgia Golden Olympics. “I love nothing better than winning,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful thing for me.” Hammond is aging, certainly, but somehow he isn’t getting old—at least, not in the way we usually think about it.

They say aging is one of the only certain things in life. But it turns out they were wrong. In recent years, gerontologists have overturned much of the conventional wisdom about getting old. Aging is not the simple result of the passage of time. According to a provocative new view, it is actually something our own bodies create, a side effect of the essential inflammatory system that protects us against infectious disease. As we fight off invaders, we inflict massive collateral damage on ourselves, poisoning our own organs and breaking down our own tissues. We are our own worst enemy.
This paradox is transforming the way we understand aging. It is also changing our understanding of what diseases are and where they come from. Inflammation seems to underlie not just senescence but all the chronic illnesses that often come along with it: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, heart attack. “Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans,” says Russell Tracy, a professor of pathology and biochemistry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, whose pioneering research helped demonstrate the role of inflammation in heart disease. “It predicts having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic; predicts becoming fragile in old age; predicts cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent.”
The idea that chronic diseases might be caused by persistent inflammation has been kicking around since the 19th century. Only in the past few years, though, have modern biochemistry and the emerging field of systems biology made it possible to grasp the convoluted chemical interactions involved in bodywide responses like inflammation. Over a lifetime, this essential set of defensive mechanisms runs out of bounds and gradually damages organs throughout the body.
When you start to think about aging as a consequence of inflammation, as Tracy and many prominent gerontologists now do, you start to see old age in a different, much more hopeful light. If decrepitude is driven by an overactive immune system, then it is treatable. And if many chronic diseases share this underlying cause, they might all be remedied in a similar way. The right anti-inflammatory drug could be a panacea, treating diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even cancer. Such a wonder drug might allow us to live longer, but more to the point, it would almost surely allow us to live better, increasing the odds that we could all spend our old age feeling like Jim Hammond: healthy, vibrant, and vital. And unlike science fiction visions of an immortality pill, a successful anti-inflammatory treatment could actually happen within our lifetime.
For the last century and a half, the average life span in wealthy countries has increased steadily, climbing from about 45 to more than 80 years. There is no good reason to think this increase will suddenly stop. But longer life today often simply means taking longer to die—slowly, expensively, and with more disease and disability. “If you talk to many old people, what they are really desperate about is not the fact that they’re going to die but that they are going to be sick, dependent, have to rely on others,” says Luigi Ferrucci, chief of the longitudinal studies section at the National Institute on Aging and director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the nation’s longest-running study of old age.
Biologists have known for a while that inflammation increases with age, but until recently, given everything else that slumps, spikes, or goes off the rails as we get old, it didn’t seem especially important. Some researchers on aging still think that way.
But a big clue linking inflammation with aging came in the late 1990s, when Tracy and his colleagues showed that C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein, is an amazingly accurate predictor of a future heart attack—as good as or better than high blood pressure or high cholesterol. At least in heart disease, inflammation isn’t just a bystander. What’s more, we could do something to decrease it. Aspirin, which was already known to help people with heart disease, seems to work primarily by reducing inflammation.
So why should our own immune system rely on such an apparently dangerous mechanism? The answer lies in the fact that infectious disease has historically been the number one killer of human beings, and responding to this threat has profoundly shaped our biology. Possessing a fierce and ferocious immune response primed to keep us alive long enough to reproduce was an evolutionary no-brainer.




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PARADIGM LOST
As Drug Industry Struggles,
Chemists Face Layoff Wave
Lipitor Pioneer Is Out
At Doomed Pfizer Lab;
A Blockbuster Drought
By AVERY JOHNSON
December 11, 2007; Page A1
ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- In January, Pfizer Inc. announced it was closing its storied research laboratories here, laying off 2,100 people. Among the casualties: Bob Sliskovic, a 23-year lab veteran who helped create the world's most successful drug.

The closure and Dr. Sliskovic's abrupt change of circumstances are emblematic of the pharmaceutical industry's declining fortunes. It was at the Ann Arbor facility in the late 1980s that Dr. Sliskovic first assembled the chemicals that make up Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug that has generated about $80 billion in sales since its launch and ranks as the bestselling pharmaceutical product ever. Today, Lipitor is nearing the end of its patent life, and Pfizer hasn't been able to come up with enough promising new drugs to replace it.
Following that initial breakthrough some 20 years ago, Dr. Sliskovic worked on several other research projects, but none panned out. His losing streak mirrors the industry's. A byproduct of the late-19th-century chemical business, pharmaceutical research thrived for more than a century by finding chemical combinations to treat diseases. But after contributing substantially both to human health and drug-industry profits, it has failed to produce significant innovations in recent years.
High failure rates have long plagued chemistry-based drug research. Between 5,000 and 10,000 compounds are tested for every drug that makes it to market. In recent years, the problem seems to have gotten worse. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars more on research and development, pharmaceutical companies have fewer and fewer drugs to show for it. In 2006, the industry received Food and Drug Administration approval for just 18 new chemical-based drugs, down from 53 in 1996. Moreover, many of those drugs are variations of existing medicines.
Robert Massie, president of the American Chemical Society's database of chemistry research, says some researchers are questioning how many more chemical combinations there are that are useful against diseases. "It's like how coming out with metal drivers in golf was a huge innovation, but now it's incremental. You're just coming out with drivers that are a little longer or rounder," he says.
As pills like Lipitor made out of elements from the periodic table prove harder to come by, pharmaceutical research is being superseded by the newer field of biotechnology. The latter relies mostly on biologists who make proteins from live cells.
The shift is exacting a human toll, as big drug companies like Pfizer lay off thousands of chemists, casting a pall over what was once a secure, well-paying profession. "When I started in this industry in the 1980s, you didn't worry about things like this," Dr. Sliskovic says of the lab closure.
It isn't clear how many chemists have lost pharmaceutical-company jobs. But overall, 116,000 chemists were employed in 2006, down from 140,000 in 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, employment of biologists rose to 116,000 from 112,000. Just as the rise of biotechnology is contributing to an economic boom in Northern California, the decline of chemical-based research is hurting the Michigan cities of Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, along with some regions of New Jersey and Illinois.

Dr. Sliskovic, a 50-year-old with a mustache and the scattered air of a scientist, was raised in Doncaster, a coal-mining town in northern England. His father, a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, found work there after World War II. As a child, Dr. Sliskovic says he was fascinated by such things as the properties that "make a mint minty."
That interest led him to pursue a doctorate in chemistry. In 1982, his Ph.D. adviser told him of a friend who worked as a consultant for a pharmaceutical company in New York. The company was looking for chemists to do postdoctoral research. Raised with a passion for American comic books, Dr. Sliskovic says he jumped at the opportunity to come to the U.S.
Two years later, his research completed, he received a job offer from Warner-Lambert Co.'s Ann Arbor labs. "Holy cow! I accept," he remembers saying.
Dr. Sliskovic was hired as the pharmaceutical business entered a golden era of huge profits. Its labs churned out drugs for chronic conditions such as heart disease and depression, while its armies of salesmen promoted them through aggressive marketing. Warner-Lambert assigned him to a team of three other chemists investigating a new idea: whether lowering cholesterol -- the soft, waxy substance that can clog arteries -- would help people avoid heart attacks. Other companies were at work on similar projects.
Dr. Sliskovic's new boss, Bruce Roth, had invented a chemical structure that he thought would work. In the late 1980s, Dr. Sliskovic fine-tuned the compound, isolating its potent part. An early version of the compound wasn't absorbed well by the body, so the team brainstormed about how to modify it to get more of it into the bloodstream. "We sat around the table and said 'You try this, you try that,' and they said, 'Bob, why don't you look at salt formation?'" Dr. Sliskovic recalls.
A calcium salt he tried solved the problem, and Lipitor was born. Though it would reach the market in 1997 after several rival drugs, Lipitor would turn into a blockbuster because it was more potent.
Its runaway success sparked Pfizer's $116 billion hostile takeover of Warner-Lambert in 2000. Ahead of the takeover, Pfizer suggested one of Warner's main appeals was its research-and-development force. "We would like to keep them all," Pfizer's then-research chief, John Niblack, told The Wall Street Journal in 1999. "You need a big staff to run this strategy. Warner-Lambert offers us a nice instant fix."
With the acquisition, New York-based Pfizer inherited the Ann Arbor labs where Dr. Sliskovic worked and continued to base much of its pharmaceutical research there. Between 2001 and 2006, it invested $300 million to expand the facilities.
By that time, Dr. Sliskovic had moved on to other projects. As Lipitor traveled down the long road of animal and human testing in the early '90s, he led a group of chemists developing drugs to prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the body and stored in arteries. Lipitor, by contrast, works by reducing the amount of cholesterol the liver produces.

One compound, called avasimibe, seemed to work well in animals. Despite skepticism from higher-ups, Dr. Sliskovic and his team persuaded Warner-Lambert to take it into human testing. For a while, it looked as though avasimibe could be a contender to succeed Lipitor. But it failed in an intermediate stage of clinical testing, and the company abandoned it.
Dr. Sliskovic had devoted about six years to the drug. He recalls needing pep talks from his boss about picking up and starting over. He blocked out disappointment, he says, by throwing himself into the day's science rather than thinking about the odds of creating a marketable drug. "You've got to develop the hide of a rhino," he says.
In the mid-90s, he tried to develop compounds to counter inflammation in the heart, which some scientists think can cause heart attacks. Those projects also flopped but got him interested in another area of research, inflammatory arthritis.
Dr. Sliskovic took on the challenge of finding a drug that would repair the cartilage that can break down between bones and cause arthritic pain. But the several compounds he concocted didn't meet testing requirements. In 1999, Dr. Sliskovic was promoted to a management role that took him away from the day-to-day work of drug discovery. He says his new job required him to teach his scientists how to remain excited in the wake of failure. "It was me who started telling them, 'Oh well, never mind. What can we do about this other project?'" he says.
But over time those failures added up. In December 2006, Pfizer killed torcetrapib, the cholesterol compound the company had placed its hopes on, because it was associated with too many deaths in clinical testing. It was a huge setback because Pfizer didn't have much else in its research pipeline to replace Lipitor's sales. The company relies on Lipitor for more than a quarter of its revenues, and the drug could face generic competition as early as 2010.
The company has had some successes: Pfizer appears to have a rich cancer-drug pipeline and has come up with two notable new chemical-based hits recently, the antismoking medicine Chantix and a pain drug, Lyrica, which was discovered in Ann Arbor. The company's new chief executive, Jeffrey Kindler, has emphasized biotech after taking over some 16 months ago. In October, Pfizer opened a new biologics center in San Francisco.
By January 2007, Mr. Kindler was promising to do something radical to shake the world's biggest drug maker out of its worsening slump. Rumors of layoffs were swirling at Pfizer. Few imagined anything as drastic as closing the half-century-old Ann Arbor labs, where Pfizer was just finishing the $300 million expansion.
Dr. Sliskovic says he learned of the closure on Jan. 22, in a morning meeting with the site's top managers. The room went silent, he says.
After the meeting, Dr. Sliskovic called his wife on her cellphone to tell her the news. She thought he was kidding. Realizing he was serious, she offered to increase her hours at her part-time job at a pet-food store. Later, at home over lunch, his 19-year-old daughter asked whether they would have to sell the family's three horses.
The announcement also took Michigan officials by surprise. The state, which has the country's worst unemployment rate, was already reeling from auto-industry cuts. Pfizer was also Ann Arbor's largest taxpayer, contributing $14 million a year into city coffers. At a press conference later in the day, local officials pledged to fight for scientists to stay in the area. Later, they pledged $8 million in interest-free loans for start-ups run by laid-off scientists or existing companies that hire them. A state-budget deadlock delayed the money for months, but it is now being handed out to scientists.
Pfizer offered about half of the Ann Arbor researchers internal transfers, mostly to its other big research facility, in Groton, Conn. But a higher proportion of those offers went to biologists than to chemists, former lab employees say. Though it is far from abandoning chemistry-based research, Pfizer has been increasingly outsourcing chemistry work to contract research organizations, some in India. Pfizer declined to comment on which scientists were offered transfers.
In April, about 80 laid-off Pfizer chemists from Ann Arbor traveled to nearby Detroit to hear a talk by career consultant Lisa Balbes. Ms. Balbes told them the story of a former chemist who now uses her skills to enhance acoustics in stereo systems. Her message: Start thinking about different career paths.
As winter turned into spring, Dr. Sliskovic found himself going to a parade of goodbye parties for colleagues. Dr. Roth, his former boss, left in April for Genentech Inc., the biotech pioneer based in South San Francisco. Dr. Sliskovic organized the send-off. In early May, David Canter, the head of the Ann Arbor site, threw a dinner party for other departing employees. A band played songs parodying Pfizer and the executive who symbolized headquarters' decision-making: John LaMattina, Pfizer's Connecticut-based head of research. To the tune from Evita, they sang, "Don't Cry for Me, LaMattina."

A few weeks later, Dr. LaMattina himself announced his retirement, as part of Mr. Kindler's broad reorganization of top company executives.Martin Mackay, who succeeded Dr. LaMattina as research chief and played a major role in the research restructuring, says the company was "very aware" of its impact on the community. "We made this decision after very careful and thorough review of all possible alternatives," Mr. Mackay said in a statement.
Scott Larsen, one of the chemists who attended the going-away party, came to Pfizer four years ago when the company merged with his former employer, Pharmacia Corp. He applied for a transfer to Groton but didn't get an offer. He tells his two sons, who are both in college and love science, not to go work for a drug company.
In August, Dr. Sliskovic's team stopped doing research and began transferring projects to other Pfizer sites. The labs are now being cleaned, inspected and sealed off. The 177-acre campus is a ghost town of empty rooms and boxed-up equipment.
Dr. Sliskovic didn't seek an internal transfer. He felt that moving would be too hard on his family.
As acting head of chemistry at the Ann Arbor labs, Dr. Sliskovic earned far above the $112,000 a year paid to the average chemist of his experience level. Dr. Sliskovic says he will receive severance pay for between 18 months and two years. With two children in college and another in high school, he says, two years is the longest he could afford to forgo a paycheck.
Dr. Sliskovic has already repainted the family kitchen and living room. Now he is festooning the house and yard with holiday lights. Worried about their financial future, his wife, Cindy, took a second part-time job at the barn where they keep their horses. The irony that the drug her husband helped discover will bring in nearly $13 billion for Pfizer this year hasn't been lost on her. As a staff scientist, Dr. Sliskovic earned no bonus or royalties for his work on Lipitor.
Former Pfizer scientists have founded 23 companies in the area. Dr. Sliskovic says he would prefer to do the creative work of discovering drugs instead of the rote chemistry some such companies do for drug makers.
Instead, he dreams of being involved in another blockbuster. Sometimes, he says, he lies in bed at night wondering if it will happen. "If the best thing I did was Lipitor in 1988, it's like being the high-school athlete who was on the football team and that was that," he says.

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Louis J Sheehan Major Jackson
attended these gatherings with unfailing regularity, but soon after
his arrival he drew the line at dancing, and musical parties became
the limit of his dissipation. He was anything but a convivial
companion. He never smoked, he was a strict teetotaller, and he never
touched a card. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
His diet, for reasons of health, was of a most
sparing kind; nothing could tempt him to partake of food between his
regular hours, and for many years he abstained from both tea and
coffee. In those peaceful times, moreover, there was nothing either
commanding or captivating about the Professor of Artillery. His
little romance in Mexico had given him no taste for trivial
pleasures; and his somewhat formal manner was not redeemed by any
special charm of feature.
http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us

It took some time for his subordinates to develop a deep and abiding respect for General Jackson, but after he lead them to numerous victories against superior forces the bond was established that lasted until his untimely death. One of the great contradictions in Jackson's life was his steadfast Christian beliefs contrasted with his unrelenting will to destroy the enemy on the battlefield. For example, http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

Tate mentions an exchange between Jackson and his chief surgeon when the surgeon inquired, "How shall we ever cope with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy?" http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
After a long pause Jackson replied, "Kill them, sir! Kill every man." It was that strength of will that helped make Jackson the hero that he was and is.


Stonewall Jackson usually thought only in terms of attack. This attitude was exemplified on December 14, 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Vastly outnumbered by the Federals, Jackson was asked by a staff member, ⌠How shall we ever cope with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy ?■ Jackson▓s reply was to the point, ⌠Kill them, sir, kill every man!■


General Jackson.."Kill them, kill them all, sir!"

http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx




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December 9, 2007

Your Child’s Disorder May Be Yours, Too
By BENEDICT CAREY
BY age 2 it was clear that the boy had a sensibility all his own, affectionate and distant at the same time, often more focused on patterns and objects than the people around him.
He was neither naturally social like his mother, nor an early and gifted reader like his father. Quirky, curious, exuberant, he would leap up and dance across the floor after solving a problem or winning a game, duck walking like an N.F.L. receiver posing for a highlight film.
Yet after Phil and Susan Schwarz received a diagnosis for their son, Jeremy, of high functioning autism, they began to think carefully about their own behaviors and histories.
Mr. Schwarz, a software developer in Framingham, Mass., found in his son’s diagnosis a new language to understand his own life. His sensitivities when growing up to loud noises and bright light, his own diffidence through school, his parents’ and grandparents’ special intellectual skills — all echoed through his and Jeremy’s behavior, like some ancient rhythm.
His son’s diagnosis, Mr. Schwarz said, “provided a frame in which a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated aspects of my own life growing up fit together for the first time.”
Researchers have long known that many psychiatric disorders and developmental problems run in families. Children born to parents with bipolar disorder, in which moods cycle between euphoria and depression, run about eight times the normal risk for developing a mood problem. Those born to parents with depression run three times the usual risk. Attention and developmental disorders like autism also have a genetic component.
AS more youngsters than ever receive diagnoses of disorders — the number has tripled since the early 1990s, to more than six million — many parents have come to recognize that their own behavior is symptomatic of those disorders, sometimes in a major, but more commonly, in a minor way. In effect, the diagnosis may spread from the child to other family members, forcing each to confront family frustrations and idiosyncrasies that they might prefer to have left unacknowledged.
“It happens very frequently, with all sorts of disorders, from attention-deficit difficulties to mood problems like bipolar disorder,” said Dr. Gregory Fritz, a child psychiatrist and academic director of Bradley Hospital in Providence, R.I., the largest child-psychiatry hospital in the country. “Sometimes it’s a real surprise, because the child is the first one in the family ever to get a thorough evaluation and history. The parents are there, and they begin to see the pattern.”
But diagnosing an adult through his or her child has its risks, psychiatrists say. In an act of solidarity, parents may exaggerate similarities between their thinking and behavior and their son’s or daughter’s. Families desperate to find a diagnosis for a troubled child are also prone to adopt a vague label — bipolar disorder, say, which is not well understood in young children — and attribute all variety of difficulties to it, when the real source may be elsewhere.
But psychological experts say traces of a disorder in the family tree are very often real, and the stickier issue is what to do once they surface.
Depending on the family, for instance, one parent may not want to shoulder the responsibility for having “passed on” the behavior problem, they say. “The adult may have spent a lifetime compensating for the problem, as well, and is still struggling with it and would rather not be identified that way,” said Dania Jekel, executive director of the Asperger’s Association of New England.
Openness can nonetheless have its benefits, say parents who have chosen to accept their contribution to a child’s diagnosis. Self-examination, for instance, may lead to an appropriate diagnosis for the adult.
Norine Eaton, 51, of Williamsville, N.Y., reared two boys who were diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. “The younger one was literally climbing out second-floor windows, climbing bookcases, onto counters,” she said. “Nothing was safe in the house. It was insanity.”
After the boy and his brother each received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, Ms. Eaton sought treatment at the Center for Children and Families at the State University at Buffalo, where she now works. She soon began thinking about her own behavior, past and present. She had long had difficulty focusing on even simple jobs, like paying bills on time and remembering and keeping appointments.
She decided to have one of her sons’ psychologists evaluate her for attention problems. The symptoms of attention deficit disorder, which some scientists now see as a temporary delay in the maturing of the brain, can last through adulthood, but it almost always shows up first in childhood. To make a proper diagnosis, doctors like to see some evidence of a problem in childhood — evidence that can be hard to come by.
“In my case, I went to school here in Buffalo, and I dug through some boxes and found reports going back to elementary school,” Ms. Eaton said. “Sure enough, they said things like, ‘Disorganized,’ and ‘Has trouble paying attention.’”
She now takes a stimulant medication, she said, that helps her focus enough to compensate for the problem, by making calendars, notes to herself, and responding to invitations and messages on time. Once it’s out in the open, knowledge of a parent’s diagnosis or behavioral tendencies can ease strained relations in a family, especially if the previously unappreciated disability contributed to the rupture.
John Halpern, 76, a retired physicist living in Massachusetts, began to review his own life not long after hearing a radio interview with an expert on Asperger’s syndrome. He immediately recognized himself as a textbook case, he said, and decided to call his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. He wanted to apologize, he said, “for my inadequacy as both a father and a husband to her mother.”
But as soon as he started explaining, he said, his daughter cut him off. “That’s Asperger’s,” she told him. “She knew,” he said. “She had been looking into it herself, wondering if in fact I had it.”
Mr. Halpern said that over several calls they shared feelings and agreed “to work on our new relationship and see how far we can take it.” The two now talk regularly, at least once a week, he said.
Children made miserable by a psychiatric or developmental disorder may not always want company; but they often long for evidence that they aren’t the only ones putting a burden on the family, some psychiatrists say. Having a parent with the same quirks who can talk about it eases the guilt a child may feel. The child has a fellow traveler, and in some families maybe more.
“When we got reports that our son was not interacting in school, that he was very quiet, slouching, unusual — we said, ‘Well, that’s us; our family is like that,’” said Susan Shanfield, 54, a social worker living in Newton, Mass.
AFTER her son’s difficulties were diagnosed as a learning deficit, a neuro-lingual disorder, she quickly identified some of the same traits in herself. “It was very therapeutic for me,” she said. “I had known I was different from an early age, and now I had a definition that could at least explain some of that. I also told my father, a man now in his 80s, and he was very moved by it.” He has since talked openly about painful memories from growing up, and during his time raising his own family, that were all but off-limits before, she said, and become more tolerant of his own past mistakes and others’.
It can alter the present, too, if parent and child have enough common ground. Mr. Schwarz, the software developer in Framingham, said he became in some ways like a translator for his son, who’s now 16.
“I think there are a lot of parents of kids with these diagnoses who have at least a little bit of the traits their kids have,” Mr. Schwarz said. “But because of the stigma this society places on anything associated with disability, they’re inhibited from embracing that part of themselves and fully leveraging it to help their kids.”




























Astronomers are radically reshaping our picture of the Milky Way’s neighbors. Our corner of the cosmos, known as the Local Group, includes two giant spiral galaxies—the Milky Way and Andromeda—and smaller satellite galaxies orbiting them. The Milky Way was thought to have about 10 satellites, but within the last year or so, that number has nearly doubled. “Most astronomers, myself included, thought we at least knew the members of the Local Group,” says Daniel Zucker of Cambridge University, whose team found the new batch of eight galaxies. “I don’t think anyone expected us to find a significant population of these things. They’re fainter than anybody thought a galaxy could be—even smaller and less luminous than what are typically considered dwarf galaxies,” he adds, so they became “hobbit galaxies.” One, Leo T, still has gas associated with it, providing the raw material for stellar births. “It’s arguably the smallest star-forming galaxy known,” Zucker says. The survey that found the satellite galaxies scanned only a fifth of the sky, so there could be dozens more waiting to be found.
In another surprise, Harvard University astrophysicist Nitya Kallivayalil recently announced that two of our largest satellite galaxies probably aren’t satellites at all. Kallivayalil found that the Large and Small Magellanic clouds are shooting by us at around 200 miles per second, faster than a satellite would. With that kind of speed, she says, they are likely to be travelers speeding through the region. The only scenario in which the clouds could remain satellites enthralled in the gravitational pull of the Milky Way requires that the galaxy have twice its currently estimated mass.

Astronomers are also resizing our largest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, finding that its radius is up to five times larger than anyone thought. Observations revealed a halo of stars half a million light-years from the galaxy’s center but still bound to it. “Much of the space between the Milky Way and Andromeda is filled with stars that belong to those galaxies,” says University of California at Santa Cruz astronomer Raja Guhathakurta, whose team discovered the halo. “They practically overlap. It really challenges the notion of galaxies as groups of stars with empty space between them.”
Future astronomers will become intimately acquainted with Andromeda as it screams toward us on a collision course with the Milky Way. A new simulation indicates that the first pass of galactic jousting will occur in 2 billion years, and the galaxies will fuse within 5 billion years. As the universe expands, all other galaxies will fade from sight. Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who developed the simulation, says astronomers should appreciate that we live at a special time in cosmic history: “Now when we look up, we see many galaxies. In the distant future, this will become a lonely place, with nothing to look at. If we want to learn about the universe at large, we’d better do it while we still can.”


















Muons Meet the Maya
At its most glamorous, the life of an experimental high-energy physicist consists of smashing obscure subatomic particles with futuristic-sounding names into each other to uncover truths about the universe—using science's biggest, most expensive toys in exciting locations such as Switzerland or Illinois. But it takes a decade or two to plan and build multibillion-dollar atom smashers. While waiting, what's a thrill-seeking physicist to do?

How about using some of the perfectly good, and completely free, subatomic particles that rain down on Earth from space every day to peek inside something really big and mysterious, like, say, a Mayan pyramid? That's exactly what physicist Roy Schwitters of the University of Texas at Austin is preparing to do.
High-energy particles known as muons, which are born of cosmic radiation, have ideal features for creating images of very large or dense objects. Muons easily handle situations that hinder other imaging techniques. Ground-penetrating radar, for instance, can reach only 30 meters below the surface under ideal conditions. And seismic reflection, another method, doesn't fare well in a complex medium. With muons, all you need is a way to capture them and analyze their trajectories.
Besides probing pyramids in Belize and Mexico, physicists are applying the muon method to studying active volcanoes and detecting nuclear materials. The concept sounds out of this world, but it's really quite simple. When cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere, collisions with the nuclei of air atoms spawn subatomic particles called pions that quickly decay into muons that continue along the same path. Many of the muons survive long enough to penetrate the Earth's surface. Because of their high energy, the particles can easily pass through great volumes of rock or metal or whatever else they encounter. However, they are deflected from their path by atoms in the material, and the denser the material, the greater the deflection.
Schwitters wants to exploit this deflection to see if there are any rooms or chambers inside a Mayan pyramid in Belize, he told science journalists in Spokane, Wash., at a recent meeting sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. His team is building several muon detectors that would be buried in shallow holes around the base of the pyramid to create an image of what's inside by measuring the trajectories of the muons that pass through it.
"What you see is very much like an X ray," he says. "If you see a spot with more muons, it means there's a space there. If you see fewer muons, it means there's something extra-dense there."
Schwitters won't be the first to marry physics and archaeology in this way. In 1967, Nobel prize–winning physicist Luis Alvarez of the University of California, Berkeley placed a muon detector in a chamber beneath the pyramid of Khafra in Egypt to see if it was hiding any burial chambers like those discovered in the larger pyramid of Khufu. He found none, but the experiment showed that the method worked.

As the director of the Superconducting Supercollider laboratory in Texas until 1993, when Congress gave the project the axe, Schwitters is no stranger to waiting for the next big thing. And he has always been intrigued by the possibility of applying the tools of the high-energy physics trade elsewhere, so a chance conversation with one of Alvarez' former colleagues, combined with a little spare time, got Schwitters wondering what other enigmatic ancient structures were waiting to be probed.
Archaeologist Fred Valdez, director of the Mesoamerican Archaeological Research Laboratory at UT Austin, had the answer: an enormous pyramid in the third-largest Mayan city in Belize. The city is in an area in northwestern Belize known as La Milpa, which was home to one of the densest populations of Maya from as early as 1000 B.C. until around A.D. 850. The area was packed with four large cities, each with 20,000 or more residents, that were only around 8 to 12 kilometers apart with 60 or more towns, villages, and hamlets in between. Valdez believes there is much to be learned from the society that existed there.
"The amazing part is how close how many of these large cities are to each other," he said. "The Maya were clearly expert at adapting to their environment and exploiting their environment, clearly making better use of things than we are today, just to support the populations that were there."
Because there isn't a chamber below the La Milpa pyramid, Schwitters plans to harness muons with four or five smaller detectors spaced around the structure to get a three-dimensional view inside. Each detector will be a cylinder wrapped with strips of polystyrene, which emits light when hit by a muon. The bursts of light as each particle passes through both sides of the detector will be recorded by photo detectors at the end of the cylinder and used to reconstruct the muon trajectories.
Dense matter will deflect muons away from their paths, so fewer muons will hit the detectors from that area while more particles will pass through empty spaces to reach the detectors. A computer program will translate the information into an image that can be read like a CT scan or an X ray with bright spots indicating voids and dark areas correlating to more dense matter. Because muons hit the Earth at the rate of about 1 per square centimeter per minute, it will take several months to get a good image of the guts of the pyramid. Schwitters hopes he'll be able to resolve chambers as small as a cubic meter.

Knowing exactly where to dig to find potential tombs or other chambers could save precious time when dealing with very large structures like the pyramid in Belize. It could also save artifacts that need special treatment, sometimes within hours, to keep them from deteriorating from exposure. Dust in a tomb that is normally trampled during excavation could contain valuable information about diseases that affected the Maya, or about the plants and herbs they used.
"Ideally, the results would give us a look into the building without having to do the destructive process of excavation," Valdez said.
He envisions being able to drill a small auger hole into a chamber and send a fiber-optic camera down to take a look. That way he can study the chambers exactly as they were left, and the appropriate experts and equipment can be on hand to deal with the contents as they are exposed by coating them with resin, immersing them in water, or sealing them in an airtight case.
"That's tremendous information," he said. "It's almost like 20/20 hindsight."
With funding from Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., and support from UT and National Instruments, Schwitters' team has already built and successfully tested one detector at UT that weighs in around a ton, at 4.5 m long with a 1.5 m diameter. The detectors that will go to Belize will be much smaller, around the size of water heaters and weighing about 200 pounds. Depending on funding, the detectors could be ready for showtime in 2009.
Another team of scientists may be just months away from using muons to image the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Mexico, in a quest to learn why the pyramid was built. And if burial chambers such as those found in the nearby Pyramid of the Moon are discovered, they could reveal whether the society was ruled by a single person or a government of several leaders.
Led by physicist Arturo Menchaca-Rocha of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the team is currently working out some kinks in its detector having to do with wires cracking from temperature changes. Once that hurdle is cleared, which will likely be sometime after January, their single detector will be placed in a tunnel discovered under the pyramid in 1971, much like Alvarez' experiment in Egypt.
"We are quite delayed," Menchaca-Rocha said in an e-mail from a meeting in Veracruz. "But the pyramid has been sitting there for 2,000 years, so it can wait for us to be perfectly happy about the detector."

In the meantime, physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are looking to muons to help detect special nuclear materials such as plutonium and uranium at the country's borders. Current nuclear-detection capability relies on identifying the gamma-ray radiation emitted by the materials, but that doesn't always work.
"If someone wants to bring in nuclear material to build a bomb, they need to shield it with something dense like lead to stop the gamma rays," says Los Alamos physicist Chris Morris.
So Morris is working on a detector that would use muons to root out both nuclear materials and shielding. Lead is dense enough to perturb a muon's path, and it is even easier to spot the muon fingerprint of things like plutonium and uranium because their high density and big atomic charge scatter the particles more than anything else.
Los Alamos lab has partnered with Decision Sciences Corporation of San Diego to build a prototype four-sided muon detector that resembles a carport before the end of the year. Vehicles would drive into the device like entering a car wash and wait while detectors on all four sides of the tunnel record muon trajectories. A single muon would be recorded by multiple detectors, revealing any changes in its path.
"It measures the track of every muon going through the vehicle," Morris says. "In 20 seconds you can detect whether or not they have a chunk of metal that's 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches. If you went a little longer, you can see something smaller."

But the real strength of muon imaging is tackling very large structures, such as volcanoes, that defy other methods. Scientists led by Hiroyuki Tanaka of the University of Tokyo installed a single muon detector 1 kilometer from the summit of Mount Asama on the main island of Japan. By measuring muons traveling nearly horizontally through the volcano, the detector successfully imaged a lava mound that was created a few hundred meters below the crater floor during a 2004 eruption and a conduit below it.
"The cosmic-ray muon imaging technique has much higher resolving power than conventional geophysical techniques, with resolutions up to several meters allowing it to see smaller objects and greater detail in volcanoes," Tanaka wrote in a report on the results of the Mount Asama study in the Nov. 15 Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Tanaka's team has also used muon detection to image a lava dome that has been smoking since 1945 on the flank of Usu volcano in Hokkaido, Japan. Both of Tanaka's current studies involved single detectors. But adding more detectors would give a three-dimensional view and help untangle the effect of higher-density materials on the muons from that of a longer distance traveled through somewhat less-dense material.
"This technique might provide a way to forecast a volcanic eruption by monitoring changes in the density of the magma channel inside the summit region of a volcano," Tanaka writes in a study on the lava dome in the Nov. 16 Geophysical Research Letters.
Even more promising is a real-time digital muon camera that Tanaka is working on that could capture real-time images of an active volcano. He hopes to have one installed with a view of Mt. Asama from 1.5 km away by May 2008, and a second one sometime thereafter that could provide a 3-D picture of Asama's next eruption.
"With this device, I think that the technique would be more practical for use in forecasting eruptions," he wrote in an e-mail from Japan.
Schwitters envisions other geologic studies that could benefit from muon detection, such as gauging the size and location of underground aquifers or assessing the stability of the geology around nuclear-waste depositories. But for now he is content to focus on the pyramids buried under dirt, trees, and vines in the forest in Belize.
"There is good reason to believe they contain rooms and chambers that have not been disturbed since the Maya left, and that's what makes them so exciting," he says.














































Jim Hammond is an elite athlete. He works out two hours a day with a trainer, pushing himself through sprints, runs, and strength-building exercises. His resting heart rate is below 50. He’s won three gold medals and one silver in amateur competitions this year alone, running races from 100 to 800 meters. In his division, he’s broken four national racing records. But perhaps the most elite thing about Hammond is his age.
He is 93. And really, there’s nothing much wrong with him, aside from the fact that he doesn’t see very well. He takes no drugs and has no complaints, although his hair long ago turned white and his skin is no longer taut.
His secret? He doesn’t have one. Hammond never took exceptional measures during his long life to preserve his health. He did not exercise regularly until his fifties and didn’t get serious about it until his eighties, when he began training for the Georgia Golden Olympics. “I love nothing better than winning,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful thing for me.” Hammond is aging, certainly, but somehow he isn’t getting old—at least, not in the way we usually think about it.

They say aging is one of the only certain things in life. But it turns out they were wrong. In recent years, gerontologists have overturned much of the conventional wisdom about getting old. Aging is not the simple result of the passage of time. According to a provocative new view, it is actually something our own bodies create, a side effect of the essential inflammatory system that protects us against infectious disease. As we fight off invaders, we inflict massive collateral damage on ourselves, poisoning our own organs and breaking down our own tissues. We are our own worst enemy.
This paradox is transforming the way we understand aging. It is also changing our understanding of what diseases are and where they come from. Inflammation seems to underlie not just senescence but all the chronic illnesses that often come along with it: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, heart attack. “Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans,” says Russell Tracy, a professor of pathology and biochemistry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, whose pioneering research helped demonstrate the role of inflammation in heart disease. “It predicts having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic; predicts becoming fragile in old age; predicts cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent.”
The idea that chronic diseases might be caused by persistent inflammation has been kicking around since the 19th century. Only in the past few years, though, have modern biochemistry and the emerging field of systems biology made it possible to grasp the convoluted chemical interactions involved in bodywide responses like inflammation. Over a lifetime, this essential set of defensive mechanisms runs out of bounds and gradually damages organs throughout the body.
When you start to think about aging as a consequence of inflammation, as Tracy and many prominent gerontologists now do, you start to see old age in a different, much more hopeful light. If decrepitude is driven by an overactive immune system, then it is treatable. And if many chronic diseases share this underlying cause, they might all be remedied in a similar way. The right anti-inflammatory drug could be a panacea, treating diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even cancer. Such a wonder drug might allow us to live longer, but more to the point, it would almost surely allow us to live better, increasing the odds that we could all spend our old age feeling like Jim Hammond: healthy, vibrant, and vital. And unlike science fiction visions of an immortality pill, a successful anti-inflammatory treatment could actually happen within our lifetime.
For the last century and a half, the average life span in wealthy countries has increased steadily, climbing from about 45 to more than 80 years. There is no good reason to think this increase will suddenly stop. But longer life today often simply means taking longer to die—slowly, expensively, and with more disease and disability. “If you talk to many old people, what they are really desperate about is not the fact that they’re going to die but that they are going to be sick, dependent, have to rely on others,” says Luigi Ferrucci, chief of the longitudinal studies section at the National Institute on Aging and director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the nation’s longest-running study of old age.
Biologists have known for a while that inflammation increases with age, but until recently, given everything else that slumps, spikes, or goes off the rails as we get old, it didn’t seem especially important. Some researchers on aging still think that way.
But a big clue linking inflammation with aging came in the late 1990s, when Tracy and his colleagues showed that C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein, is an amazingly accurate predictor of a future heart attack—as good as or better than high blood pressure or high cholesterol. At least in heart disease, inflammation isn’t just a bystander. What’s more, we could do something to decrease it. Aspirin, which was already known to help people with heart disease, seems to work primarily by reducing inflammation.
So why should our own immune system rely on such an apparently dangerous mechanism? The answer lies in the fact that infectious disease has historically been the number one killer of human beings, and responding to this threat has profoundly shaped our biology. Possessing a fierce and ferocious immune response primed to keep us alive long enough to reproduce was an evolutionary no-brainer.
Inflammation is what gives us that response. It serves as all-purpose protection against invaders and traumatic damage. To take a simple scenario, suppose you are bitten by a cat. First, coagulation factors promote clotting in order to stanch bleeding and prevent germs from spreading from the wound site. A menagerie of phagocytes, which swallow and destroy pathogens, surge out of the bloodstream and squeeze into the affected tissue, engulfing bacteria and secreting cytokines—messenger proteins that send out the call for more responders. The phagocytes also generate reactive oxygen species, unstable compounds that chew up bacteria as well as damaged human tissue.
At the same time, other switches get flipped throughout the body, modifying everything from metabolism to cell growth, via other cytokines, such as IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor–a, and things like CRP, which mark bacteria for destruction. The specialized adaptive immune response eliminates any remaining germs.
So far, so good. But the inflammation response can kick in even when there’s no invader. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a classic example. In response to fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries, a type of phagocyte called a macrophage identifies the growing lesions as trouble spots and infiltrates them, swelling and destabilizing the deposits. Those lesions can then break open, resulting in the formation of a blood clot that can clog blood vessels and cause heart attacks. The more active the macrophages are, the more CRP is in the bloodstream, and the more likely the lesions will break open, block your arteries, and kill you.
The evidence that inflammation is behind other diseases is indirect, but it is mounting. Researchers have long known that in patients with Alzheimer’s, the areas of the human brain clogged with senility-associated plaques also bristle with inflammatory cells and cytokines. Modern research has found that cytokines block memory formation in mice. In diabetes, inflammation and insulin resistance apparently track together, and drugs that effectively restore insulin sensitivity also appear to reduce inflammatory factors like IL-6 and CRP. Inflammation is also being investigated by a group at Leiden University in the Netherlands as a culprit in declining lung function, in osteoporosis, and in old-age depression. Even the weakness of old age may have an inflammatory cause: Ferrucci has found that inflammatory activity breaks down skeletal muscle, leading to the loss of lean muscle mass. Being fat makes all these diseases strike earlier, and that seems to be at least in part because fat cells spur more inflammation.
These findings have provided researchers with a totally new appreciation of how subtly inflammation can work and how wildly awry it can go over time. It’s not about “a massive infection or a welt the size of an egg because you got hit in the head with a two-by-four,” Tracy says. “Inflammation also goes on at a much lower level.” As it simmers in the background, over years and decades, collateral damage accumulates—in the heart, in the brain, everywhere. Harvey Jay Cohen, chairman of the department of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging at Duke University Medical Center, likens inflammation to “little waves lapping on the shore. It’s a relatively low level of activity, one that sustained over time wears away at the beach and stimulates other bad events.”
Evolution has designed into us a cruel trade-off: What saves us in the short term kills us over the long haul. As we get older, acute episodes of inflammation tend to turn into chronic ones, perhaps because the regulation of the immune system becomes less efficient. Inflammatory factors in the blood can increase two- to fourfold. Chronic infections may be partly to blame. Although we usually don’t know it, nearly all adults are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, and at least 60 percent of us with cytomegalovirus. These two pathogens can stay in our bodies in a latent state, hiding out in our cells. But Ronald Glaser, a viral immunologist at Ohio State University Medical Center and his research partner (and wife), psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, think that these viruses are not fully dormant. They’ve found evidence (pdf) that with age, antibodies to these viruses increase, indicating a reawakened virus and an active immune response.
Early experiences may also influence the way that inflammation affects an individual’s aging, says Caleb Finch, a neurobiologist and gerontologist at the University of Southern California. Analyzing historical birth and death records from 19th-century Europe, he and Eileen Crimmins, a gerontologist and sociologist at the University of Southern California, found that longevity is directly related to exposure to childhood disease. Children born during years of high neonatal mortality who survived to adulthood didn’t live as long as those born in healthier years. The reason, he says, is inflammation: A high infectious burden in childhood results in a high inflammatory burden in adulthood, which results in a shorter, sicker life. Conversely, Finch believes that people in affluent countries now live so long because their childhoods are free from diseases like measles, typhoid, malaria, whooping cough, and worms. Without these diseases, people grow bigger and stronger—and live much longer.
Looking beyond provocative findings like those in Finch’s study, Tracy and other researchers on aging say that it may be too simplistic to think of inflammation in terms of straightforward cause and effect. Instead we must think of human biology as a group of interdependent systems. “Is inflammation a response to aging, or is it causing aging or disease?” Tracy asks. “My answer is: Yep, yep, yep. It does all those things. There’s no other way to think about it—it’s both cause and response to what’s going on.”
Inflammation is not uncontested as a theory of aging. There are many competing hypotheses. Yet inflammation reinforces some more than others, potentially establishing a plausible constellation of mechanisms responsible for aging.

For example, according to the “free radical” hypothesis of aging, we get older because of constant cellular damage caused by reactive oxygen compounds that are a natural product of metabolism. Inflammation can partly explain how this might work. Macrophages, as part of the inflammatory response, produce reactive oxygen species in order to attack bacteria. Oxidative stress and inflammation clearly egg each other on, and calming one can inhibit the other.
To take another prominent example, a low-calorie diet is known to increase the life spans of creatures ranging from flatworms to rats, but no one knows why, or whether it will help humans live longer. Inflammation provides a clue: Dietary restriction sharply inhibits the inflammatory response, and that may be part of why it promotes longevity at the same time that it reduces insulin resistance and slows dementia. Yet another widely discussed theory of why we age blames the shortening of telomeres, chromosomal structures that, in most cells, dwindle with each division and may ultimately limit the number of times any cell can divide. It is possible that inflammation could play a role here, too, because it prompts the faster turnover of cells in the immune system and other tissues.
Still, nobody thinks that there is a single root cause of aging—different species may age in different ways, and multiple mechanisms are probably at work. “I think it would be a mistake to suggest that inflammation is the cause of aging, or that all theories of aging must be tied to it,” Cohen says. Then again it may not ultimately matter whether inflammation is the most significant cause of our decay. More important is that inflammation offers an unparalleled opportunity to do something about it.

Some ways to reduce inflammation are elementary. It is impossible to know exactly what is going on in Jim Hammond’s body, but all the aspects of his regimen—healthy food, exercise, and a good attitude—reduce systemic inflammation. Those of us without his tenacity can turn to drug companies, which are exploring new anti-inflammatory drugs like flavonoids. Researchers are also looking at new uses for old drugs—trying to prevent Alzheimer’s using ibuprofen, for example. “The research is really to prevent the chronic debilitating diseases of aging,” says Nir Barzilai, a molecular geneticist and director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “But if I develop a drug, it will have a side effect, which is that you will live longer.”
Some of this research stretches the boundaries of what we know. Rudi Westendorp, head of the department of gerontology and geriatrics at the Leiden University Medical Center, is trying to treat old-age depression with drugs that are currently used for autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Harvard University researchers are considering a vaccine against atherosclerosis, which may provoke a reaction that suppresses inflammation.
The caveat with these experiments is that by modifying inflammation, we are playing with fire. After all, fighting off infection is an absolutely essential bodily function. “The danger of monkeying around in a system like that is that you may do more harm than good,” Cohen says. But humans appear willing to renegotiate the ancient evolutionary bargain that traded robust reproductive health for frail old age.
Think of Jim Hammond if you have any doubts. In his blog, he describes running the 800-meter race in the 2007 National Senior Olympics games. “I won in a photo finish, and I broke the national record,” he wrote. The crowd went nuts. At the age of 93, Hammond had the most exhilarating experience of his entire life.




























December 4, 2007
NEWS ANALYSIS
An Assessment Jars a Foreign Policy Debate About Iran
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.
An administration that had cited Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as the rationale for an aggressive foreign policy — as an attempt to head off World War III, as President Bush himself put it only weeks ago — now has in its hands a classified document that undercuts much of the foundation for that approach.
The impact of the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion — that Iran had halted a military program in 2003, though it continues to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful uses — will be felt in endless ways at home and abroad.
It will certainly weaken international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, as a senior administration official grudgingly acknowledged. And it will raise questions, again, about the integrity of America’s beleaguered intelligence agencies, including whether what are now acknowledged to have been overstatements about Iran’s intentions in a 2005 assessment reflected poor tradecraft or political pressure.
Seldom do those agencies vindicate irascible foreign leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who several weeks ago said there was “no evidence” that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, dismissing the American claims as exaggerated.
The biggest change, though, could be its effect on President Bush’s last year in office, as well as on the campaign to replace him. Until Monday, 2008 seemed to be a year destined to be consumed, at least when it comes to foreign policy, by the prospects of confrontation with Iran.
There are still hawks in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney chief among them, who view Iran with deep suspicion. But for now at least, the main argument for a military conflict with Iran — widely rumored and feared, judging by antiwar protesters that often greet Mr. Bush during his travels — is off the table for the foreseeable future.
As Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, put it, the intelligence finding removes, “if nothing else, the urgency that we have to attack Iran, or knock out facilities.” He added: “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of this.”
The White House struggled to portray the estimate as a validation of Mr. Bush’s strategy, a contention that required swimming against the tide of Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Cheney’s occasionally apocalyptic language.
The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said the estimate showed that suspicions about Iran’s intentions were warranted, given that it had a weapons program in the first place.
“On balance, the estimate is good news,” Mr. Hadley said, appearing at the White House. “On one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen. But it also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
Mr. Hadley insisted, as he and others have, that the administration had hoped and still hoped to resolve the outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear programs using diplomacy, not force. But the nuances of his on-this-hand-on-the-other argument will probably make it much harder to persuade American allies to accept the administration’s harder line.
One official pointed out that the chief American diplomat on the Iran question, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, had just met with counterparts from Europe, Russia and China, and had seemed to make some headway on winning support for a third round of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. The official said Mr. Burns could not divulge the intelligence findings at that meeting on Friday because Congress had not been briefed.
The immediate task for Mr. Burns and other administration officials is to untangle the confusion caused by its own statements and findings and to persuade skeptics that this time, the United States has it right about what Iran was doing before 2003 and what that means for what it might do in the future.
“The way this will play is that the intelligence community has admitted it was wrong,” said Jon B. Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “So why should we believe them now?”
Mr. Hadley said the drastic reversal in the intelligence agencies’ knowledge about Iran’s weapons programs was based “on new intelligence, some of which has been received in the last few months.”
He also said that he and other senior officials, including Mr. Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, had reviewed it and debated it two weeks ago.
With some of the administration’s most prominent hawks having departed and not taking part in the review of findings like these, it is possible that the zeal for another military conflict has diminished. After all, the first two wars on Mr. Bush’s watch remain unresolved at best.
Senator Hagel said he hoped that the administration might in its final year in office show the kind of diplomatic flexibility it did with North Korea over its nuclear weapons or with the conference in Annapolis, Md., last week on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has previously called for the United States to open direct and unconditional talks with Iran to end the state of enmity that has existed since 1979.
He said Iran’s halt of weapons activity had created an opening for such talks, indicating, as the assessment does, that Iran’s government may be more rational than the one that Mr. Bush said in August had threatened to put the entire region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”
“If we’re wise here, if we’re careful, I think we have some opportunities,” Mr. Hagel said.
The findings, though, remain open for interpretation, as they always do, even in documents meant to reflect the consensus of the intelligence community. When it comes to Iran, at odds with the United States on many fronts beyond the nuclear question, hawks remain.
“Those who are suspicious of diplomacy are well dug in in this administration,” said Kurt M. Campbell, chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security.
John R. Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, who recently left the administration and began to criticize it, sounded very much like Mr. Hadley on Monday, saying the assessment underscored the need for American toughness. He said Iran’s intentions would always remain a concern as long as it continued to enrich uranium.
“The decision to weaponize and at what point is a judgment in the hands of the Iranians,” he said. He added that the finding that Iran halted a weapons program could just mean that it was better hidden now.




JAKARTA (Reuters) - Many of Indonesia's islands may be swallowed up by the sea if world leaders fail to find a way to halt rising sea levels at this week's climate change conference on the resort island of Bali.
Doomsters take this dire warning by Indonesian scientists a step further and predict that by 2035, the Indonesian capital's airport will be flooded by sea water and rendered useless; and by 2080, the tide will be lapping at the steps of Jakarta's imposing Dutch-era Presidential palace which sits 10 km inland (about 6 miles).
The Bali conference is aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, on cutting climate warming carbon emissions. With over 17,000 islands, many at risk of being washed away, Indonesians are anxious to see an agreement reached and quickly implemented that will keep rising seas at bay.
Just last week, tides burst through sea walls, cutting a key road to Jakarta's international airport until officials were able to reinforce coastal barricades.
"Island states are very vulnerable to sea level rise and very vulnerable to storms. Indonesia ... is particularly vulnerable," Nicholas Stern, author of an acclaimed report on climate change, said on a visit to Jakarta earlier this year.
Even large islands are at risk as global warming might shrink their land mass, forcing coastal communities out of their homes and depriving millions of a livelihood.
The island worst hit would be Java, which accounts for more than half of Indonesia's 226 million people. Here rising sea levels would swamp three of the island's biggest cities near the coast -- Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang -- destroying industrial plants and infrastructure.
"Tens of millions of people would have to move out of their homes. There is no way this will happen without conflict," Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said recently.
"The cost would be very high. Imagine, it's not just about building better infrastructure, but we'd have to relocate people and change the way people live," added Witoelar, who has said that Indonesia could lose 2,000 of its islands by 2030 if sea levels continue to rise.
CRUNCH TIME AT BALI
Environmentalists say this week's climate change meeting in Bali will be crunch time for threatened coastlines and islands as delegates from nearly 190 countries meet to hammer out a new treaty on global warming.
Several small island nations including Singapore, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Caribbean countries have raised the alarm over rising sea levels which could wipe them off the map.
The Maldives, a cluster of 1,200 islands renowned for its luxury resorts, has asked the international community to address climate change so it does not sink into a watery grave.
According to a U.N. climate report, temperatures are likely to rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (2.0 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and sea levels by between 18 cm and 59 cm (seven and 23 inches) this century.
Under current greenhouse gas emission levels, Indonesia could lose about 400,000 sq km of land mass by 2080, including about 10 percent of Papua, and 5 percent of both Java and Sumatra on the northern coastlines, Armi Susandi, a meteorologist at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told Reuters.
Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, has faced intense pressure over agricultural land for decades.
Susandi, who has researched the impact of climate change on Indonesia, estimated sea levels would rise by an average of 0.5 cm a year until 2080, while the submersion rate in Jakarta, which lies just above sea level, would be higher at 0.87 cm a year.
A study by the UK-based International Institute for Economy and Development (IIED) said at least 8 out of 92 of the outermost small islands that make up the country's borders are vulnerable.
TOO MANY ISLANDS TO COUNT
Less than half of Indonesia's islands are inhabited and many are not even named. Now, the authorities are hastily counting the coral-fringed islands that span a distance of 5,000 km, the equivalent of going from Ireland to Iran, before it is too late.
Disappearing islands and coastlines would not only change the Indonesian map, but could also restrict access to mineral resources situated in the most vulnerable spots, Susandi said.
He estimates that land loss alone would cost Indonesia 5 percent of its GDP without taking into account the loss of property and livelihood as millions migrate from low-lying coastlines to cities and towns on higher ground.
There are 42 million people in Indonesia living in areas less than 10 meters above the average sea level, who could be acutely affected by rising sea levels, the IIED study showed.
A separate study by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1992 showed in two districts in Java alone, rising waters could deprive more than 81,000 farmers of their rice fields or prawn and fish ponds, while 43,000 farm laborers would lose their job.
One solution is to cover Indonesia's fragile beaches with mangroves, the first line of defense against sea level rise, which can break big waves and hold back soil and silt that damage coral reefs.
A more expensive alternative is to erect multiple concrete walls on the coastlines, as the United States has done to break the tropical storms that hit its coast, Susandi said.
Some areas, including the northern shores of Jakarta, are already fitted with concrete sea barriers, but they are often damaged or too low to block rising waters and big waves such as the ones that hit Jakarta in November.
"It will be like permanent flooding," Susandi said. "By 2050, about 24 percent of Jakarta will disappear," possibly even forcing the capital to move to Bandung, a hill city 180 km east of Jakarta.
(Editing by Megan Goldin)




















































WASHINGTON - One of the most complete dinosaur mummies ever found is revealing secrets locked away for millions of years, bringing researchers as close as they will ever get to touching a live dino.

The fossilized duckbilled hadrosaur is so well preserved that scientists have been able to calculate its muscle mass and learn that it was more muscular than thought, probably giving it the ability to outrun predators such as T. rex.
While they call it a mummy, the dinosaur is not really preserved like King Tut was. The dinosaur body has been fossilized into stone. Unlike the collections of bones found in museums, this hadrosaur came complete with skin, ligaments, tendons and possibly some internal organs, according to researchers.
The study is not yet complete, but scientists have concluded that hadrosaurs were bigger — 3 1/2 tons and up to 40 feet long — and stronger than had been known, were quick and flexible and had skin with scales that may have been striped.
"Oh, the skin is wonderful," paleontologist Phillip Manning of Manchester University in England rhapsodized, admitting to a "glazed look in my eye."
"It's unbelievable when you look at it for the first time," he said in a telephone interview. "There is depth and structure to the skin. The level of detail expressed in the skin is just breathtaking."
Manning said there is a pattern of banding to the larger and smaller scales on the skin. Because it has been fossilized researchers do not know the skin color. Looking at it in monochrome shows a striped pattern.
He notes that in modern reptiles, such a pattern is often associated with color change.
The fossil was found in 1999 in North Dakota and now is nicknamed "Dakota." It is being analyzed in the world's largest CT scanner, operated by the Boeing Co. The machine usually is used for space shuttle engines and other large objects. Researchers hope the technology will help them learn more about the fossilized insides of the creature.
"It's a definite case of watch this space," Manning said. "We are trying to be very conservative, very careful."
But they have learned enough so far to produce two books and a television program. The TV special, "Dino Autopsy," will air on the National Geographic channel Dec. 9. National Geographic Society partly funded the research.
A children's book, "DinoMummy: The Life, Death, and Discovery of Dakota, a Dinosaur From Hell Creek," goes on sale Tuesday and an adult book, "Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs: Soft Tissues and Hard Science," will be available in January.
Soft parts of dead animals normally decompose rapidly after death. Because of chemical conditions where this animal died, fossilization — replacement of tissues by minerals — took place faster than the decomposition, leaving mineralized portions of the tissue.
That does not mean DNA, the building blocks of life, can be recovered, Manning said. Some has been recovered from frozen mammoths up to 1 million years old, he said. At the age of this dinosaur, 65 million to 67 million years old, "the chance of finding DNA is remote," he said.
A Manchester colleague, Roy Wogelius, who also worked on the dinosaur, said "one thing that we are very confident of is that we do have some organic molecular breakdown products present." That look at chemicals associated with the animal is still research in progress.
Matthew Carrano, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said he could not comment in detail about the find because he had not seen the research. But, he added, "Any time we can get a glimpse of the soft anatomy of a dinosaur, that's significant."
The findings from Dakota may cause museums to rethink their dinosaur displays.
Most dinosaur skeletons in museums, for example, show the vertebrae right next to one another. The researchers looking at Dakota found a gap of about a centimeter — about 0.4 inch — between each one.
That indicates there may have been a disk or other material between them, allowing more flexibility and meaning the animal was actually longer than what is shown in a museum. On large animals, adding the space could make them a yard longer or more, Manning said.
Because ligaments and tendons were preserved, as well as other parts of Dakota, researchers could to calculate its muscle mass, showing it was stronger and potentially faster than had been known.
They estimated the hadrosaur's top speed at about 28 miles per hour, 10 mph faster than the giant T. Rex is thought to have been able to run.
"It's very logical, though, that a hadrosaur could run faster than a T. rex. It's a major prey animal and it doesn't have big horns on its head like triceratops. Hadrosaurs didn't have much in the way of defense systems, so they probably relied on fleet of foot," Manning said.
Dakota was discovered by Tyler Lyson, then a teenager who liked hunting for fossils on his family ranch. Lyson, who is currently working on his doctorate degree in paleontology at Yale University, founded the Marmarth Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to the excavation, preservation and study of dinosaurs.


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Although avian flu made few headlines in 2007, the virus continued to claim lives in Asia, particularly in Indonesia. The good news is that this year the FDA approved the first bird flu vaccine and announced plans to stockpile it for emergency use during a crisis.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu first appeared in Hong Kong in 1997 and since then has infected more than 330 people, killing more than 200. In 2007, the virus—which normally infects birds and occasionally jumps from birds to humans—affected seven countries, prompting experts to warn that it could gain the ability to jump from person to person and trigger a pandemic.

In April, the FDA approved a two-shot vaccine made by Sanofi Pasteur. In a clinical trial, this vaccine protected 45 percent of the adults who received the highest dose against infection from H5N1. The government said its goal was to stockpile enough doses of the Sanofi vaccine to protect 20 million people as a stopgap measure until a more potent vaccine is available.


The year 2007 also brought an innovation that could significantly speed up ordinary flu vaccine production. In the conventional method, the virus is grown in fertilized hens’ eggs, which can take up to six months. John Treanor, professor of medicine at the University of Rochester, and researchers at Connecticut-based Protein Sciences instead infected caterpillar cells with an insect virus—a baculovirus engineered to produce flu virus protein from three ordinary flu strains. In a preliminary study published in the April Journal of the American Medical Association, the researchers found that the vaccine produced by this method protects against the two strains to which the subjects were exposed and most likely protects against the third. The same method could be used to create vaccines for all flu strains at least a month faster than at present.

In the meantime, Canada saw an outbreak of another deadly bird flu strain—H7N3—in September. “We can’t afford not to be concerned,” says Robert Webster, a leading bird flu expert at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee. “If you’re a chicken farmer, there’s always a pandemic going on.”
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The matter that makes up everything we can see or touch, either on Earth or beyond, is exceedingly rare, cosmically speaking. Most of the material in the universe is something called dark matter, mysterious stuff that doesn’t emit or reflect light and doesn’t interact with what we think of as ordinary matter. It reveals its presence only by its gravitational effects, guiding the evolution of the early universe and still affecting the motion of galaxies. Earth-based experiments have attempted to detect dark matter particles, but so far they have drawn a blank.

Astronomers, however, have had a better year, continuing to find evidence of the crucial role dark matter plays in shaping the visible cosmos. Thanks to about a thousand hours of observation by the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have compiled a dark matter map of a tiny slice of the sky, about two square degrees of the entire sky’s 40,000-square-degree span. The map, which was published in the journal Nature last January, confirmed a central prediction of modern astrophysics: Galaxies formed in, and remain bound to, enormous clouds of dark matter.

In the early universe, astronomers believe, dark matter provided the gravitational scaffolding on which ordinary matter coalesced and grew into galaxies. According to these dark matter theories, as the visible galaxies formed, some of the matter surrounding them should have clumped together into hundreds of small satellite galaxies, most of which should survive today. But the observed number of satellite galaxies is only a fraction of what the theory predicts. “We should see about a hundred to a thousand, but up to 2005, there were only 12,” says Marla Geha, an astrophysicist at Yale University. Astronomers call it the missing satellite problem.

Astronomers had speculated that the existence of small, dark matter–dominated satellite galaxies might solve the problem, but there was no evidence that any such galaxies existed.

Last spring, Geha and Josh Simon, a colleague at Caltech, used the 10-meter Keck II telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea to study the mass of eight newly discovered satellite galaxies, detected over the last two years by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ongoing effort to make a detailed map of a million galaxies and quasars. Geha and Simon found that these satellite galaxies were much fainter and smaller in mass than the other known satellites—and 99 percent of their mass was in the form of dark matter. Given that the galaxies found by Geha and Simon have such high concentrations of dark matter, it’s likely that many other satellite galaxies could be 100 percent dark matter.

“We expect some to be undetectable, with no stars or gas,” says Geha. “There are indirect ways of finding the dark matter satellites, but it will take more work.”

Some astrophysicists believe that dark matter particles may occasionally annihilate each other, producing bursts of high-energy gamma rays. If the Milky Way has dark matter satellites, and if they do emit gamma rays, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in February, might detect them.

Dark matter may also be responsible for creating the most awesome objects in the universe: the enormous black holes believed to lurk in the center of nearly every large galaxy. Tom Theuns and Liang Gao, astronomers at Durham University in England, used a computer model last year to study how two types of dark matter, known as warm and cold, may have influenced the formation of the very first stars in the universe—and the first giant black holes.

In their simulations, Gao and Theuns found that within clumps of cold dark matter, single massive stars formed, but warm dark matter formed filaments about a quarter the width of the Milky Way, attracting enough ordinary matter to create some 10 million stars—and some of these very first stars could still be around. “You could potentially form low-mass stars,” says Theuns. “And they live very much longer. They could live for 13 billion years and could be in the Milky Way today. Maybe we’ve seen them already. Who knows?”

But the most unexpected result of the model was that the filaments could catastrophically collapse, warping space-time to form a huge black hole.

The model suggested that collapsing dark matter could warp space-time to form a huge black hole.

“Even if only 1 percent of the mass in a filament takes part in the collapse, that’s already 100,000 times the mass of the sun, a very good start to making one of these supermassive black holes,” Theuns says. “We know that the formation of these supermassive black holes has to be very rapid because we can see very bright quasars very soon after the Big Bang, not much later than the epoch of the first star formation.”

Is there any chance that astronomers could detect an echo of the primordial cataclysms that birthed these black holes?

“You would think it’s such a violent process that something would be left over from that,” Theuns says. “I don’t have any predictions, but you would think there would be something.”










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Jellyfish are marine invertebrates belonging to the class Scyphozoa of the phylum Cnidaria. They can be found in every ocean in the world and in some fresh waters. The use of the term "jellyfish" is actually a misnomer since scyphozoans are not fish, which are vertebrates. Although incorrect, the term is also commonly-applied to some close relatives of true scyphozoans, such as the Hydrozoa and the Cubozoa.

The body of an adult jellyfish consists of a bell shape producing jelly and enclosing its internal structure, from which tentacles are suspended. Each tentacle is covered with cells called cnidocytes, that can sting or kill other animals. Most jellyfish use these cells to secure prey or for defense. Others, such as the Rhizostomae, do not have tentacles at all.

Jellyfish lack basic sensory organs and a brain, but their nervous systems and rhopalia allow them to perceive stimuli, such as light and odor, and respond quickly. They feed on small fish and zooplankton that become caught in their tentacles. Most jellyfish are passive drifters and slow swimmers, as their shape is not hydrodynamic. Instead, they move so as to create a current forcing the prey within reach of their tentacles. They do this by rhythmically opening and closing their bell-like body. Their digestive system is incomplete: the same orifice is used to take in food and expel waste. The body of an adult is made up of 94–98% water. The bell consists of a layer of epidermis, gastrodermis, and a thick, intervening layer called mesoglea that produces most of the jelly.

Most jellyfish have tendrils or oral arms coated with thousands of microscopic nematocysts. Generally, each nematocyst has a "trigger" (cnidocil) paired with a capsule containing a coiled stinging filament armed with exterior barbs. Upon contact, the filament rapidly unwinds, launches into the target, and injects toxins. The animal can then pull its prey into its mouth, if appropriate.

Although most jellyfish are not perniciously dangerous to humans, a few are highly toxic, such as Cyanea capillata. Contrary to popular belief, the menacingly infamous Portuguese Man o' War (Physalia) is not a jellyfish but a colony of hydrozoans. Similarly, the box jellies, notorious along the coast of Australia, are cubozoans, not true scyphozoan jellyfish. Irrespective of the sting's toxicity, many people stung by them find them very painful and some people may suffer anaphylaxis or other severe allergic reactions, similar to allergies to bee stings.

A jellyfish detects the touch of other animals using a nervous system called a "nerve net", located in its epidermis. Touch stimuli are conducted by nerve rings, through the rhopalial lappet, located around the animal's body, to the nerve cells. Jellyfish also have ocelli: light-sensitive organs that do not form images but are used to determine up from down, responding to sunlight shining on the water's surface.

Jellyfish do not have a specialized digestive, osmoregulatory, central nervous, respiratory, or circulatory systems. They digest using the gastrodermal lining of the gastrovascular cavity, where nutrients are absorbed. They do not need a respiratory system since their skin is thin enough that the body is oxygenated by diffusion. They have limited control over movement and mostly free-float, but can use the hydrostatic skeleton of the water pouch to accomplish vertical movement through pulsations of the disc-like body.

The outer side of a jellyfish is lined with a jelly-like material called ectoplasm (ecto meaning outer and plasma meaning cytoplasm). The ectoplasm typically contains a smaller amount of protein granules and other organic compounds than inner cytoplasm, also referred to as endoplasm (endo meaning inner).


Many species of jellyfish are capable of congregating into large swarms or "blooms", consisting of hundreds of individuals. The formation of these blooms is a complex process that depends on ocean currents, nutrients, temperature and ambient oxygen concentrations. Jellyfish sometimes mass breed during blooms. During such times of rapid population expansion, some people will raise ecological concerns about the potential noxious effects of a jellyfish "outbreak".

According to Claudia Mills of the University of Washington, the frequency of jellyfish blooms may be attributed to man's impact on marine systems. She says that the breeding jellyfish may merely be filling ecological niches formerly occupied by overfished creatures. Jellyfish researcher Marsh Youngbluth further clarifies that "jellyfish feed on the same kinds of prey as adult and young fishes, so if fish are removed from the equation, jellyfish are likely to move in."

Increased nutrients in the water, ascribed to agricultural runoff, have also been cited as an antecedent to the proliferation of jellyfish. Monty Graham, of the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama, says that "ecosystems in which there are high levels of nutrients ... provide nourishment for the small organisms on which jellyfish feed. In waters where there is eutrophication, low oxygen levels often result, favoring jellyfish as they thrive in less oxygen-rich water than fish can tolerate. The fact that jellyfish are increasing is a symptom of something happening in the ecosystem."

By sampling sea life in a heavily fished region off the coast of Namibia, researchers found that jellyfish have overtaken fish in terms of biomass. The findings represent a careful, quantitative analysis of what has been called a "jellyfish explosion" following intense fishing in the area in the last few decades. The findings were reported by Andrew Brierley of the University of St. Andrews and his colleagues in the July 12, 2006 issue of the journal Current Biology. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx


Areas which have been seriously affected by jellyfish blooms include the northern Gulf of Mexico. In that case, Graham states, "Moon jellies have formed a kind of gelatinous net that stretches from end to end across the gulf."

Most jellyfish pass through two distinct life history phases (body forms) during their life cycle. The first is the polypoid stage, when the jellyfish takes the form of either a sessile stalk which catches passing food, or a similar free-floating configuration. The polyp's mouth and tentacles face upwards, reminiscent of the hydroid stage of the somewhat closely related anthozoan polyps, also of the phylum Cnidaria.

In the second stage, the jellyfish is known as a medusa. Medusae have a radially symmetric, umbrella-shaped body called a bell. The medusa's tentacles are fringe-like protrusions from the border of the bell. (Medusa is also the Hebrew, Spanish, Italian, Russian and Bulgarian word for jellyfish.)

Jellyfish are dioecious; that is, they are either male or female. In most cases, to reproduce, a male releases his sperm into the surrounding water. The sperm then swims into the mouth of the female, allowing the fertilization of the ova. However, moon jellies use a different process. The eggs become lodged in pits on the oral arms, which form a temporary brood chamber to accommodate fertilization.

After fertilization and initial growth, a larval form, called the planula, develops from the egg. The planula is a small larva covered with cilia. It settles onto a firm surface and develops into a polyp. The polyp is cup-shaped with tentacles surrounding a single orifice, resembling a tiny sea anemone. After an interval of growth, the polyp begins reproducing asexually by budding and is called a segmenting polyp, or a scyphistome. New scyphistomae may be produced by budding or new, immature jellies called ephyra may be formed. Many jellyfish species are capable of producing new medusae by budding directly from the medusan stage.

Most jellyfish have a lifespan of two and a half months; few live longer than six months but one species can live as long as 30 years.
Since jellyfish are not fish, some people consider the term "jellyfish" a misnomer, and instead use the term "jellies" or "sea jellies". The word "jellyfish" is also often used to denote either hydrozoans or the box jellyfish, the cubozoans. The class name, Scyphozoa, comes from the Greek word skyphos, denoting a kind of drinking cup and alluding to the cup shape of the organism.

A group of jellyfish is often called a "smack".

Jellyfish are an important source of food to the Chinese community and in many Asian countries. Only jellyfish belonging to the order Rhizostomeae are harvested for food. Rhizostomes are favoured because they are typically larger and have more rigid bodies than other scyphozoans. Traditional processing methods involve a multi-phase procedure using a mixture of table salt and alum, and then desalting. Processing makes the jellyfish drier and more acidic, producing a "crunchy and crispy texture." Nutritionally, jellyfish prepared this way are roughly 95% water and 4-5% protein, making it a relatively low calorie food.

In 1961, green fluorescent protein was discovered in the jellyfish Aequorea victoria by scientists studying bioluminescence. This protein has since become a quite useful tool in biology. Jellyfish are also harvested for their collagen, which can be used for a variety of scientific applications including the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx


Jellyfish are commonly displayed in aquaria in many countries; among them the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific, Vancouver Aquarium, Seattle Aquarium, Newport Aquarium, National Aquarium in Baltimore, Georgia Aquarium and Maui Ocean Center. Often the tank's background is blue and the animals are illuminated by side light to produce a high contrast effect. In natural conditions, many jellies are so transparent that they are almost impossible to see.

Holding jellyfish in captivity presents other problems. For one, they are not adapted to closed spaces. They depend on currents to transport them from place to place. To compensate for this, professional exhibits feature precise water flows, typically in circular tanks to prevent specimens from becoming trapped in corners. The Monterey Bay Aquarium uses a modified version of the kreisel (German for "spinning top") for this purpose.
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When stung by a jellyfish, first aid may be in order. Though most stings are not deadly, some stings, such as those of the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri), may be fatal. Serious stings may cause anaphylaxis and may result in death. Hence, people stung by jellyfish must get out of the water to avoid drowning. In serious cases, advanced professional care must be sought. This care may include administration of an antivenin and other supportive care such as required to treat the symptoms of anaphylactic shock. The most serious threat that humans face from jellyfish is the sting of the Irukandji, which has the most potent and deadly venom of any known species.
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There are three goals of first aid for uncomplicated jellyfish stings: prevent injury to rescuers, inactivate the nematocysts, and remove any tentacles stuck on the patient. To prevent injury to rescuers, barrier clothing should be worn. This protection may include anything from panty hose to wet suits to full-body sting-proof suits. Inactivating the nematocysts, or stinging cells, prevents further injection of venom into the patient.

Vinegar (3 to 10% aqueous acetic acid) should be applied for box jellyfish stings.Vinegar, however, is not recommended for Portuguese Man o' War stings. In the case of stings on or around the eyes, vinegar may be placed on a towel and dabbed around the eyes, but not in them. Salt water may also be used in case vinegar is not readily available.Fresh water should not be used if the sting occurred in salt water, as a change in pH can cause the release of additional venom. Rubbing the wound, or using alcohol, spirits, ammonia, or urine will encourage the release of venom and should be avoided.

Once deactivated, the stinging cells must be removed. This can be accomplished by picking off tentacles left on the body.[9] First aid providers should be careful to use gloves or another readily available barrier device to prevent personal injury, and to follow standard universal precautions. After large pieces of the jellyfish are removed, shaving cream may be applied to the area and a knife edge, safety razor, or credit card may be used to take away any remaining nematocysts.

Beyond initial first aid, antihistamines such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl) may be used to control skin irritation (pruritus). To remove the venom in the skin, apply a paste of baking soda and water and apply a cloth covering on the sting. If possible, reapply paste every 15-20 minutes. Ice can be applied to stop the spread of venom until either of these is available.
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Several reports released in 2007 bolstered the case of those claiming the Bush administration stifles scientists and attempts to alter their research findings.

Perhaps most galling, though, according to Bush critics and many scientists, was an internal order by the Department of Commerce in April requiring scientists in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to obtain permission before speaking about scientific matters of “official importance.” The order makes “all employee utterance subject to official review,” says Jeff Ruch, executive director for Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, “and the impact will be chilly cubicles.” Critics fear the order will hamper a hallmark of the scientific process, the free flow of ideas. “Science works by building on research results and discussion of what’s working or not working,” says Francesca Grifo, director of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Scientific Integrity Program. “It’s part of this administration’s reluctance to base decisions on information.”

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There may be another good reason to eat fish, a food containing a fatty acid called omega-3. Researchers have found that a diet enriched with omega-3 helps repair and prevent retinal damage in mice, a discovery with potential for preventing blindness in premature infants and adults suffering from age-related macular degeneration. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us


Nature Medicine published the omega-3 study, written by a team that included Harvard University ophthalmology researcher Kip Connor, in June. “With just a 2 percent change in dietary omega-3, there was a 40 to 50 percent decrease in the disease pathology,” Connor says.

The researchers fed almost identical diets to two groups of female mice nursing litters. One diet was enriched with 2 percent omega-3 fatty acid, mirroring a Japanese diet, the other with 2 percent omega-6 fatty acid, similar to a typical American diet.


The litters were also exposed to high levels of oxygen, which causes a loss of blood vessels in retinal tissue. When oxygen levels are restored to normal, the eye senses it as a lack of oxygen and responds by growing new blood vessels, which often leads to excessive growth and damage to vision. This happened to the offspring of the mothers receiving omega-6, but the pups receiving omega-3 through their mothers’ milk grew new vessels at a healthy rate.

In humans, abnormal and excessive blood vessel growth related to decreased oxygen supply is the most common cause of blindness in premature babies, diabetics, and the elderly. It affects some 4 million people in the United States alone. Connor and other researchers are studying the impact of omega-3 –and -6 on human eyesight and will release the results later in 2008.











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Human-generated carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is slowly acidifying the ocean, threatening a catastrophic impact on marine life. And just as scientists are starting to grasp the magnitude of the problem, researchers have delivered more bad news: Acid rain is making things worse.

Scientists estimate that one-third of the world’s acid rain falls near the coasts, carrying some 100 million tons of nitrogen oxide, ammonia, and sulfur dioxide into the ocean each year. Using direct measurements and computer models, oceanographer Scott Doney of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and his colleagues calculated that acid rain causes as much as 50 percent of the acidification of coastal waters, where the pH can be as low as 7.6. (The open ocean’s pH is 8.1.)
The findings increase the urgency of confronting the crisis of ocean acidity, says Richard Feely, a collaborator at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. In the laboratory, researchers have seen some effect on just about every ocean creature that forms a calcium carbonate shell, says Feely, including algae—the tiny creatures at the crucial bottom of the deepwater food chain—and coral, whose skeletons grow more slowly in water with a pH even slightly lower than normal. Soon-to-be-released field experiment findings “seem to be showing the same kind of thing,” Feely says. That’s bad news, he adds, since a third of the world’s fish species depend in part on coral reefs for their ecosystems.








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WASHINGTON — A review of classified documents by former members of the Sept. 11 commission shows that the panel made repeated and detailed requests to the Central Intelligence Agency in 2003 and 2004 for documents and other information about the interrogation of operatives of Al Qaeda, and were told by a top C.I.A. official that the agency had “produced or made available for review” everything that had been requested.

The review was conducted earlier this month after the disclosure that in November 2005, the C.I.A. destroyed videotapes documenting the interrogations of two Qaeda operatives.

A seven-page memorandum prepared by Philip D. Zelikow, the panel’s former executive director, concluded that “further investigation is needed” to determine whether the C.I.A.’s withholding of the tapes from the commission violated federal law.
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In interviews this week, the two chairmen of the commission, Lee H. Hamilton and Thomas H. Kean, said their reading of the report had convinced them that the agency had made a conscious decision to impede the Sept. 11 commission’s inquiry.

Mr. Kean said the panel would provide the memorandum to the federal prosecutors and congressional investigators who are trying to determine whether the destruction of the tapes or withholding them from the courts and the commission was improper.
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A C.I.A. spokesman said that the agency had been prepared to give the Sept. 11 commission the interrogation videotapes, but that commission staff members never specifically asked for interrogation videos.

The review by Mr. Zelikow does not assert that the commission specifically asked for videotapes, but it quotes from formal requests by the commission to the C.I.A. that sought “documents,” “reports” and “information” related to the interrogations.

Mr. Kean, a Republican and a former governor of New Jersey, said of the agency’s decision not to disclose the existence of the videotapes, “I don’t know whether that’s illegal or not, but it’s certainly wrong.” Mr. Hamilton, a former Democratic congressman from Indiana, said that the C.I.A. “clearly obstructed” the commission’s investigation.

A copy of the memorandum, dated Dec. 13, was obtained by The New York Times.

Among the statements that the memorandum suggests were misleading was an assertion made on June 29, 2004, by John E. McLaughlin, the deputy director of central intelligence, that the C.I.A. “has taken and completed all reasonable steps necessary to find the documents in its possession, custody or control responsive” to formal requests by the commission and “has produced or made available for review” all such documents.

Both Mr. Kean and Mr. Hamilton expressed anger after it was revealed this month that the tapes had been destroyed. However, the report by Mr. Zelikow gives them new evidence to buttress their views about the C.I.A.’s actions and is likely to put new pressure on the Bush administration over its handling of the matter. Mr. Zelikow served as counselor to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice from 2005 to the end of 2006.

In an interview on Friday, Mr. McLaughlin said that agency officials had always been candid with the commission, and that information from the C.I.A. proved central to their work.

“We weren’t playing games with them, and we weren’t holding anything back,” he said. The memorandum recounts a December 2003 meeting between Mr. Kean, Mr. Hamilton and George J. Tenet, then the director of central intelligence. At the meeting, it says, Mr. Hamilton told Mr. Tenet that the C.I.A. should provide all relevant documents “even if the commission had not specifically asked for them.”

According to the memorandum, Mr. Tenet responded by alluding to several documents that he thought would be helpful to the commission, but made no mention of existing videotapes of interrogations.

The memorandum does not draw any conclusions about whether the withholding of the videotapes was unlawful, but it notes that federal law penalizes anyone who “knowingly and willfully” withholds or “covers up” a “material fact” from a federal inquiry or makes “any materially false statement” to investigators.

Mark Mansfield, the C.I.A. spokesman, said that the agency had gone to “great lengths” to meet the commission’s requests, and that commission members had been provided with detailed information obtained from interrogations of agency detainees.

“Because it was thought the commission could ask about the tapes at some point, they were not destroyed while the commission was active,” Mr. Mansfield said.

Intelligence officials have said the tapes that were destroyed documented hundreds of hours of interrogations during 2002 of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al Rahim al-Nashiri, two Qaeda suspects who were taken into C.I.A. custody that year.

According to the memorandum from Mr. Zelikow, the commission’s interest in obtaining accounts from Qaeda detainees in C.I.A. custody grew out of its attempt to reconstruct the events leading up to the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Its requests for documents from the C.I.A. began in June 2003, when it first sought intelligence reports describing information obtained from prisoner interrogations, the memorandum said. It later made specific requests for documents, reports and information related to the interrogations of specific prisoners, including Abu Zubaydah and Mr. Nashiri.

In December 2003, the commission staff sought permission to interview the prisoners themselves, but was permitted instead to give questions to C.I.A. interrogators, who then posed the questions to the detainees. The commission concluded its work in June 2004, and in its final report, it praised several agencies, including the C.I.A., for their assistance. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us


Abbe D. Lowell, a veteran Washington lawyer who has defended clients accused of making false statements and of contempt of Congress, said the question of whether the agency had broken the law by omitting mention of the videotapes was “pretty complex,” but said he “wouldn’t rule it out.”

Because the requests were not subpoenas issued by a court or Congress, C.I.A. officials could not be held in contempt for failing to respond fully, Mr. Lowell said. Apart from that, however, it is a crime to make a false statement "in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative or judicial branch."
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The Sept. 11 commission received its authority from both the White House and Congress.

On Friday, the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey and to Mike McConnell, the director of national intelligence, asking them to preserve and produce to the committee all remaining video and audio recordings of “enhanced interrogations” of detainees in American custody.

Signed by Senator Patrick Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Arlen Specter, Republican of Pennsylvania, the letter asked for an extensive search of the White House, C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies to determine whether any other recordings existed of interrogation techniques “including but not limited to waterboarding.”

Government officials have said that the videos destroyed in 2005 were the only recordings of interrogations made by C.I.A. operatives, although in September government lawyers notified a federal judge in Virginia that the agency had recently found three audio and video recordings of detainees.
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx


Intelligence officials have said that those tapes were not made by the C.I.A., but by foreign intelligence services.














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Former top cop with state police charged in DUI
Wednesday, December 19, 2007
BY MATTHEW KEMENY
Of The Patriot-News

During Memorial Day weekend 1996, then-state police Commissioner Paul J. Evanko presided over what at the time was the largest one-day DUI sweep in the force's history. A total of 272 motorists were arrested.

Eleven years later, Evanko finds himself on the other side of the steering wheel.

The 60-year-old Susquehanna Twp. resident, who served two terms as commissioner, from 1995 to 2003, was arrested Friday night in Lower Paxton Twp. by officers responding to a minor accident at Linglestown and North Mountain roads.

Police said Evanko was driving with a blood-alcohol level of 0.183 percent, which is more than twice the limit of 0.08 percent at which a driver is considered to be drunk.

Evanko -- he's a noted anti-drunken driving crusader who in 1996 said "drunk drivers are fatalities waiting to happen" -- could not be reached for comment Tuesday. It was not known whether he had an attorney.

"I was almost speechless when I heard the news, especially when I heard the high BAC," Rebecca Shaver, executive director of the state's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter, said.

"We're saddened with all DUI arrests, but when it comes from someone that held such respect and responsibility, and who was setting examples on the dangers of drunk driving, it makes us especially sad," Shaver said.

Evanko often spoke at MADD's community awareness programs, including the popular Project Red Ribbon campaign, Shaver said. He coordinated statewide sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols.

Equally shocked was Pennsylvania DUI Association executive director C. Stephen Erni, who worked closely with Evanko while he was commissioner.


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"Since I have the utmost respect and admiration for the work he's done while with the Pennsylvania State Police, this situation is very upsetting to me," Erni said.

During his eight years as head of the state police, Evanko secured federal funding to increase the number of sobriety checkpoints and roving patrols aimed at nabbing drunk drivers. He also supervised the purchasing of 17 portable blood-alcohol testers, each of which cost about $2,000, to allow troopers to test a driver's BAC level at the scene.

In addition to his other responsibilities, Evanko found time in his schedule to work on DUI enforcement, Erni said.

"All through his actions, he was absolutely genuine," he said.

Evanko, formerly of Lower Paxton Twp., was appointed Pennsylvania's 17th state police commissioner on Feb. 15, 1995 by Gov. Tom Ridge. Prior to his appointment, Evanko was director of the Bureau of Criminal Investigation and had been with the state police since 1970.

Evanko was released shortly after Friday's incident. He will receive a summons on the charges through Magisterial District Judge William C. Wenner's office, court officials said. A preliminary hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Cpl. Linette Quinn, of the state police public information office, said current State Police Commissioner Jeffrey Miller would have no comment on Evanko's arrest.

MATTHEW KEMENY: 255-8271 or mkemeny@patriot-news.com



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Louis J Sheehan The Essenes were a Judaic religious group that flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. Many scholars of separate, but related groups, that had in common mystic, eschatological, messianic, and ascetic beliefs that were referred to as the "Essenes".

The main source of information about the life and belief of Essenes is the detailed account contained in a work of the 1st century Jewish historiographer Flavius Josephus entitled The Jewish War written about 73-75 AD (War 2.119-161) and his shorter description in his Antiquities of the Jews finished some 20 years later (Ant. 18.11 & 18-22). Claiming first hand knowledge (Life §§10-11), he refers to them by the name Essenoi and lists them as the followers of one of the three sects in "Jewish Philosophy'" (War 2.119) alongside the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The only other known contemporary accounts about the Essenes are two similarly detailed ones by the Jewish philosopher Philo (fl. c. 20 AD - c. 54 AD; Quod Omnis Probus Liber Sit XII.75-87, and the excerpt from his Hypothetica 11.1-18 preserved by Eusebius, Praep. Evang. Bk VIII), who, however, admits to not being quite certain of the Greek form of their name that he recalls as Essaioi (Quod Omn. Prob. XII.75), the brief reference to them by the Roman equestrian Pliny the Elder (fl. 23 AD - 79 AD; Natural History, Bk 5.73). Pliny, also a geographer and explorer, located them in the desert near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the year 1947.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves at Qumran, are widely believed to be the work of Essenes or to reflect Essene beliefs.

Josephus uses the name Essenes in his two main accounts (War 2.119, 158, 160; Ant. 13.171-2) as well as in some other contexts ("an account of the Essenes", Ant. 13.298; "the gate of the Essenes", War 5.145; "Judas of the Essene race", Ant. 13.311, but some manuscripts read here Essaion; "holding the Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.372; "a certain Essene named Manaemus", Ant. 15.373; "to hold all Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.378; "the Essenes", Ant. 18.11 & 18; Life 10). In several places, however, Josephus has Essaios, which is usually assumed to mean Essene ("Judas of the Essaios race", War I.78; "Simon of the Essaios race", War 2.113; "John the Essaios", War 2.567; 3.11; "those who are called by us Essaioi", Ant. 15.371; "Simon a man of the Essaios race", Ant. 17.346). Philo's usage is Essaioi, although he admits this Greek form of the original name that according to his etymology signifies "holiness" to be inexact (NH XII.75). Pliny's Latin text has Esseni. Josephus identified the Essenes as one of the three major Jewish sects of that period.
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According to a controversial view put forward by Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar Géza Vermes, both Josephus and Philo pronounced the Essenes' name as "Esaoin", which means in Arabic followers of "Esa", which Vermes says is the name of Jesus according to the most ancient mosaic portrait found in Turkey dated 70 AD which says underneath "Esa our Lord". Mainstream scholars usually stress a number of fundamental differences between Dead Sea Scroll theology and early Christian theology to argue that the Essenes cannot be considered identical to any kind of Christianity.

In Eerdman's Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, Gabriele Boccaccini (p.47) implies that a convincing etymology for the name Essene has not been found, but that the term applies to a larger group within Palestine that also included the Qumran community.

It is possible that the Talmudic statement (Kiddushin Ch. 4) "the best of the physicians will go to hell" were referring to the Essenes. The Talmudic term for healer is Assia. (Reuvein Margolies Toldot Ha'Adam).

According to Josephus the Essenes had settled "not in one city" but "in large numbers in every town" (War 2.124). Philo speaks of "more than four thousand" Essaioi living in "Palestinian Syria" (Quod Omn. Prob. XII.75), more precisely, "in many cities of Judaea and in many villages and grouped in great societies of many members" (Hyp. 11.1).

Pliny locates them "on the west side of the Dead Sea, away from the coast ... [above] the town of Engeda".

Some modern scholars and archaeologists have argued that Essenes inhabited the settlement at Qumran, a plateau in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea, citing Pliny the Elder in support, and giving credence that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the product of the Essenes. This view, though not yet conclusively proven, has come to dominate the scholarly discussion and public perception of the Essenes.

Josephus' reference to a "gate of the Essenes" in the Temple Mount perhaps suggests an Essene community living in this quarter of the city or regularly gathering at this part of the Temple precincts.

Following the qualification above that it is correct to identify the community at Qumran with the Essenes (and that the community at Qumran are the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls), then according to the Dead Sea Scrolls the Essenes' community school was called "Yahad" (meaning "oneness of God") in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Jews who are repeatedly labeled "The Breakers of the Covenant", especially in their prophetic book-scroll entitled "Milhama" (meaning " The War") in which the master of the Essenes (referred to as "The Teacher of Righteousness") prophesised that the so-called "Breakers of the Covenant" Jews will be on the side of the Antichrist. The accounts by Josephus and Philo show that the Essenes (Philo: Essaioi) led a strictly celibate but communal life — often compared by scholars to later Christian monastic living — although Josephus speaks also of another "rank of Essenes" that did get married (War 2.160-161). According to Josephus, they had customs and observances such as collective ownership (War 2.122; Ant. 18.20), elected a leader to attend to the interests of them all whose orders they obeyed (War 2.123, 134), were forbidden from swearing oaths (War 2.135) and sacrificing animals (Philo, §75), controlled their temper and served as channels of peace (War 2.135), carried weapons only as protection against robbers (War 2.125), had no slaves but served each other (Ant. 18.21) and, as a result of communal ownership, did not engage in trading (War 2.127). Both Josephus and Philo have lengthy accounts of their communal meetings, meals and religious celebrations.

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After a total of three years probation (War 2.137-138), newly joining members would take an oath that included the commitment to practice piety towards Yahweh and righteousness towards humanity, to maintain a pure life-style, to abstain from criminal and immoral activities, to transmit their rules uncorrupted and to preserve the books of the Essenes and the names of the Angels (War 2.139-142). Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death (War 2.153-158, Ant. 18.18). Part of their activities included purification by water rituals, which was supported by rainwater catchment and storage.

The Church Father Epiphanius (writing in the fourth century AD) seems to make a distinction between two main groups within the Essenes [1]: "Of those that came before his [Elxai, an Ossaean prophet] time and during it, the Osseaens and the Nazarean." (Panarion 1:19). Epiphanius describes each group as following:

The Nazarean - they were Jews by nationality - originally from Gileaditis, Bashanitis and the Transjordon... They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws - not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nazarean and the others...
(Panarion 1:18)
After this [Nazarean] sect in turn comes another closely connected with them, called the Ossaeanes. These are Jews like the former ... originally came from Nabataea, Ituraea, Moabitis and Arielis, the lands beyond the basin of what sacred scripture called the Salt Sea... Though it is different from the other six of these seven sects, it causes schism only by forbidding the books of Moses like the Nazarean.
(Panarion 1:19)


This section is missing citations or needs footnotes.
Using inline citations helps guard against copyright violations and factual inaccuracies.(November 2007)

The Essenes are discussed in detail by Josephus and Philo.

Many scholars believe that the community at Qumran that allegedly produced the Dead Sea Scrolls was an offshoot of the Essenes; however, this theory has been disputed by Norman Golb and other scholars.

Since the 19th century attempts have been made to connect early Christianity and Pythagoreanism with the Essenes: It was suggested that Jesus of Nazareth was an Essene, and that Christianity evolved from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared many ideas and symbols. According to Martin A. Larson, the now misunderstood Essenes were Jewish Pythagoreans who lived as monks. As vegetarian celibates in self-reliant communities who shunned marriage and family, they preached a coming war with the Sons of Darkness. As the Sons of Light, this reflected a separate influence from Zoroastrianism via their parent ideology of Pythagoreanism. According to Larson, both the Essenes and Pythagoreans resembled thiasoi, or cult units of the Orphic mysteries. John the Baptist is widely regarded to be a prime example of an Essene who had left the communal life (see Ant. 18.116-119), and it is thought they aspired to emulate their own founding Teacher of Righteousness who was crucified. However, J.B. Lightfoot's essay (On Some Points Connected with the Essenes) argues that attempts to find the roots of Essenism in Pythagoreanism and the roots of Christianity in Essenism are flawed. Authors such as Robert Eisenman present differing views that support the Essene/Early Christian connection.

Another issue is the relationship between the Essaioi and Philo's Therapeutae and Therapeutrides (see De Vita Contemplativa). It may be argued that he regarded the Therapeutae as a contemplative branch of the Essaioi who, he said, pursued an active life (Vita Cont. I.1).
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One theory on the formation of the Essenes suggested the movement was founded by a Jewish High Priest, dubbed by the Essenes the Teacher of Righteousness, whose office had been usurped by Jonathan (of priestly but not Zadokite lineage), labeled the "man of lies" or "false priest". His name is Father Bapalopa. Prince William in England met him in Sardinia. He loves immitating duckies in the pond because they are just as false as him.

According to a Jewish legend, one of the Essenes, named Menachem, had passed at least some of his mystical knowledge to the Talmudic mystic Nehunya Ben Ha-Kanah,[1] to whom the Kabbalistic tradition attributes Sefer ha-Bahir and, by some opinions, Sefer ha-Kanah, Sefer ha-Peliah and Sefer ha-Temunah. Some Essene rituals, such as daily immersion in the Mikvah, coincide with contemporary Hasidic practices; some historians had also suggested, that name "Essene" is an hellenized form of the word "Hasidim" or "Hasin" ("pious ones"). However, the legendary connections between Essene and Kabbalistic tradition are not verified by modern historians.

The Talmud also refers to Hasidim. In the mishna Tractate Berachot, It is stated that "the early Hasidim would spend an hour in preparation for prayer, an hour praying, and an hour coming away from prayer", "The Hasidim would pray with sunrise". Tzvi Hirsch Chajes believes that the Essenes can be identified with the Hasidim, an offshoot of the Pharisees. (Kol Kitvei Maritz Chiyus Vol. 2). See however the statement of Reuvain Margolies above.

Scholars such as J. Gordon Melton in his Encyclopedia of American Religions state that the modern American Pseudo-Essene movement possesses no authentic historical ties to the ancient Essene movement. Melton states, "Essene material is directly derivative of two occult bestsellers — The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi H. Dowling; and The Mystical Life of Jesus, by Rosicrucian author H. Spencer Lewis."

However, others such as Gideon Ousely, produced materials they claim were Essene in origin. Ousely himself wrote a book known as the Gospel of the Holy Twelve (which he claimed was channeled to him by spirit beings), and Edmund Bordeaux Szekely. These individuals assert that the Essene teachings had been hidden and assimilated into many mystical spiritual traditions around the world, where the teachings were hidden within ancient libraries. It was in 1928 that Edmond Bordeaux Szekely first published his translation of The Essene Gospel of Peace,a manuscript allegedly discovered in the Secret Archives of the Vatican and in old Slavonic in the Royal Library of the Habsburgs of which much was destroyed by a fire that destroyed the monastery that stood in its place. (now the property of the Austrian government) However, subsequent investigations into the claims of these individuals prodced nothing to substantiate their stories. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is now clear that the publications of purported "Essene" writings are indeed simply the materials mentioned by J. Gordon Melton. Biblical scholars don't consider the Szekely or Ousely writings as authentic. http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/member.php?u=18969
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Currently there are several modern Essene Groups around the world.





888888888888


8888


Louis J Sheehan The Essenes were a Judaic religious group that flourished from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century AD. Many scholars of separate, but related groups, that had in common mystic, eschatological, messianic, and ascetic beliefs that were referred to as the "Essenes".

The main source of information about the life and belief of Essenes is the detailed account contained in a work of the 1st century Jewish historiographer Flavius Josephus entitled The Jewish War written about 73-75 AD (War 2.119-161) and his shorter description in his Antiquities of the Jews finished some 20 years later (Ant. 18.11 & 18-22). Claiming first hand knowledge (Life §§10-11), he refers to them by the name Essenoi and lists them as the followers of one of the three sects in "Jewish Philosophy'" (War 2.119) alongside the Pharisees and the Sadducees. The only other known contemporary accounts about the Essenes are two similarly detailed ones by the Jewish philosopher Philo (fl. c. 20 AD - c. 54 AD; Quod Omnis Probus Liber Sit XII.75-87, and the excerpt from his Hypothetica 11.1-18 preserved by Eusebius, Praep. Evang. Bk VIII), who, however, admits to not being quite certain of the Greek form of their name that he recalls as Essaioi (Quod Omn. Prob. XII.75), the brief reference to them by the Roman equestrian Pliny the Elder (fl. 23 AD - 79 AD; Natural History, Bk 5.73). Pliny, also a geographer and explorer, located them in the desert near the northwestern shore of the Dead Sea, where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered in the year 1947.

The Dead Sea Scrolls, found in caves at Qumran, are widely believed to be the work of Essenes or to reflect Essene beliefs.

Josephus uses the name Essenes in his two main accounts (War 2.119, 158, 160; Ant. 13.171-2) as well as in some other contexts ("an account of the Essenes", Ant. 13.298; "the gate of the Essenes", War 5.145; "Judas of the Essene race", Ant. 13.311, but some manuscripts read here Essaion; "holding the Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.372; "a certain Essene named Manaemus", Ant. 15.373; "to hold all Essenes in honour", Ant. 15.378; "the Essenes", Ant. 18.11 & 18; Life 10). In several places, however, Josephus has Essaios, which is usually assumed to mean Essene ("Judas of the Essaios race", War I.78; "Simon of the Essaios race", War 2.113; "John the Essaios", War 2.567; 3.11; "those who are called by us Essaioi", Ant. 15.371; "Simon a man of the Essaios race", Ant. 17.346). Philo's usage is Essaioi, although he admits this Greek form of the original name that according to his etymology signifies "holiness" to be inexact (NH XII.75). Pliny's Latin text has Esseni. Josephus identified the Essenes as one of the three major Jewish sects of that period.

According to a controversial view put forward by Dead Sea Scrolls Scholar Géza Vermes, both Josephus and Philo pronounced the Essenes' name as "Esaoin", which means in Arabic followers of "Esa", which Vermes says is the name of Jesus according to the most ancient mosaic portrait found in Turkey dated 70 AD which says underneath "Esa our Lord". Mainstream scholars usually stress a number of fundamental differences between Dead Sea Scroll theology and early Christian theology to argue that the Essenes cannot be considered identical to any kind of Christianity.

In Eerdman's Beyond the Essene Hypothesis, Gabriele Boccaccini (p.47) implies that a convincing etymology for the name Essene has not been found, but that the term applies to a larger group within Palestine that also included the Qumran community.

It is possible that the Talmudic statement (Kiddushin Ch. 4) "the best of the physicians will go to hell" were referring to the Essenes. The Talmudic term for healer is Assia. (Reuvein Margolies Toldot Ha'Adam).

According to Josephus the Essenes had settled "not in one city" but "in large numbers in every town" (War 2.124). Philo speaks of "more than four thousand" Essaioi living in "Palestinian Syria" (Quod Omn. Prob. XII.75), more precisely, "in many cities of Judaea and in many villages and grouped in great societies of many members" (Hyp. 11.1).

Pliny locates them "on the west side of the Dead Sea, away from the coast ... [above] the town of Engeda".

Some modern scholars and archaeologists have argued that Essenes inhabited the settlement at Qumran, a plateau in the Judean Desert along the Dead Sea, citing Pliny the Elder in support, and giving credence that the Dead Sea Scrolls are the product of the Essenes. This view, though not yet conclusively proven, has come to dominate the scholarly discussion and public perception of the Essenes.

Josephus' reference to a "gate of the Essenes" in the Temple Mount perhaps suggests an Essene community living in this quarter of the city or regularly gathering at this part of the Temple precincts.

Following the qualification above that it is correct to identify the community at Qumran with the Essenes (and that the community at Qumran are the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls), then according to the Dead Sea Scrolls the Essenes' community school was called "Yahad" (meaning "oneness of God") in order to differentiate themselves from the rest of the Jews who are repeatedly labeled "The Breakers of the Covenant", especially in their prophetic book-scroll entitled "Milhama" (meaning " The War") in which the master of the Essenes (referred to as "The Teacher of Righteousness") prophesised that the so-called "Breakers of the Covenant" Jews will be on the side of the Antichrist. The accounts by Josephus and Philo show that the Essenes (Philo: Essaioi) led a strictly celibate but communal life — often compared by scholars to later Christian monastic living — although Josephus speaks also of another "rank of Essenes" that did get married (War 2.160-161). According to Josephus, they had customs and observances such as collective ownership (War 2.122; Ant. 18.20), elected a leader to attend to the interests of them all whose orders they obeyed (War 2.123, 134), were forbidden from swearing oaths (War 2.135) and sacrificing animals (Philo, §75), controlled their temper and served as channels of peace (War 2.135), carried weapons only as protection against robbers (War 2.125), had no slaves but served each other (Ant. 18.21) and, as a result of communal ownership, did not engage in trading (War 2.127). Both Josephus and Philo have lengthy accounts of their communal meetings, meals and religious celebrations.

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After a total of three years probation (War 2.137-138), newly joining members would take an oath that included the commitment to practice piety towards Yahweh and righteousness towards humanity, to maintain a pure life-style, to abstain from criminal and immoral activities, to transmit their rules uncorrupted and to preserve the books of the Essenes and the names of the Angels (War 2.139-142). Their theology included belief in the immortality of the soul and that they would receive their souls back after death (War 2.153-158, Ant. 18.18). Part of their activities included purification by water rituals, which was supported by rainwater catchment and storage.

The Church Father Epiphanius (writing in the fourth century AD) seems to make a distinction between two main groups within the Essenes [1]: "Of those that came before his [Elxai, an Ossaean prophet] time and during it, the Osseaens and the Nazarean." (Panarion 1:19). Epiphanius describes each group as following:

The Nazarean - they were Jews by nationality - originally from Gileaditis, Bashanitis and the Transjordon... They acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received laws - not this law, however, but some other. And so, they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, but they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat. They considered it unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claim that these Books are fictions, and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. This was the difference between the Nazarean and the others...
(Panarion 1:18)
After this [Nazarean] sect in turn comes another closely connected with them, called the Ossaeanes. These are Jews like the former ... originally came from Nabataea, Ituraea, Moabitis and Arielis, the lands beyond the basin of what sacred scripture called the Salt Sea... Though it is different from the other six of these seven sects, it causes schism only by forbidding the books of Moses like the Nazarean.
(Panarion 1:19)


This section is missing citations or needs footnotes.
Using inline citations helps guard against copyright violations and factual inaccuracies.(November 2007)

The Essenes are discussed in detail by Josephus and Philo.

Many scholars believe that the community at Qumran that allegedly produced the Dead Sea Scrolls was an offshoot of the Essenes; however, this theory has been disputed by Norman Golb and other scholars.

Since the 19th century attempts have been made to connect early Christianity and Pythagoreanism with the Essenes: It was suggested that Jesus of Nazareth was an Essene, and that Christianity evolved from this sect of Judaism, with which it shared many ideas and symbols. According to Martin A. Larson, the now misunderstood Essenes were Jewish Pythagoreans who lived as monks. As vegetarian celibates in self-reliant communities who shunned marriage and family, they preached a coming war with the Sons of Darkness. As the Sons of Light, this reflected a separate influence from Zoroastrianism via their parent ideology of Pythagoreanism. According to Larson, both the Essenes and Pythagoreans resembled thiasoi, or cult units of the Orphic mysteries. John the Baptist is widely regarded to be a prime example of an Essene who had left the communal life (see Ant. 18.116-119), and it is thought they aspired to emulate their own founding Teacher of Righteousness who was crucified. However, J.B. Lightfoot's essay (On Some Points Connected with the Essenes) argues that attempts to find the roots of Essenism in Pythagoreanism and the roots of Christianity in Essenism are flawed. Authors such as Robert Eisenman present differing views that support the Essene/Early Christian connection.

Another issue is the relationship between the Essaioi and Philo's Therapeutae and Therapeutrides (see De Vita Contemplativa). It may be argued that he regarded the Therapeutae as a contemplative branch of the Essaioi who, he said, pursued an active life (Vita Cont. I.1).

One theory on the formation of the Essenes suggested the movement was founded by a Jewish High Priest, dubbed by the Essenes the Teacher of Righteousness, whose office had been usurped by Jonathan (of priestly but not Zadokite lineage), labeled the "man of lies" or "false priest". His name is Father Bapalopa. Prince William in England met him in Sardinia. He loves immitating duckies in the pond because they are just as false as him.

According to a Jewish legend, one of the Essenes, named Menachem, had passed at least some of his mystical knowledge to the Talmudic mystic Nehunya Ben Ha-Kanah,[1] to whom the Kabbalistic tradition attributes Sefer ha-Bahir and, by some opinions, Sefer ha-Kanah, Sefer ha-Peliah and Sefer ha-Temunah. Some Essene rituals, such as daily immersion in the Mikvah, coincide with contemporary Hasidic practices; some historians had also suggested, that name "Essene" is an hellenized form of the word "Hasidim" or "Hasin" ("pious ones"). However, the legendary connections between Essene and Kabbalistic tradition are not verified by modern historians.

The Talmud also refers to Hasidim. In the mishna Tractate Berachot, It is stated that "the early Hasidim would spend an hour in preparation for prayer, an hour praying, and an hour coming away from prayer", "The Hasidim would pray with sunrise". Tzvi Hirsch Chajes believes that the Essenes can be identified with the Hasidim, an offshoot of the Pharisees. (Kol Kitvei Maritz Chiyus Vol. 2). See however the statement of Reuvain Margolies above.

Scholars such as J. Gordon Melton in his Encyclopedia of American Religions state that the modern American Pseudo-Essene movement possesses no authentic historical ties to the ancient Essene movement. Melton states, "Essene material is directly derivative of two occult bestsellers — The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, by Levi H. Dowling; and The Mystical Life of Jesus, by Rosicrucian author H. Spencer Lewis."

However, others such as Gideon Ousely, produced materials they claim were Essene in origin. Ousely himself wrote a book known as the Gospel of the Holy Twelve (which he claimed was channeled to him by spirit beings), and Edmund Bordeaux Szekely. These individuals assert that the Essene teachings had been hidden and assimilated into many mystical spiritual traditions around the world, where the teachings were hidden within ancient libraries. It was in 1928 that Edmond Bordeaux Szekely first published his translation of The Essene Gospel of Peace,a manuscript allegedly discovered in the Secret Archives of the Vatican and in old Slavonic in the Royal Library of the Habsburgs of which much was destroyed by a fire that destroyed the monastery that stood in its place. (now the property of the Austrian government) However, subsequent investigations into the claims of these individuals prodced nothing to substantiate their stories. With the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, it is now clear that the publications of purported "Essene" writings are indeed simply the materials mentioned by J. Gordon Melton. Biblical scholars don't consider the Szekely or Ousely writings as authentic.

Currently there are several modern Essene Groups around the world.






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Scientists Weigh Stem Cells’ Role as Cancer Cause
By GINA KOLATA

Within the next few months, researchers at three medical centers expect to start the first test in patients of one of the most promising — and contentious — ideas about the cause and treatment of cancer.

The idea is to take aim at what some scientists say are cancerous stem cells — aberrant cells that maintain and propagate malignant tumors.

Although many scientists have assumed that cancer cells are immortal — that they divide and grow indefinitely — most can only divide a certain number of times before dying. The stem-cell hypothesis says that cancers themselves may not die because they are fed by cancerous stem cells, a small and particularly dangerous kind of cell that can renew by dividing even as it spews out more cells that form the bulk of a tumor. Worse, stem cells may be impervious to most standard cancer therapies.

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Not everyone accepts the hypothesis of cancerous stem cells. Skeptics say proponents are so in love with the idea that they dismiss or ignore evidence against it. Dr. Scott E. Kern, for instance, a leading pancreatic cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins University, said the hypothesis was more akin to religion than to science.

At stake in the debate is the direction of cancer research. If proponents of the stem-cell hypothesis are correct, it will usher in an era of hope for curing once-incurable cancers.

If the critics are right, the stem-cell enthusiasts are heading down a blind alley that will serve as just another cautionary tale in the history of medical research.

In the meantime, though, proponents are looking for ways to kill the stem cells, and say that certain new drugs may be the solution.

“Within the next year, we will see medical centers targeting stem cells in almost every cancer,” said Dr. Max S. Wicha, director of the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, one of the sites for the preliminary study that begins in the next few months (the other participating institutions are Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston).

“We are so excited about this,” Dr. Wicha said. “It has become a major thrust of our cancer center.”

At the National Cancer Institute, administrators seem excited, too.

“If this is real, it could have almost immediate impact,” said Dr. R. Allan Mufson, chief of the institute’s Cancer Immunology and Hematology Branch.

The cancer institute is financing the research, he said, and has authorized Dr. Mufson to put out a request for proposals, soliciting investigators to apply for cancer institute money to study cancer stem cells and ways to bring the research to cancer patients. The institute has agreed to contribute $5.4 million.

“Given the current fiscal situation, which is terrible, it’s a surprising amount,” Dr. Mufson said. “We actually asked for less,” he added, but the cancer institute’s executive committee asked that the amount be increased. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx


Proponents of the hypothesis like to use the analogy of a lawn dotted with dandelions: Mowing the lawn makes it look like the weeds are gone, but the roots are intact and the dandelions come back.

So it is with cancer, they say. Chemotherapy and radiation often destroy most of a tumor, but if they do not kill the stem cells, which are the cancer’s roots, it can grow back.

Cancerous stem cells are not the same as embryonic stem cells, the cells present early in development that can turn into any cell of the body. Cancerous stem cells are different. They can turn into tumor cells, and they are characterized by distinctive molecular markers.

The stem-cell hypothesis answered a longstanding question: does each cell in a tumor have the same ability to keep a cancer going? By one test the answer was no. When researchers transplanted tumor cells into a mouse that had no immune system, they found that not all of the cells could form tumors.

To take the work to the next step, researchers needed a good way to isolate the cancer-forming cells. Until recently, “the whole thing languished,” said Dr. John E. Dick, director of the stem cell biology program at the University of Toronto, because scientists did not have the molecular tools to investigate.

But when those tools emerged in the early 1990s, Dr. Dick found stem cells in acute myelogenous leukemia, a blood cancer. He reported that such cells made up just 1 percent of the leukemia cells and that those were the only ones that could form tumors in mice.

Yet Dr. Dick’s research, Dr. Wicha said, “was pretty much ignored.” Cancer researchers, he said, were not persuaded — and even if they had accepted the research — doubted that the results would hold for solid tumors, like those of the breast, colon, prostate or brain.

That changed in 1994, when Dr. Wicha and a colleague, Dr. Michael Clarke, who is now at Stanford, reported finding cancerous stem cells in breast cancer patients.

“The paper hit me like a bombshell,” said Robert Weinberg, a professor of biology at M.I.T. and a leader in cancer research. “To my mind, that is conceptually the most important paper in cancer over the past decade.”

Dr. Weinberg and others began pursuing the stem-cell hypothesis, and researchers now say they have found cancerous stem cells in cancers of the colon, head and neck, lung, prostate, brain, and pancreas.

Symposiums were held. Leading journals published paper after paper.

But difficult questions persisted. One problem, critics say, is that the math does not add up. The hypothesis only makes sense if a tiny fraction of cells in a tumor are stem cells, said Dr. Bert Vogelstein, a colon cancer researcher at Johns Hopkins who said he had not made up his mind on the validity of the hypothesis.

But some studies suggest that stem cells make up 10 percent or even 40 percent or 50 percent of tumor cells, at least by the molecular-marker criterion. If a treatment shrinks a tumor by 99 percent, as is often the case, and 10 percent of the tumor was stem cells, then the stem cells too must have been susceptible, Dr. Vogelstein says.

Critics also question the research on mice. The same cells that can give rise to a tumor if transplanted into one part of a mouse may not form a tumor elsewhere.

“A lot of things affect transplants,” Dr. Kern, the Johns Hopkins researcher, said, explaining that transplanting tumors into mice did not necessarily reveal whether there were stem cells.

Other doubts have been raised by Dr. Kornelia Polyak, a researcher at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. Dr. Polyak asked whether breast cancer cells remain true to type, that is, whether stem cells remain stem cells and whether others remain non-stem cells? The answer, she has found, is “not necessarily.”

Cancer cells instead appear to be moving targets, changing from stem cells to non-stem cells and back again. The discovery was unexpected because it had been thought that cell development went one way — from stem cell to tumor cell — and there was no going back.

“You want to kill all the cells in a tumor,” Dr. Polyak said. “Everyone assumes that currently-used drugs are not targeting stem cell populations, but that has not been proven.”

“To say you just have to kill the cancer stem cell is oversimplified,” she added. “It’s giving false hope.”

The criticisms make sense, Dr. Weinberg said. But he said he remained swayed by the stem cell hypothesis.

“There are a lot of unanswered questions, mind you,” he said. “Most believe cancer stem cells exist, but that doesn’t mean they exist. We believe it on the basis of rather fragmentary evidence, which I happen to believe in the aggregate is rather convincing.”

Dr. Wicha said he was convinced that the hypothesis was correct, and said it explained better than any other hypothesis what doctors and patients already know.

“Not only are some of the approaches we are using not getting us anywhere, but even the way we approve drugs is a bad model,” he said. Anti-cancer drugs, he noted, are approved if they shrink tumors even if they do not prolong life. It is the medical equivalent, he said, of mowing a dandelion field.

He said the moment of truth would come soon, with studies like the one planned for women with breast cancer. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx


The drug to be tested was developed by Merck to treat Alzheimer’s disease. It did not work on Alzheimer’s but it kills breast cancer stem cells in laboratory studies, Dr. Wicha says.

The study will start with a safety test on 30 women who have advanced breast cancer. Hopes are that it will be expanded to find out if the drug can prolong lives. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us


“Patient survival,” Dr. Wicha said, “is the ultimate endpoint.”





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Andrew Jackson (March 15, 1767 – June 8, 1845) was the 7th President of the United States (1829–1837). He was also military governor of Florida (1821), commander of the American forces at the Battle of New Orleans (1815), and the eponym of the era of Jacksonian democracy. He was a polarizing figure who dominated American politics in the 1820s and 1830s. His political ambition combined with the masses of people shaped the modern Democratic Party.[1] Nicknamed "Old Hickory" because he was renowned for his toughness, Jackson was the first President primarily associated with the frontier, as he based his career in Tennessee. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us


Andrew Jackson was born to Presbyterian Scots-Irish immigrants Andrew and Elizabeth Jackson in the Waxhaw region of North Carolina, on March 15, 1767.[2] He was the youngest of three brothers and was born just weeks after his father's death. Both North Carolina and South Carolina have claimed Jackson as a "native son," because the community straddled the state line, and there was conflicting lore in the neighborhood about his exact birth site. Controversies about Jackson's birthplace went far beyond the dispute between North and South Carolina. Because his origins were humble and obscure compared to those of his predecessors, wild rumors abounded about Jackson's past. Joseph Nathan Kane, in his almanac-style book Facts About the Presidents, lists no fewer than eight localities, including two foreign countries, that were mentioned in the popular press as Jackson's "real" birthplace including Ireland where both of Jackson's parents were born. Jackson himself always stated definitively that he was born in a cabin just inside South Carolina. He received a sporadic education in the local "old-field" school.
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During the American Revolutionary War, Jackson, at age thirteen, joined a local regiment as a courier.[3] Andrew and his brother Robert Jackson were captured by the British], and held as prisoners of war; they nearly starved to death in captivity. When Andrew refused to clean the boots of a British officer, the irate Redcoat slashed at him with a sword, giving him scars on his left hand and head, as well as an intense hatred for the British. Both boys contracted smallpox while imprisoned, and Robert died days after his mother secured their release. Jackson's entire immediate family died from war-related hardships that Jackson blamed upon the British, leaving him orphaned by age 15. Jackson was the last U.S. President to have been a veteran of the American Revolution, and the second President to have been a prisoner of war (Washington had been captured by the French in the French and Indian War).

In 1781, Jackson worked for a time in a saddle-maker's shop.[4] Later he taught school, and studied law in Salisbury, North Carolina. In 1787, he was admitted to the bar, and moved to Jonesboro, in what was then the Western District of North Carolina, and later became Tennessee.

Though his legal education was scanty, Jackson knew enough to practice law on the frontier. Since he was not from a distinguished family, he had to make his career by his own merits; and soon he began to prosper in the rough-and-tumble world of frontier law. Most of the actions grew out of disputed land-claims, or from assaults and battery. In 1788, he was appointed Solicitor of the Western District, and held the same position in the territorial government of Tennessee after 1791.

He also took a role in politics. In 1796, he was a delegate to the Tennessee constitutional convention. Upon statehood in 1796, Jackson was elected Tennessee's U.S. Representative. In 1797 he was elected U.S. Senator as a Democratic-Republican. But he resigned within a year. In 1798, he was appointed a judge of the Tennessee Supreme Court, serving till 1804. [5]

Besides his legal and political career, Jackson also prospered as a planter and merchant. In 1804, he acquired "The Hermitage", a 640-acre farm near Nashville. Jackson later added 360 acres to the farm. The primary crop was cotton, grown by slave workers. Jackson started with nine slaves, and had as many as 44 later.

Jackson was appointed commander of the Tennessee militia in 1801, with the rank of colonel.
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During the War of 1812, Tecumseh incited the "Red Stick" Creek Indians of northern Alabama and Georgia to attack white settlements. 400 settlers were killed in the Fort Mims Massacre. In the resulting Creek War, Jackson commanded the American forces, which included Tennessee militia, U.S. regulars, and Cherokee and Southern Creek Indians.

Jackson defeated the Red Stick Creeks at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. 800 "Red Sticks" were killed, but Jackson spared chief William Weatherford. Sam Houston and David Crockett served under Jackson at this time. After the victory, Jackson imposed the Treaty of Fort Jackson upon both the Northern Creek enemies and the Southern Creek allies, wresting 20 million acres (81,000 km²) from all Creeks for white settlement. Jackson was appointed Major General after this success.

Jackson's service in the War of 1812 against Great Britain was conspicuous for bravery and success. When British forces menaced New Orleans, Jackson took command of the defenses, including militia from several western states and territories. He was a strict officer, but was popular with his troops. It was said he was "tough as old hickory" wood on the battlefield, which gave him his nickname. In the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815, Jackson's 4,000 militiamen won a total victory over 10,000 British. The British had over 2,000 casualties to Jackson's 13 killed and 58 wounded or missing.

The war, and especially this victory, made Jackson a national hero. He received the thanks of Congress and a gold medal by resolution of February 27, 1815

Jackson served in the military again during the First Seminole War. He was ordered by President James Monroe in December 1817 to lead a campaign in Georgia against the Seminole and Creek Indians. Jackson was also charged with preventing Spanish Florida from becoming a refuge for runaway slaves. Critics later alleged that Jackson exceeded orders in his Florida actions. His directions were to "terminate the conflict."[6] Jackson believed the best way to do this would be to seize Florida. Before going, Jackson wrote to Monroe, "Let it be signified to me through any channel... that the possession of the Floridas would be desirable to the United States, and in sixty days it will be accomplished."[7] Monroe gave Jackson orders that were purposely ambiguous, sufficient for international denials.
A bust of Andrew Jackson at the Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, Florida, where Jackson was sworn in as military governor.
A bust of Andrew Jackson at the Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, Florida, where Jackson was sworn in as military governor.

The Seminoles attacked Jackson's Tennessee volunteers. The Seminoles' attack, however, left their villages vulnerable, and Jackson burned them and the crops. He found letters that indicated that the Spanish and British were secretly assisting the Indians. Jackson believed that the United States would not be secure as long as Spain and Great Britain encouraged Indians to fight and argued that his actions were undertaken in self-defense. Jackson captured Pensacola, Florida, with little more than some warning shots, and deposed the Spanish governor. He captured and then tried and executed two British subjects, Robert Ambrister and Alexander Arbuthnot, who had been supplying and advising the Indians. Jackson's action also struck fear into the Seminole tribes as word of his ruthlessness in battle spread.

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The executions, and Jackson's invasion of territory belonging to Spain, a country the U.S. was not at war with, created an international incident. Many in the Monroe administration called for Jackson to be censured. However, Jackson's actions were defended by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, an early believer in Manifest Destiny. When the Spanish minister demanded a "suitable punishment" for Jackson, Adams wrote back "Spain must immediately [decide] either to place a force in Florida adequate at once to the protection of her territory ... or cede to the United States a province, of which she retains nothing but the nominal possession, but which is, in fact ... a post of annoyance to them."[8] Adams used Jackson's conquest, and Spain's own weakness, to get Spain to cede Florida to the United States in the Adams-Onís Treaty. Jackson was subsequently named miltary governor, serving from March 10, 1821 to December 31, 1821.

The Tennessee legislature nominated Jackson for President in 1822. It also elected him U.S. Senator again.

By 1824, the Democratic-Republican Party had become the only functioning party. Its Presidential candidates had been chosen by an informal Congressional nominating caucus, but this had become unpopular. In 1824, most of the Democratic-Republicans in Congress boycotted the caucus. Those that attended backed William H. Crawford for President and Albert Gallatin for Vice President. A convention in Pennsylvania nominated Jackson for President a month later, on March 4. Gallatin criticized Jackson as "an honest man and the idol of the worshippers of military glory, but from incapacity, military habits, and habitual disregard of laws and constitutional provisions, altogether unfit for the office."[9] Thomas Jefferson, who would later write to William Crawford in dismay at the outcome of the election,[10] wrote to Jackson in December of 1823:

"I recall with pleasure the remembrance of our joint labors while in the Senate together in times of great trial and of hard battling, battles indeed of words, not of blood, as those you have since fought so much for your own glory & that of your country; with the assurance that my attamts continue undiminished, accept that of my great respect & consideration."[11]

Biographer Robert V. Remini said that Jefferson "had no great love for Jackson." Daniel Webster wrote that Jefferson told him in December of 1824 that Jackson was a dangerous man unfit for the presidency. [12] Historian Sean Wilentz described Webster's account of the meeting as "not wholly reliable."[13]

The result of the election was confused. Besides Jackson and Crawford, John Quincy Adams and House Speaker Henry Clay were also candidates. Jackson received the most popular votes (but not a majority, and four states had no popular ballot). The Electoral votes were split four ways, with Jackson again having a plurality. Since no candidate received a majority, the election was made by the House of Representatives, which chose Adams. Jackson denounced this result as a "corrupt bargain" because Clay gave his support to Adams, who later appointed Clay as Secretary of State. Jackson called for the abolition of the Electoral College in his first annual message to Congress as President.[14] Jackson's defeat burnished his political credentials, however, since many voters believed the "man of the people" had been robbed by the "corrupt aristocrats of the East."


Jackson resigned from the Senate in October 1825, but continued his quest for the Presidency. The Tennessee legislature again nominated Jackson for President. Jackson attracted Vice President John C. Calhoun, Martin Van Buren, and Thomas Ritchie into his camp (the latter two previous supporterse of Crawford). Van Buren, with help from his friends in Philadelphia and Richmond, revived the old Republican Party, gave it a new name, "restored party rivalries," and forged a national organization of durability.[15] The Jackson coalition handily defeated Adams in 1828.

During the election, Jackson's opponents referred to him as a "Jackass." Jackson liked the name and used the jackass as a symbol for a while, but it died out. However, it later became the symbol for the Democratic Party when cartoonist Thomas Nast popularized it.

Jackson experienced the first known case of a President being handed a baby to kiss. However, Jackson declined, and handed the baby to Secretary of War John H. Eaton to do the honors.

In 1835, Jackson managed to reduce the federal debt to only $33,733.05, the lowest it has been since the first fiscal year of 1791.[17] However, this accomplishment was short lived, and a severe depression from 1837 to 1844 caused a ten-fold increase in national debt within its first year.

When Jackson became President, he implemented the theory of rotation in office, declaring it "a leading principle in the republican creed."[14] He believed that rotation in office would prevent the development of a corrupt bureaucracy. In addition, Jackson's supporters wanted to give the posts to fellow party members, as a reward to strengthen party loyalty. In practice, this meant replacing federal employees with friends or party loyalists.[19] However, the effect was not as drastic as expected or portrayed. By the end of his term, Jackson had dismissed less than twenty percent of the Federal employees at the start of it.[20] While Jackson did not start the "spoils system," he did indirectly encourage its growth for many years to come.
As President, Jackson worked to take away the federal charter of the Second Bank of the United States (it would continue to exist as a state bank). The Second Bank had been authorized, during James Madison's tenure in 1816, for a 20-year period. Jackson opposed the national bank concept on ideological grounds. In Jackson's veto message (written by George Bancroft), the bank needed to be abolished because:
Democratic cartoon shows Jackson fighting the monster Bank. "The Bank," Jackson told Martin Van Buren, "is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!"
Democratic cartoon shows Jackson fighting the monster Bank. "The Bank," Jackson told Martin Van Buren, "is trying to kill me, but I will kill it!"

* It concentrated an excessive amount of the nation's financial strength in a single institution.
* It exposed the government to control by foreign interests.


* It served mainly to make the rich richer.
* It exercised too much control over members of Congress.
* It favored northeastern states over southern and western states.

Jackson followed Jefferson as a supporter of the ideal of an "agricultural republic" and felt the Bank improved the fortunes of an "elite circle" of commercial and industrial entrepreneurs at the expense of farmers and laborers. After a titanic struggle, Jackson succeeded in destroying the Bank by vetoing its 1832 re-charter by Congress and by withdrawing U.S. funds in 1833.

The bank's money-lending functions were taken over by the legions of local and state banks that sprang up. This fed an expansion of credit and speculation. At first, as Jackson withdrew money from the Bank to invest it in other banks, land sales, canal construction, cotton production, and manufacturing boomed.[21] However, due to the practice of banks issuing paper banknotes that were not backed by gold or silver reserves, there was soon rapid inflation and mounting state debts.[22] Then, in 1836, Jackson issued the Specie Circular, which required buyers of government lands to pay in "specie" (gold or silver coins). The result was a great demand for specie, which many banks did not have to enough of to exchange for their notes. These banks collapsed. [23] This was a direct cause of the Panic of 1837, which threw the national economy into a deep depression. It took years for the economy to recover from the damage.
1833 Democratic cartoon shows Jackson destroying the devil's Bank
1833 Democratic cartoon shows Jackson destroying the devil's Bank

The U.S. Senate censured Jackson on March 28, 1834, for his action in removing U.S. funds from the Bank of the United States. The censure was later expunged when the Jacksonians had a majority in the Senate.
Another notable crisis during Jackson's period of office was the "Nullification Crisis", or "secession crisis," of 1828 – 1832, which merged issues of sectional strife with disagreements over tariffs. Critics alleged that high tariffs (the "Tariff of Abominations") on imports of common manufactured goods made in Europe made those goods more expensive than ones from the northern U.S., raising the prices paid by planters in the South. Southern politicians argued that tariffs benefited northern industrialists at the expense of southern farmers.

The issue came to a head when Vice President Calhoun, in the South Carolina Exposition and Protest of 1828, supported the claim of his home state, South Carolina, that it had the right to "nullify"—declare void—the tariff legislation of 1828, and more generally the right of a state to nullify any Federal laws which went against its interests. Although Jackson sympathized with the South in the tariff debate, he was also a strong supporter of a strong union, with effective powers for the central government. Jackson attempted to face down Calhoun over the issue, which developed into a bitter rivalry between the two men.

Particularly notable was an incident at the April 13, 1830 Jefferson Day dinner, involving after-dinner toasts. Jackson rose first, glared at Calhoun, and in a booming voice shouted "Our federal Union: IT MUST BE PRESERVED!" - a clear challenge to Calhoun. Calhoun glared at Jackson and, his voice trembling, but booming as well, responded "The Union: NEXT TO OUR LIBERTY, MOST DEAR!"[24]

The next year, Calhoun and Jackson broke apart politically from one another. Martin Van Buren replaced Calhoun as Jackson's running mate in 1832. In December 1832, Calhoun resigned as Vice President to become a U.S. Senator for South Carolina.

Around this time, the Petticoat Affair caused further resignations from Jackson's cabinet, leading to its reorganization as the Kitchen Cabinet. Vice-Presiden Van Buren played a leading role in the new cabinet. [25]

In response to South Carolina's nullification claim, Jackson vowed to send troops to South Carolina to enforce the laws. In December 1832, he issued a resounding proclamation against the "nullifiers," stating that he considered "the power to annul a law of the United States, assumed by one State, incompatible with the existence of the Union, contradicted expressly by the letter of the Constitution, unauthorized by its spirit, inconsistent with every principle on which it was founded, and destructive of the great object for which it was formed." South Carolina, the President declared, stood on "the brink of insurrection and treason," and he appealed to the people of the state to reassert their allegiance to that Union for which their ancestors had fought. Jackson also denied the right of secession: "The Constitution... forms a government not a league... To say that any State may at pleasure secede from the Union is to say that the United States is not a nation."[26]

Jackson asked Congress to pass a "Force Bill" explicitly authorizing the use of military force to enforce the tariff. But it was held up until protectionists led by Clay agreed to a reduced Compromise Tariff. The Force Bill and Compromise Tariff passed on March 1, 1833. and Jackson signed both. The South Carolina Convention then met and rescinded its nullification ordinance. The Force Bill became moot because it was no longer needed.

Perhaps the most controversial aspect of Jackson's presidency was his policy regarding American Indians.[27] Jackson was a leading advocate of a policy known as "Indian Removal". Swedish scholar Mattias Gardell says Jackson called Indian removal the "Final Solution" to the Indian issue during his election campaign.[28] After his election he signed the Indian Removal Act into law in 1830. The Act authorized the President to negotiate treaties to purchase tribal lands in the east in exchange for lands further west, outside of existing U.S. state borders.

While frequently frowned upon in the North, the Removal Act was popular in the South, where population growth and the discovery of gold on Cherokee land had increased pressure on tribal lands. The state of Georgia became involved in a contentious jurisdictional dispute with the Cherokees, culminating in the 1832 U.S. Supreme Court decision (Worcester v. Georgia) which ruled that Georgia could not impose its laws upon Cherokee tribal lands. Jackson is often quoted (regarding the decision) as having said, "John Marshall has made his decision, now let him enforce it!" Whether or not he actually said it is disputed.[29]

In any case, Jackson used the Georgia crisis to pressure Cherokee leaders to sign a removal treaty. A small faction of Cherokees led by John Ridge negotiated the Treaty of New Echota with Jackson's representatives. Ridge was not a recognized leader of the Cherokee Nation, and this document was rejected by most Cherokees as illegitimate.[30] Over 15,000 Cherokees signed a petition in protest; it was ignored by the Supreme Court.[31] The treaty was enforced by Jackson's successor, Van Buren. who ordered 7,000 armed troops to remove the Cherokees.[32] This resulted in the deaths of over 4,000 Cherokees on the "Trail of Tears."

By the 1830s, under constant pressure from settlers, each of the five southern tribes had ceded most of its lands, but sizable self-government groups lived in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, and Florida. All of these (except the Seminoles) had moved far in the coexistence with whites, and they resisted suggestions that they should voluntarily remove themselves.[citation needed]
Richard Lawrence's attempt on Andrew Jackson's life, as depicted in an 1835 etching.
Richard Lawrence's attempt on Andrew Jackson's life, as depicted in an 1835 etching.

In all, more than 45,000 American Indians were relocated to the West during Jackson's administration. During this time, the administration purchased about 100 million acres (400,000 km²) of Indian land for about $68 million and 32 million acres (130,000 km²) of western land. Jackson was criticized at the time for his role in these events, and the criticism has grown over the years. Remini characterizes the Indian Removal era as "one of the unhappiest chapters in American history."[33]

The first attempt to do bodily harm to a President was against Jackson. On May 6, 1833, President Jackson was sailing on USS Cygnet to Fredericksburg, Virginia, where he was to lay the cornerstone on a monument near the grave of Mary Ball Washington, George Washington's mother. While on a stopover near Alexandria, Virginia, Robert B. Randolph, who had recently been dismissed from the Navy for embezzlement upon Jackson's orders, struck the President. Before Randolph could do more harm, he fled the scene with several members of Jackson's party chasing him, including the well known writer Washington Irving. Jackson decided not to press charges.[4]

On January 30, 1835 an unsuccessful attack occurred in the United States Capitol Building; it was the first assassination attempt made against an American President. Jackson was crossing the Capitol Rotunda after the funeral of South Carolina]] Representative Warren R. Davis when Richard Lawrence approached Jackson. Lawrence aimed two pistols at Jackson, which both misfired. Jackson then attacked Lawrence with his cane, prompting his aides to restrain him. As a result, Jackson's statue in the Capitol Rotunda is placed in front of the doorway in which the attempt occurred. Davy Crockett was present to help restrain Lawrence. Richard Lawrence gave the doctors several reasons for the shooting. He had recently lost his job painting houses and somehow blamed Jackson. He claimed that with the President dead, "money would be more plenty"—a reference to Jackson’s struggle with the Bank of the United States—and that he "could not rise until the President fell." Finally, he informed his interrogators that he was actually a deposed English King—Richard III.


Shortly after Jackson first arrived in Nashville in 1788, he took up residence as a boarder with Rachel Stockley Donelson, the widow of John Donelson. Here Jackson became acquainted with their daughter, Rachel Donelson Robards. At the time, Rachel Robards was in an unhappy marriage with Captain Lewis Robards, a man subject to irrational fits of jealous rage. Due to Lewis Robards' temperament, the two were separated in 1790. Shortly after their separation, Robards sent word that he had obtained a divorce. Trusting that the divorce was complete, Jackson and Rachel were married in 1791. Two years later they learned that the divorce had never actually been finalized, making Rachel's marriage to Jackson illegitimate. After the divorce was officially completed, Rachel and Jackson re-married in 1794.[34]

The controversy surrounding their marriage remained a sore point for Jackson, who deeply resented attacks on his wife's honor. Jackson fought 13 duels, many nominally over his wife's honor. Charles Dickinson, the only man Jackson ever killed in a duel, had been goaded into angering Jackson by Jackson's political opponents. In the duel, fought over a horse-racing debt and an insult to his wife on May 30, 1806, Dickinson shot Jackson in the ribs before Jackson returned the fatal shot. The bullet that struck Jackson was so close to his heart that it could never be safely removed. Jackson had been wounded so frequently in duels that it was said he "rattled like a bag of marbles."[35] At times he would cough up blood, and he experienced considerable pain from his wounds for the rest of his life.

Rachel died of unknown causes on December 22, 1828, two weeks after her husband's victory in the election and two months prior to Jackson taking office as President. Jackson blamed John Quincy Adams for Rachel's death because the marital scandal was brought up in the election of 1828. He felt that this had hastened her death and never forgave Adams.

Jackson had two adopted sons, Andrew Jackson Jr., the son of Rachel's brother Severn Donelson, and Lyncoya, a Creek Indian orphan adopted by Jackson after the Creek War. Lyncoya died in 1828 at age sixteen of tuberculosis.[36][37]

The Jacksons also acted as guardians for eight other children. John Samuel Donelson, Daniel Smith Donelson and Andrew Jackson Donelson were the sons of Rachel's brother Samuel Donelson, who died in 1804. Andrew Jackson Hutchings was Rachel's orphaned grand nephew. Caroline Butler, Eliza Butler, Edward Butler, and Anthony Butler were the orphaned children of Edward Butler, a family friend. They came to live with the Jacksons after the death of their father.

The widower Jackson invited Rachel's niece Emily Donelson to serve as hostess at the White House. Emily was married to Andrew Jackson Donelson, who acted as Jackson's private secretary and in 1856 would run for Vice President on the American Party ticket. The relationship between the President and Emily became strained during the Petticoat Affair, and the two became estranged for over a year. They eventually reconciled and she resumed her duties as White House hostess. Sarah Yorke Jackson, the wife of Andrew Jackson Jr., became co-hostess of the White House in 1834. It was the only time in history when two women simultaneously acted as unofficial First Lady. Sarah took over all hostess duties after Emily died from tuberculosis in 1836.

Jackson remained influential in both national and state politics after retiring to The Hermitage in 1837. Though a slave-holder, Jackson was a firm advocate of the federal union of the states, and declined to give any support to talk of secession.

Jackson was a lean figure standing at 6 feet, 1 inch (1.85 m) tall, and weighing between 130 and 140 pounds (64 kg) on average. Jackson also had an unruly shock of red hair, which had completely grayed by the time he became president at age 61. He had penetrating deep blue eyes. Jackson was one of the more sickly presidents, suffering from chronic headaches, abdominal pains, and a hacking cough, caused by a musket ball in his lung which was never removed, that often brought up blood and sometimes even made his whole body shake. After retiring to Nashville, he enjoyed eight years of retirement and died at The Hermitage on June 8, 1845 at the age of 78, of chronic tuberculosis, "dropsy" and heart failure.

In his will, Jackson left his entire estate to his adopted son, Andrew Jackson Jr., except for specifically enumerated items that were left to various other friends and family members. Andrew Jackson was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Nashville.

* Memorials to Jackson include a set of three identical equestrian statues located in different parts of the country. One is in Jackson Square in New Orleans. Another is in Nashville on the grounds of the Tennessee State Capitol. The other is in Washington, D.C. near the White House. Equestrian statues of Jackson have also been erected elsewhere, including one in Downtown Jacksonville, Florida.
* Numerous counties and cities are named after him, including Jacksonville, Florida; Jackson, Michigan; Jackson, Mississippi; Jackson, Missouri; Jackson County, Oregon; Jacksonville, Oregon; Jacksonville, North Carolina; Jackson, Tennessee; Jackson County, Florida; Jackson County, Missouri; and Jackson County, Ohio.
* The section of U.S. Route 74 between Charlotte, North Carolina and Wilmington, North Carolina is named the Andrew Jackson Highway.
* Jackson's portrait appears on the twenty dollar bill. He has appeared on $5, $10, $50, and $10,000 bills in the past, as well as a Confederate $1,000 bill.
* Jackson's image is on the Blackjack postage stamp.
* The U.S. Army installation Fort Jackson in Columbia, South Carolina, is named in his honor.
* Fort Jackson, built before the Civil War on the Mississippi River for the defense of New Orleans, was named in his honor.
* USS Andrew Jackson (SSBN-619), a Lafayette-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine, which served from 1963 to 1989.
* Jackson Park, the third-largest park in Chicago is named for him.
* Jackson Park, a public golf course in Seattle, Washington is named for him.


999999999999

































888888888
Toothed whales (Odontocetes) echolocate by creating a series of clicks emitted at various frequencies. Sound pulses are emitted through their melon-shaped forehead, reflected off objects, and retrieved through the lower jaw. Skulls of Squalodon show evidence for the first appearance of echolocation. Squalodons lived from the early to middle Oligocene to the middle Miocene, around 33-14 million years ago. A peculiar blend of archaic and modern features characterize Squalodon. The cranium was well compressed, the rostrum telescoped outward, giving an appearance of modern toothed whales. However, it is thought unlikely that squalodontids have anything to do with the ancestry of most living dolphins.




http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/member.php?u=18969
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http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
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http://www.amazon.com/Struggle-for-Vicksburg/dp/B000EM6XDM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1198168389&sr=1-1


99999

I was the one who put Meigs in second place! At least my thinking seems to be consistent!
best
Keith

My vague recollection is that a recent article asked various current-
day scholars to list their opinions as to the most influential ACW
Generals, and one (maybe two?) scholar(s) suggested -- I think the
name was -- Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs which nomination
stood out from the pack. Your replies seem to buttress how critical
well-managed supply lines were to the efforts.

-- Lou


Louis,
Will see what I can do about the article -- I like the idea. I remember your name from the 3W days too. As for Vicksburg, there was a short stretch of railroad on the west bank, and this facilitated getting goods to the river, and of course Vicksburg itself was connected with Jackson and points east by rail. So Vicksburg was a better place at which to ship goods to and from. You are right, occupying the west bank would have cut this. Goods were crossed at other points, but presumably in much smaller quantities and with much delay, and the ever-present threat of Union gunboats. With Vicksburg as a base, the navy would (I presume) become more effective (I am assuming, for example, that ships could take on coal there).

Also, the capture of Vicksburg rendered it Unecessary to keep a force on the west bank opposite the city that had to be supplied by land.
best wishes
Keith

Sir --

Thank you for your very prompt and informative reply. Might I ask for one clarification (I can read whatever response you have in the magazine if you are so inclined)?

With Vicksburg standing, was the Rebel cross-river (shore to shore) transport of goods -- say salt -- and men almost entirely limited to a small corridor in the shadow of Vicksburg itself, and, assuming so, was such cross-river traffic therefore safe from Union interference? If there was one small corridor, then it would seem that cross-river traffic would have been ended simply by occupying the bank of the river across from the city (although such limited effort would not have resulted in the other benefits you mentioned earlier)?


I'll mention I recall you from the old Wargamer and S&T days. I started wargaming in the mid-70. Life has been such that only in the past year have I again been reading about the American Civil War. Knowing some of your past, I'll ask another question/suggest another possible article:


In my own lay-person's terms, with a few notable(AHEM!) exceptions, Jeb Stuart & Co. had the reputation of providing General Lee very good and timely information and for providing good cavalry screens. Could we read an article about how such scouting and screening was organized? That is, graphs showing -- standard? -- patterns of dispersal, amount of cavalry used to satisfy the missions, how one side would react if it thought it might have been discovered/the other side might react if it stumbled across apparent screening/ scouting activity? I would ask more questions but I'm not a horse- person and should leave that up to others. The basic point is: describe in some detail an active cavalry screening (say a movement up/through the Shenandoah "major" or through Maryland or from the Union point of view ) and an active large-scale scouting mission (perhaps that by Buford at the opening of Gettysburg or before Brandy Station or even that relating to a smaller engagement such as the Battle of Corinth (it seems information about the enemy was so much more lacking in the West than in the East despite the presence of cavalry)).

Again, many thanks,


--Lou



Louis,

I will try to find space for your letter in the Crossfire column, and print as close to definitive answers as we can. For now, and just for your personal attention, here are my personal responses off the top of my head:

1. There wasn't exactly a "Fort Vicksburg," but the guns of the city could pretty much rule out any Union river movement upstream, as the current was fierce and vessels could only have made slow headway against it, leaving them sitting ducks for a considerable length of time. Daylight movement by anything except an armored vessel would have been suicidal. Downstream movement would also have been hazardous (witness the transports that ran the gauntlet on 22 April, 1863 -- I hope I got that date right, no time to look it up right now. Effectively therefore, movement up and down the Mississippi was blocked -- as a regular supply route -- as long as the Confederates held Vicksburg.

2. It wasn't critical, in the sense that it was not vital for Union goods/supplies/men to move up or down the river. It was, however, politically critical, for the farmers of the Mid-West wanted to be able to ship their product down the river. Economically the importance of this had declined before the war, with the linkage of the Mid-West to the East by railroad (and canal). Nevertheless, the river route still loomed large in the consciousness of those in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.

3. The Confedrates did attempt to interdict the river by placing artillery along the shore, and moving it when threatened. However, the Union riverine vessels and the use of marines and others to land and ravage localities used for such operations -- and the limited effect of such artillery -- rendered this a nuisance, but not more.

4. Yes. There was considerable cross-river traffic (west to east) prior to the siege -- especially important was salt, used to cure meat for the eastern armies. It wasn't the fall of Vicksburg that halted this flow of goods, so much as the presence of the Union navy on the river. Of course, once Vicksburg (and then Port Hudson) fell, the navy presence became that much more effective.

5. I don't know numbers/quantities. However, the loss of salt alone made the supply of meat to the Army of North Virginia more problematic, and this added significantly to Lee's logistical difficulties.

Confederate trans-Mississippi commander Kirby Smith failed to come to the aid of those on the eastern shore, but in any case I think his contribution could not have been very significant. Also, the Union had enough troops west of the Mississippi to confront the Confederates there, so probably any long-term movement of Confederate troops across the river would have unhinged their position west of the river.
Confederate attacks on Union positions on the western shore of the Mississippi were singularly unsuccessful, viz. Helena, Milliken's Bend.

Louis, as I said, that's just off the top of my head for you. I will consult Terry Winschel, park historian at Vicksburg, to see what he can add (for publication) and how far he agrees with what I have said.

best wishes,

Keith






I wrote a quick customer review on amazon.com as below. Perhaps your magazine (yes, I subscribe) could answer these questions? -- Lou Sheehan


Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)


A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.

I?ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don?t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.

To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?

Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have ?unrestricted? access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)

What would the effects have been ? and the responses to ? random/ sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise ?unrestricted? river?

By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?

Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan

















55555555555


Begin forwarded message:
From: Keith Poulter
Date: December 20, 2007 2:39:45 PM EST
To: Louis Sheehan
Subject: Re: Last note

I was the one who put Meigs in second place! At least my thinking seems to be consistent!
best
Keith
----- Original Message ----- From: "Louis Sheehan"
To: "Keith Poulter"
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 10:24 AM
Subject: Last note


My vague recollection is that a recent article asked various current-
day scholars to list their opinions as to the most influential ACW
Generals, and one (maybe two?) scholar(s) suggested -- I think the
name was -- Quartermaster General Montgomery C. Meigs which nomination
stood out from the pack. Your replies seem to buttress how critical
well-managed supply lines were to the efforts.

-- Lou
On Dec 20, 2007, at 12:45 PM, Keith Poulter wrote:

Louis,
Will see what I can do about the article -- I like the idea. I remember your name from the 3W days too. As for Vicksburg, there was a short stretch of railroad on the west bank, and this facilitated getting goods to the river, and of course Vicksburg itself was connected with Jackson and points east by rail. So Vicksburg was a better place at which to ship goods to and from. You are right, occupying the west bank would have cut this. Goods were crossed at other points, but presumably in much smaller quantities and with much delay, and the ever-present threat of Union gunboats. With Vicksburg as a base, the navy would (I presume) become more effective (I am assuming, for example, that ships could take on coal there).

Also, the capture of Vicksburg rendered it Unecessary to keep a force on the west bank opposite the city that had to be supplied by land.
best wishes
Keith
----- Original Message ----- From: "Louis Sheehan"
To:
Cc:
Sent: Thursday, December 20, 2007 7:20 AM
Subject: Vicksburg 2



Sir --

Thank you for your very prompt and informative reply. Might I ask for one clarification (I can read whatever response you have in the magazine if you are so inclined)?

With Vicksburg standing, was the Rebel cross-river (shore to shore) transport of goods -- say salt -- and men almost entirely limited to a small corridor in the shadow of Vicksburg itself, and, assuming so, was such cross-river traffic therefore safe from Union interference? If there was one small corridor, then it would seem that cross-river traffic would have been ended simply by occupying the bank of the river across from the city (although such limited effort would not have resulted in the other benefits you mentioned earlier)?


I'll mention I recall you from the old Wargamer and S&T days. I started wargaming in the mid-70. Life has been such that only in the past year have I again been reading about the American Civil War. Knowing some of your past, I'll ask another question/suggest another possible article:


In my own lay-person's terms, with a few notable(AHEM!) exceptions, Jeb Stuart & Co. had the reputation of providing General Lee very good and timely information and for providing good cavalry screens. Could we read an article about how such scouting and screening was organized? That is, graphs showing -- standard? -- patterns of dispersal, amount of cavalry used to satisfy the missions, how one side would react if it thought it might have been discovered/the other side might react if it stumbled across apparent screening/ scouting activity? I would ask more questions but I'm not a horse- person and should leave that up to others. The basic point is: describe in some detail an active cavalry screening (say a movement up/through the Shenandoah "major" or through Maryland or from the Union point of view ) and an active large-scale scouting mission (perhaps that by Buford at the opening of Gettysburg or before Brandy Station or even that relating to a smaller engagement such as the Battle of Corinth (it seems information about the enemy was so much more lacking in the West than in the East despite the presence of cavalry)).

Again, many thanks,


--Lou



On Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at 11:39PM, "Keith Poulter" > wrote:
Louis,

I will try to find space for your letter in the Crossfire column, and print as close to definitive answers as we can. For now, and just for your personal attention, here are my personal responses off the top of my head:

1. There wasn't exactly a "Fort Vicksburg," but the guns of the city could pretty much rule out any Union river movement upstream, as the current was fierce and vessels could only have made slow headway against it, leaving them sitting ducks for a considerable length of time. Daylight movement by anything except an armored vessel would have been suicidal. Downstream movement would also have been hazardous (witness the transports that ran the gauntlet on 22 April, 1863 -- I hope I got that date right, no time to look it up right now. Effectively therefore, movement up and down the Mississippi was blocked -- as a regular supply route -- as long as the Confederates held Vicksburg.

2. It wasn't critical, in the sense that it was not vital for Union goods/supplies/men to move up or down the river. It was, however, politically critical, for the farmers of the Mid-West wanted to be able to ship their product down the river. Economically the importance of this had declined before the war, with the linkage of the Mid-West to the East by railroad (and canal). Nevertheless, the river route still loomed large in the consciousness of those in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.

3. The Confedrates did attempt to interdict the river by placing artillery along the shore, and moving it when threatened. However, the Union riverine vessels and the use of marines and others to land and ravage localities used for such operations -- and the limited effect of such artillery -- rendered this a nuisance, but not more.

4. Yes. There was considerable cross-river traffic (west to east) prior to the siege -- especially important was salt, used to cure meat for the eastern armies. It wasn't the fall of Vicksburg that halted this flow of goods, so much as the presence of the Union navy on the river. Of course, once Vicksburg (and then Port Hudson) fell, the navy presence became that much more effective.

5. I don't know numbers/quantities. However, the loss of salt alone made the supply of meat to the Army of North Virginia more problematic, and this added significantly to Lee's logistical difficulties.

Confederate trans-Mississippi commander Kirby Smith failed to come to the aid of those on the eastern shore, but in any case I think his contribution could not have been very significant. Also, the Union had enough troops west of the Mississippi to confront the Confederates there, so probably any long-term movement of Confederate troops across the river would have unhinged their position west of the river.
Confederate attacks on Union positions on the western shore of the Mississippi were singularly unsuccessful, viz. Helena, Milliken's Bend.

Louis, as I said, that's just off the top of my head for you. I will consult Terry Winschel, park historian at Vicksburg, to see what he can add (for publication) and how far he agrees with what I have said.

best wishes,

Keith
----- Original Message ----- From: Louis Sheehan
To: crossfire@northandsouthmagazine.com
Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 8:11 PM
Subject: Letter to the Editor


I wrote a quick customer review on amazon.com as below. Perhaps your magazine (yes, I subscribe) could answer these questions? -- Lou Sheehan


Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)


A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.

I?ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don?t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.

To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?

Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have ?unrestricted? access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)

What would the effects have been ? and the responses to ? random/ sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise ?unrestricted? river?

By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?

Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan

































000000000000000000


Ancient Source on the Goths - Herodotus
The ancient Greeks considered the Goths to be Scythians. The name Scythian is used in Herodotus (440 B.C.) to describe barbarians who lived on their horses north of the Black Sea and were probably not Goths. When the Goths came to live in the same area, they were considered to be Scythians because of their barbarian way of living. It is hard to know when the people we call Goths began to intrude on the Roman Empire. According to Michael Kulikowski, in Rome's Gothic Wars, the first "securely attested" Gothic raid took place in A.D. 238, when Goths sacked Histria. In 249 they attacked Marcianople. A year later, under their king Cniva, they sacked several Balkan cities. In 251, Cniva routed Emperor Decius at Abrittus. The raids continued and moved from the Black Sea to the Aegean where the historian Dexippus successfully defended a besieged Athens against them. He later wrote about the Gothic Wars in his Scythica. Although most of Dexippus is lost, the historian Zosimus had access to his historical writing. By the end of the 260s the Roman Empire was winning against the Goths.
Medieval Source on the Goths - Jordanes
The story of the Goths generally begins in Scandinavia, as is told by the historian Jordanes in his The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, chapter 4:

" IV (25) Now from this island of Scandza, as from a hive of races or a womb of nations, the Goths are said to have come forth long ago under their king, Berig by name. As soon as they disembarked from their ships and set foot on the land, they straightway gave their name to the place. And even to-day it is said to be called Gothiscandza. (26) Soon they moved from here to the abodes of the Ulmerugi, who then dwelt on the shores of Ocean, where they pitched camp, joined battle with them and drove them from their homes. Then they subdued their neighbors, the Vandals, and thus added to their victories. But when the number of the people increased greatly and Filimer, son of Gadaric, reigned as king--about the fifth since Berig--he decided that the army of the Goths with their families should move from that region. (27) In search of suitable homes and pleasant places they came to the land of Scythia, called Oium in that tongue. Here they were delighted with the great richness of the country, and it is said that when half the army had been brought over, the bridge whereby they had crossed the river fell in utter ruin, nor could anyone thereafter pass to or fro. For the place is said to be surrounded by quaking bogs and an encircling abyss, so that by this double obstacle nature has made it inaccessible. And even to-day one may hear in that neighborhood the lowing of cattle and may find traces of men, if we are to believe the stories of travellers, although we must grant that they hear these things from afar."

Germans and Goths
Michael Kulikowsi says the idea that the Goths were associated with the Scandinavians and therefore Germans had great appeal in the 19th century and was supported by the discovery of a linguistic relationship between the languages of the Goths and Germans. The idea that a language relationship implies an ethnic relationship was popular but doesn't bear out in practice. Kulikowski says the only evidence of a Gothic people from before the third century comes from Jordanes, whose word is suspect.
Kulikowski on the Problems of Using Jordanes

Jordanes wrote in the second half of the sixth century. He based his history on the no longer extant writing of a Roman nobleman named Cassiodorus whose work he had been asked to abridge. Jordanes did not have the history in front of him when he wrote, so how much was his own invention can't be ascertained. Much of Jordanes' writing has been rejected as too fanciful, but the Scandinavian origin has been accepted.

Kulikowski points to some of the far-fetched passages in Jordanes' history to say that Jordanes is unreliable. Where his reports are corroborated elsewhere, they can be used, but where there is no supporting evidence, we need other reasons for accepting. In the case of the so-called origins of the Goths, any supporting evidence comes from people using Jordanes as a source.

Kulikowski also objects to using archaeological evidence as support because artifacts moved around and were traded. In addition, archaeologists have based their attribution of Gothic artifacts to Jordanes.

So, if Kulikowski is right, we don't know where the Goths came from or where they were before their third century excursions into the Roman Empire.














Glacier on Mars?

The European Space Agency has released news that they may have found an active glacier on Mars!

Picture of Mars from Mars Express probe showing a possible glacier

This picture shows the possible glacier taken by the Mars Express orbiter. It sure looks like one! It’s located in Deuteronilus Mensae, which is in the moderate northern Martian latitude. The feature has not been confirmed as a glacier, but it does show ridging like a glacier, and there appears to be water ice on the ridges as you’d expect to see on a glacier. Followup observations will be made to see if they can find features of water in the spectrum of the area.

Old glaciers have been found on Mars, but this one may be far younger, only thousands of years old. It’s also not clear that, if this is a glacier, where the water ice is coming from. Some say it wells up from underground, and others say it comes from snow.

This is very cool news. I hope it pans out; once again it shows us that Mars is not just a bright red dot in the sky. It’s a place, a location, a world we can — and do — visit.



http://www.amazon.com/Struggle-for-Vicksburg/dp/B000EM6XDM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1198168389&sr=1-1

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http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx
http://www.amazon.com/Struggle-for-Vicksburg/dp/B000EM6XDM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1198168389&sr=1-1



Sir --

Thank you for your very prompt and informative reply. Might I ask for one clarification (I can read whatever response you have in the magazine if you are so inclined)?

With Vicksburg standing, was the Rebel cross-river (shore to shore) transport of goods -- say salt -- and men almost entirely limited to a small corridor in the shadow of Vicksburg itself, and, assuming so, was such cross-river traffic therefore safe from Union interference? If there was one small corridor, then it would seem that cross-river traffic would have been ended simply by occupying the bank of the river across from the city (although such limited effort would not have resulted in the other benefits you mentioned earlier)?


I'll mention I recall you from the old Wargamer and S&T days. I started wargaming in the mid-70. Life has been such that only in the past year have I again been reading about the American Civil War. Knowing some of your past, I'll ask another question/suggest another possible article:


In my own lay-person's terms, with a few notable(AHEM!) exceptions, Jeb Stuart & Co. had the reputation of providing General Lee very good and timely information and for providing good cavalry screens. Could we read an article about how such scouting and screening was organized? That is, graphs showing -- standard? -- patterns of dispersal, amount of cavalry used to satisfy the missions, how one side would react if it thought it might have been discovered/the other side might react if it stumbled across apparent screening/scouting activity? I would ask more questions but I'm not a horse-person and should leave that up to others. The basic point is: describe in some detail an active cavalry screening (say a movement up/through the Shenandoah "major" or through Maryland or from the Union point of view ) and an active large-scale scouting mission (perhaps that by Buford at the opening of Gettysburg or before Brandy Station or even that relating to a smaller engagement such as the Battle of Corinth (it seems information about the enemy was so much more lacking in the West than in the East despite the presence of cavalry)).

Again, many thanks,


--Lou



On Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at 11:39PM, "Keith Poulter" wrote:
>Louis,
>
> I will try to find space for your letter in the Crossfire column, and print as close to definitive answers as we can. For now, and just for your personal attention, here are my personal responses off the top of my head:
>
>1. There wasn't exactly a "Fort Vicksburg," but the guns of the city could pretty much rule out any Union river movement upstream, as the current was fierce and vessels could only have made slow headway against it, leaving them sitting ducks for a considerable length of time. Daylight movement by anything except an armored vessel would have been suicidal. Downstream movement would also have been hazardous (witness the transports that ran the gauntlet on 22 April, 1863 -- I hope I got that date right, no time to look it up right now. Effectively therefore, movement up and down the Mississippi was blocked -- as a regular supply route -- as long as the Confederates held Vicksburg.
>
>2. It wasn't critical, in the sense that it was not vital for Union goods/supplies/men to move up or down the river. It was, however, politically critical, for the farmers of the Mid-West wanted to be able to ship their product down the river. Economically the importance of this had declined before the war, with the linkage of the Mid-West to the East by railroad (and canal). Nevertheless, the river route still loomed large in the consciousness of those in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.
>
>3. The Confedrates did attempt to interdict the river by placing artillery along the shore, and moving it when threatened. However, the Union riverine vessels and the use of marines and others to land and ravage localities used for such operations -- and the limited effect of such artillery -- rendered this a nuisance, but not more.
>
>4. Yes. There was considerable cross-river traffic (west to east) prior to the siege -- especially important was salt, used to cure meat for the eastern armies. It wasn't the fall of Vicksburg that halted this flow of goods, so much as the presence of the Union navy on the river. Of course, once Vicksburg (and then Port Hudson) fell, the navy presence became that much more effective.
>
>5. I don't know numbers/quantities. However, the loss of salt alone made the supply of meat to the Army of North Virginia more problematic, and this added significantly to Lee's logistical difficulties.
>
>Confederate trans-Mississippi commander Kirby Smith failed to come to the aid of those on the eastern shore, but in any case I think his contribution could not have been very significant. Also, the Union had enough troops west of the Mississippi to confront the Confederates there, so probably any long-term movement of Confederate troops across the river would have unhinged their position west of the river.
>Confederate attacks on Union positions on the western shore of the Mississippi were singularly unsuccessful, viz. Helena, Milliken's Bend.
>
>Louis, as I said, that's just off the top of my head for you. I will consult Terry Winschel, park historian at Vicksburg, to see what he can add (for publication) and how far he agrees with what I have said.
>
>best wishes,
>
>Keith

> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Louis Sheehan
> To: crossfire@northandsouthmagazine.com
> Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 8:11 PM
> Subject: Letter to the Editor
>
>
> I wrote a quick customer review on amazon.com as below. Perhaps your magazine (yes, I subscribe) could answer these questions? --Lou Sheehan
>
>
> Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)
>
>
> A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.
>
> I?ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don?t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.
>
> To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?
>
> Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have ?unrestricted? access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)
>
> What would the effects have been ? and the responses to ? random/sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise ?unrestricted? river?
>
> By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?
>
> Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan
>
>
>
>From: "Louis Sheehan"
>To:
>Date: December 20, 2007 07:23:26 AM PST
>Subject: Fwd: Vicksburg 2
>
>
>>From: "Louis Sheehan"
>>To:
>>Cc:
>>Date: December 20, 2007 07:20:30 AM PST
>>Subject: Vicksburg 2
>>
>>
>>Sir --
>>
>>Thank you for your very prompt and informative reply. Might I ask for one clarification (I can read whatever response you have in the magazine if you are so inclined)?
>>
>>With Vicksburg standing, was the Rebel cross-river (shore to shore) transport of goods -- say salt -- and men almost entirely limited to a small corridor in the shadow of Vicksburg itself, and, assuming so, was such cross-river traffic therefore safe from Union interference? If there was one small corridor, then it would seem that cross-river traffic would have been ended simply by occupying the bank of the river across from the city (although such limited effort would not have resulted in the other benefits you mentioned earlier)?
>>
>>
>>I'll mention I recall you from the old Wargamer and S&T days. I started wargaming in the mid-70. Life has been such that only in the past year have I again been reading about the American Civil War. Knowing some of your past, I'll ask another question/suggest another possible article:
>>
>>
>>In my own lay-person's terms, with a few notable(AHEM!) exceptions, Jeb Stuart & Co. had the reputation of providing General Lee very good and timely information and for providing good cavalry screens. Could we read an article about how such scouting and screening was organized? That is, graphs showing -- standard? -- patterns of dispersal, amount of cavalry used to satisfy the missions, how one side would react if it thought it might have been discovered/the other side might react if it stumbled across apparent screening/scouting activity? I would ask more questions but I'm not a horse-person and should leave that up to others. The basic point is: describe in some detail an active cavalry screening (say a movement up/through the Shenandoah "major" or through Maryland or from the Union point of view ) and an active large-scale scouting mission (perhaps that by Buford at the opening of Gettysburg or before Brandy Station or even that relating to a smaller engagement such as the Battle of Corinth (it seems information about the enemy was so much more lacking in the West than in the East despite the presence of cavalry)).
>>
>>Again, many thanks,
>>
>>
>>--Lou
>>
>>
>>
>>On Wednesday, December 19, 2007, at 11:39PM, "Keith Poulter" wrote:
>>>Louis,
>>>
>>>I will try to find space for your letter in the Crossfire column, and print as close to definitive answers as we can. For now, and just for your personal attention, here are my personal responses off the top of my head:
>>>
>>>1. There wasn't exactly a "Fort Vicksburg," but the guns of the city could pretty much rule out any Union river movement upstream, as the current was fierce and vessels could only have made slow headway against it, leaving them sitting ducks for a considerable length of time. Daylight movement by anything except an armored vessel would have been suicidal. Downstream movement would also have been hazardous (witness the transports that ran the gauntlet on 22 April, 1863 -- I hope I got that date right, no time to look it up right now. Effectively therefore, movement up and down the Mississippi was blocked -- as a regular supply route -- as long as the Confederates held Vicksburg.
>>>
>>>2. It wasn't critical, in the sense that it was not vital for Union goods/supplies/men to move up or down the river. It was, however, politically critical, for the farmers of the Mid-West wanted to be able to ship their product down the river. Economically the importance of this had declined before the war, with the linkage of the Mid-West to the East by railroad (and canal). Nevertheless, the river route still loomed large in the consciousness of those in Illinois, Missouri, Wisconsin, Iowa, etc.
>>>
>>>3. The Confedrates did attempt to interdict the river by placing artillery along the shore, and moving it when threatened. However, the Union riverine vessels and the use of marines and others to land and ravage localities used for such operations -- and the limited effect of such artillery -- rendered this a nuisance, but not more.
>>>
>>>4. Yes. There was considerable cross-river traffic (west to east) prior to the siege -- especially important was salt, used to cure meat for the eastern armies. It wasn't the fall of Vicksburg that halted this flow of goods, so much as the presence of the Union navy on the river. Of course, once Vicksburg (and then Port Hudson) fell, the navy presence became that much more effective.
>>>
>>>5. I don't know numbers/quantities. However, the loss of salt alone made the supply of meat to the Army of North Virginia more problematic, and this added significantly to Lee's logistical difficulties.
>>>
>>>Confederate trans-Mississippi commander Kirby Smith failed to come to the aid of those on the eastern shore, but in any case I think his contribution could not have been very significant. Also, the Union had enough troops west of the Mississippi to confront the Confederates there, so probably any long-term movement of Confederate troops across the river would have unhinged their position west of the river.
>>>Confederate attacks on Union positions on the western shore of the Mississippi were singularly unsuccessful, viz. Helena, Milliken's Bend.
>>>
>>>Louis, as I said, that's just off the top of my head for you. I will consult Terry Winschel, park historian at Vicksburg, to see what he can add (for publication) and how far he agrees with what I have said.
>>>
>>>best wishes,
>>>
>>>Keith
>>> ----- Original Message -----
>>> From: Louis Sheehan
>>> To: crossfire@northandsouthmagazine.com
>>> Sent: Wednesday, December 19, 2007 8:11 PM
>>> Subject: Letter to the Editor
>>>
>>>
>>> I wrote a quick customer review on amazon.com as below. Perhaps your magazine (yes, I subscribe) could answer these questions? --Lou Sheehan
>>>
>>>
>>> Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)
>>>
>>>
>>> A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.
>>>
>>> I?ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don?t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.
>>>
>>> To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?
>>>
>>> Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have ?unrestricted? access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)
>>>
>>> What would the effects have been ? and the responses to ? random/sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise ?unrestricted? river?
>>>
>>> By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?
>>>
>>> Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan
>>>
>>>
>>>
>>
>


>From: "Louis Sheehan"
>To:
>Date: December 19, 2007 08:10:24 PM PST
>Subject: Vicksburg
>
>Sir --
>
>Below is a quick summary I wrote on amazon.com. Perhaps your magazine (yes, I'm a subscriber) could address these questuons?
>
> --Lou Sheehan
>
>
>
>
>
>Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)
>
>
>A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.
>
>I?ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don?t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.
>
>To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?
>
>Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have ?unrestricted? access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)
>
>What would the effects have been ? and the responses to ? random/sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise ?unrestricted? river?
>
>By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?
>
>Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan
>
>
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/member.php?u=18969
http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

>





8888888888



As the need for global communication increases, online translation services are in greater demand. Users are attracted to the breakneck speed at which online translation is done and the price. Those that aren't free are still fairly inexpensive.

New languages have been added to the traditional lists and Arabic, in particular, has been in demand recently. I spent the past few weeks tinkering with four free online services, translating various texts from English to Arabic and vice versa to test their speed and accuracy. I tested Google's Language Tools and services from Applied Language Solutions, WorldLingo Translations and Systran.

Customers who have been waiting for such services to be perfected will find improvements are slow in coming. Overall, I found the Arabic-English translations rife with syntactic and semantic errors -- from the merely too-literal to the laughably bad.

http://louis2j2sheehan.us/page1.aspx

http://louis1j1sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx

http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us



For the purposes of my test, I selected different texts: conversation, news stories, and legal and scientific documents. First, I picked an Associated Press story that started with the sentence: "A wintry storm caked the center of the nation with a thick layer of ice Monday..."

I got a variety of imprecise translations into Arabic (which I'm interpreting below).

Applied Language and WorldLingo offered identical translations, which were slightly better than the other two: "A storm covered the center's storm from the nation with a thick layer snow Monday."

Systran: "A stormy storm covered the center for the mother with a thick layer snow Monday."

Language Tools: "The storm grilled bloc in the middle of the nation with a thick layer of snow Monday."

The translations would have been nearly impossible to understand were I not fluent in both languages. It's worse in Arabic than it seems above. Arabic has masculine and feminine nouns, verbs and adjectives that have to agree in a sentence; otherwise, the sentence makes a native speaker wince.

Next, I processed some longer news stories. Only Language Tools didn't set text limits. WorldLingo and Applied Language each had a 150-word limit. Systran didn't specify a limit, but it rendered only a short part of the text.

Language Tools came out ahead this time. It was the only one to translate the word "Taliban" from Arabic to English contextually correct, as a movement. The other services translated it literally from the Arabic as "two students."

The services were better at translating everyday phrases, but even these sometimes came out missing a word, or were scrambled.

In this category, I again found translations by Google's Language Tools closest to the original texts. Still, there is much room for improvement. Google, for example, translated from Arabic to English the simple question, "Do you speak English?" as "Do they speak English?"

Other services got the pronoun right but botched other parts of the sentence. With the exception of Google, all three services, oddly, attempted to write the Arabic word for "English" in the Roman alphabet (aalaanklyzyh) in the middle of an Arabic sentence.

All the services did a terrible job with metaphors and other figurative uses of the language, whether Arabic or English.

The weakest performance by all the services was the translation of legal and scientific texts. Only Language Tools correctly translated the word "noncompliance" in a legal text, for example. Instead of using the proper word in Arabic, the other services transliterated it phonetically into a meaningless word.

All four services have an interface that is easy to use, with a pull-down menu listing several languages. Each has two text boxes, one for the original language and the other for the desired translation. They also translate entire Web sites, but the translation again tended to be awkwardly verbatim.

Google also has a feature that lets you translate search results free. (It also offers users an option to send in a better translation.) The others require you to become a paid subscriber. English and Arabic results appeared side-by-side.

http://louisjsheehan.blogspot.com/

http://ljsheehan.blogspot.com/

http://louis9j9sheehan.blogspot.com/

http://blogs.ebay.com/mytymouse1
Louis J Sheehan
http://members.greenpeace.org/blog/purposeforporpoise

http://louis-j-sheehan.myblogvoice.com/louis-j-sheehan-1023071-205297.htm

http://louis1j1sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

http://ljsheehan.livejournal.com/18813.html

http://ljsheehan.livejournal.com

And the compression-only technique applies only to adult patients. Children are far more likely to have stopped breathing than to have suffered a sudden cardiac arrest. This means they far more often need mouth-to-mouth resuscitation than adults do.

http://www.doubtaboutwill.org/signatories/name?page=20
http://web.mac.com/lousheehan


I also liked WorldLingo and Applied Language's email-translation feature. After clicking the email button, a window with two text boxes pops up. You enter your name and email address, and the recipient's name and address. When you send the message with WorldLingo, both recipient and sender see the message in both languages. Neither Google nor Systran has this feature.

Systran has a convenient swap button that lets users easily flip the source and target languages. This saves time when going back-and-forth between two languages. The other services have you use pull-down menus. Systran's interface also allows prompt translation of a text as soon as it's pasted in a text box, without the need to click a "translate" button.

Free online translation tools help travelers or those curious about languages, but I found them unreliable for important documents. Use with caution.









fffffffffffffffffffffff






Fran --

They don’t seem to list direct dials on the Berger and Montague website, but I found their general phone number.

Berger & Montague, P.C. | 1622 Locust Street | Philadelphia, PA 19103 | 800-424-6690 | Fax: 215-875-4604

Abbott A. Leban
Berger & Montague PC
Philadelphia, Pa.
http://www.bergermontague.com

Abbott A. Leban joined Berger & Montague P.C., in December 2004 as senior counsel. Leban had been with Grant & Eisenhofer in Wilmington, Del., since 1997. Prior to joining Grant & Eisenhofer, Leban was senior counsel at Blank, Rome, Comisky & McCauley in Philadelphia, where he was a member of the firm's Corporate Department and served a diverse clientele in corporate, fiduciary, employee benefits, tax, and litigation matters.

Leban is a graduate of Columbia College (1955) and Yale Law School (1958). He is a member of the Delaware and New York State Bar Associations, and the American Bar Association. He was an original member of the National Association of Public Pension Attorneys (NAPPA) and served for a time as chair of its Federal Legislation Committee.

Leban began his legal career in Washington, where he clerked in the D.C. Circuit, served as an appellate attorney with the former Civil Aeronautics Board, then as an Assistant U.S. Attorney for D.C. From 1962 to 1965, he was counsel to Senator Kenneth B. Keating of New York.

Starting in 1965, Leban held successive in-house legal and executive positions in the finance, insurance, and real estate sector. At Equitable Life Assurance Society, he served in the investment and government relations divisions of its Law Department and later as Counsel for Federal Relations. He subsequently joined the Colonial Penn Insurance Group, beginning as President/COO of Intramerica Life Insurance Company, its New York-based life/health insurance subsidiary. He moved to the parent company in Philadelphia in 1972 as senior vice president in charge of the legal, public relations, personnel, and home office administration departments, as well as serving as corporate secretary. From the effective date of ERISA, he was also chairman of the boards of trustees for Colonial Penn's retirement and profit-sharing plans. Leban left Colonial Penn in the 1980s to become part of the founding management of American Homestead Mortgage Corp., a mortgage banking firm that was the commercial pioneer in marketing and underwriting reverse mortgages for senior citizens.

From 1987 to 1991, Leban served as chief counsel of the three Pennsylvania Retirement Systems for public employees, with then combined assets of over $20 billion. He was responsible for significant initiatives on the part of the state and public school pension funds in corporate governance and shareholder rights matters and received national recognition for his representation of the school fund as an ex officio member of the official Equity Committee in the Chapter 11 proceedings of Texaco, Inc.

Leban has many articles to his credit, including "Not A Dime's Worth of Difference: When 'Withhold Authority' Means 'No,'" M&A Lawyer (Apr. 2001). Among his other recent publications, he co-authored, with Jay Eisenhofer, the series of articles in the Corporate Governance Advisor on "One Easy Step to Reform: Institutional Investors Must Wake Up" (July/Aug. 1995);"Securities Litigation and the Institutional Investor: An Assessment" (Mar./Apr. 1998); and "The Lead Plaintiff Provision: Does It Work?" (May/June 1999); and, most recently, on "Ceding Ground to Insiders: The Renunciation of Corporate Opportunities Under Delaware Law (Mar.-Apr. 2001).

Leban is a member of BNA's Pension & Benefits Advisory Board.


WASHINGTON -- Two weeks before the Iowa caucus, the race for president, while tightening among Democrats, is wide open on the Republican side, highlighting the unusual fluidity of the first campaign for the White House in over a half- century that doesn't include an incumbent president or vice president.

A new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll shows that Rudy Giuliani has lost his national lead in the Republican field after a flurry of negative publicity about his personal and business activities, setting the stage for what could be the party's most competitive nomination fight in decades.


After holding a double-digit advantage over his nearest rivals just six weeks ago, the former New York City mayor now is tied nationally with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney at 20% among Republicans, just slightly ahead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee at 17% and Arizona Sen. John McCain at 14%. Other polls show Mr. Giuliani's lead shrinking in Florida, one of the states he has based his strategy around.

With the poll's margin of error of plus-or-minus 3.1 percentage points, that puts Mr. Huckabee, who had only single-digit support in the previous poll in early November, within striking distance of the leaders. Mr. Romney's national support has also nearly doubled since then.

At the same time, Mr. Romney has fallen behind Mr. Huckabee in the leadoff nominating contest in Iowa. The results signal a dramatic shift in the nature of the Republican contest: In a party with a history of rewarding established front-runners, there's no longer a front-runner of any kind.

"There is no hierarchy," said Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC survey with Republican counterpart Bill McInturff. "There is no establishment candidate. The Republican voters are searching."


9999999999


Struggle for Vicksburg (DVD Video)


A workmanlike presentation of some of the very basic facts of the Siege. To my disappointment, no re-enactors were used.

I’ve yet to across a source that answers these questions that follow, so I don’t want to imply my asking them suggests unique faults with this movie.

To what extent could the Fort of Vicksburg inhibit Union supply river traffic upstream and downstream (i.e., completely? 30% 70?)?

Realizing rivers were relatively efficient ways to transport supplies (vis-à-vis wagons and mules albeit I am not as certain as to the relative merits between the use of rivers and railroads), how critical was it to have “unrestricted” access to the ENTIRE river? (Recall, New Orleans was in Union hands.)

What would the effects have been – and the responses to – random/sporadic/varying placements of Rebel cannon along the long shoreline of the otherwise “unrestricted” river?

By only holding a non-besieged Vicksburg, did that allow the Rebels to effectively transfer supplies and troops across the Misssissippi from West to East?

Beginning in the summer of 1863, how much material and how many troops were effectively contained in the Western Confederacy and prohibited from moving East? Assuming any, how much of a difference might they have made and how? Louis J Sheehan
http://forums.searchenginewatch.com/member.php?u=18969
http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

http://www.amazon.com/Struggle-for-Vicksburg/dp/B000EM6XDM/ref=pd_bbs_sr_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1198124012&sr=1-1



333333






Louis J Sheehan Final exams are over (they went well) and now I’m doing things that piled up – were delayed – while I was preparing for Finals.
I’m feeling tired and sluggush, but ironically I think that is because I HAVEN’T been exercising; in a very short time exercising seems to actually create more energy than it uses!


Here is a little slice of life story –

I have very large front-loading washers and dryers (because of the dogs) in a wash closet (a standard American arrangement).

The other day I pulled some clothes out of the dryer and stacked them on top of the dryer. Then I accidently knocked off some of the clothes into the space behind the dryer (there is a little space between the washer/dryer and the wall behind them). The small open area behind the washer & dryer is not easily accessed.

I climbed on top of the dryer to use broom sticks (a la oriental chop-sticks) to retrieve the clothes. In my effort, I accidently knocked off the loosely affixed connection between the dryer and the outdoor vent (the vent is to funnel the humid heat and the bits of cloth that come loose in the dryer).


Yes, yes, one goof-up after another. My personality is normally to stay on top of things and, in a situation like this, to fix things back to where they were right away. But I had finals so I put the recovery off for a few days.

A few days later I pulled the dryer out enough to get behind it … but that was too far to allow me to reconnect the vent. While I was back there I became aware of years’ worth of accumulated dust.

I climbed back out and pushed the dryer about halfway back and then moved to pull out the washer to allow me to finish the job. In grabbing the washer, I accidently pushed a button that started the longest possible washing cycle – 2 hours, 45 minutes. So I had to wait.

After the washer had finished washing nothing, I was able to crawl back there, clean out the mountains of dust, more securely affix the vent than it had been before, and retrieve the two socks that had fallen behind the dryer.

Life is like that: sometimes little mistakes are made which require extra effort yet from which one can benefit. I’m also happy to report that I am becoming ever more patient with age.




http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx










444444444

Louis J Sheehan Industrial black carbon—–particularly in the period around 1900—left a dirty, harmful human smudge on the Arctic, researchers say.

Black carbon absorbs a wide spectrum of light radiation, so a little soot retains a lot of heat. “Even the tiniest amount of black carbon will change quite dramatically the reflectance properties of the snow,” says Joe McConnell of the Desert Research Institute in Reno, Nevada. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
“That means that the snow will absorb more energy and therefore melt faster.” If the snow melts early, he adds, the ground below it is even less reflective, heating the surroundings still more.
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx


Studying ice cores from central Greenland, McConnell and his colleagues measured black carbon levels from 1788 to 2002. At their peak, in 1908, the concentrations were 10 times their preindustrial levels, the researchers reported in September. Concentrations of two other chemicals in the ice cores, vanillic acid (a chemical formed when conifer forests burn) and non–sea salt sulfur (a primary component in acid rain), helped distinguish between soot from natural sources and that from industrial pollution. Forest fires produced much of the Arctic soot before 1850, but between the late 1880s and 1950, industrial black carbon pollution predominated.
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http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
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It is a rare researcher who can fundamentally change our picture of our place in the universe. In the 16th century, Nicolaus Copernicus did it by arguing that Earth is just one planet among many revolving around the sun; in 1924, Edwin Hubble did it by showing that our galaxy is just one among many. Louis J Sheehan This year DISCOVER honors David Charbonneau, a Harvard University astronomer whose research could soon lead to an equally stunning revelation: By studying alien worlds, he may find the first direct evidence of life beyond Earth, a sign that our living planet is—yet again—one among many.
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Astronomers currently know of roughly 200 planets circling nearby stars, and more and more of these so-called exoplanets are discovered every year. Most of the newfound bodies are so strange that scientists have had to coin new terms, like “hot Jupiters” and “super-Earths,” to describe them. Playing the celestial detective, Charbonneau has systematically gone about investigating these impossible planets and uncovering their secrets. In 1999, he led the team that made the first observation of a transiting exoplanet—one that passes directly between its parent star and Earth. By examining how the planet blocks out some of the light from its star, Charbonneau can see what gases are present in the planet’s atmosphere. In 2001, Charbonneau and astronomer Tim Brown of the High Altitude Observatory in Boulder, Colorado, used this technique to “sniff” the atmosphere of a huge, broiling planet called HD 209458b, even though it is 150 light-years away—4 billion times as distant as the moon. Just a few months ago, Charbonneau’s team at Harvard made another breakthrough and created the first weather map of an exosolar planet. The forecast: hot and windy, same as yesterday, same as tomorrow.

Charbonneau’s personal journey to becoming a planet hunter began with his desire to be a marine biologist. Born to a physician and a geologist, Charbonneau was no stranger to science. As a teenager growing up in Ontario, he visited the tide pools at the Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia during a family vacation and witnessed firsthand the wild diversity of life at the border of the sand and the sea. His dedication to biology gave way to a passion for physics when he encountered special relativity, quantum mechanics, and Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. Theoretical physics then led him to astronomy, a passion that now colors every part of his life (his daughters are named Stella and Aurora). http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us


For his next act, the 33-year-old Charbonneau wants to move beyond the exotic and bizarre planets he has studied so far. Now he is looking for something far more familiar: a smallish rocky planet with an atmosphere that bears the chemical imprint of life, like the abundant (and otherwise inexplicable) oxygen that plants pump into our own air. Charbonneau hopes to refine the transit technique so that even the faint wisps of an Earth-size planet’s atmosphere can soon be detected and analyzed. If he spots the signature of alien biology on such a world, we will know that we are not alone in the universe. If he fails, it will strongly support the idea that we are truly unique. That is why David Charbonneau is DISCOVER’s Scientist of the Year.

You were one of the first people to use the transit method to study exoplanets, and suddenly that technique is really taking off. Why now?
Why it’s suddenly working may have two factors. One, the astronomical community has slowly figured out how to get very good data on tens of thousands of stars, night after night after night. We’ve also gotten very good at understanding most of the little winks and blips in our data. The other answer is the same reason as “why the four-minute mile?” Why didn’t people run a four-minute mile before 1954? There was this perception that it was extremely difficult and perhaps couldn’t be done. Most astronomers thought that most solar systems looked like our own. That meant that the planets that were big enough, the ones that blocked enough of the light, were far from their stars. That meant that they would only transit once every few years instead of once every few days. The probability of a transit was very small with this model. No one was looking because we had entrenched ideas.

What are some of the planets that you’ve studied like? How strange are they?
189733b orbits a K dwarf, a smaller, redder star than the sun. Basically, its star is more of a lightweight compared to the sun, so it’s a bigger planet orbiting a smaller star. With 189733b, the excitement is that it’s the first planet that we really have a feeling for what it looks like. We actually have a weather map. It’s the first planet that I have a mental map of in my head because we’ve actually measured, to some degree, the physical map. We know where the hot and cold areas are, and so on. The nightside of the planet is actually quite hot. It didn’t have to be the case—it could have been that these planets were very, very hot on the dayside and very cold on the nightside, but apparently there are these very strong winds that can move energy around to the cold side, so the nightside on those planets is really quite hot. In a sense, that planet feels the closest because we have this image of it.

TrES-4 is a newcomer on the scene. What we know about it is that it is extremely low density. I think TrES-4 is really going to be difficult to explain—it really pushes the laws of physics to try to understand how it can maintain such a low density when it should want to contract under its own gravity.

HD 209458b is very hot. It’s tucked in very close to its star; it orbits its star every three and a half days. Its temperature is probably about 1400 degrees Kelvin! It’s very puffy, so it’s very low density, which means that given its mass—which is less than that of Jupiter—its diameter is bigger than we expect, and so the puffiness of this planet is actually still somewhat of a puzzle. Its star is rather like the sun, maybe a little bit hotter. Basically, its star is a twin of the sun, so that’s why it’s intriguing, because the star is similar to the sun in terms of its age and its mass, and yet the planets around it are obviously so much different from the planets of our own solar system.

If we find life on other planets, we’ll want to know whether the basic forces of evolution and biology are universal.

Does that mean that our solar system is exceptional?
We don’t know the answer yet. We don’t have any clue about systems with terrestrial [Earth-like] planets because no one has yet looked with enough precision to find them. What we have learned is that the diversity of exoplanet systems is immense. The basic architecture of our solar system, where things go in circles, and there are small rocky planets close to the sun and big massive gas giants far from the sun, is certainly not the only architecture. It may not even be the most common architecture. There are many ways to make a planetary system, so, for example, the planets could be on eccentric orbits, or you could have the most massive planets right up next to the star, even closer than Mercury, and those might even be more common.
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The Jupiter-size planet HE 189733b transits in front of its star in this artist's impression. Analysis of light from the planet has revealed evidence of water vapor in its atmosphere.
Image courtesy of Courtesy NASA/JPL-Caltech

What’s it like to be the first person to see an exoplanet?
You know, the discovery moment now in astronomy isn’t at the telescope looking through the eyepiece but at a computer screen when you’re analyzing that data. But there is still that moment where you make that first plot, and you look at it—and right there, no question, there is the signal. The first time that we measured the actual emitted light from these planets, or the first time that we detected that one of them had an atmosphere, those were very unambiguous signals. And the first time you see that, that’s the most rewarding moment in science.

You’re now working on the MEarth project, which is going to look for Earth-size planets orbiting close to “M dwarfs,” which are small, dim stars. How long until it’s up and running, and how long until it gives its first results?
The project (pdf) is being built now in southern Arizona, and we hope to have two telescopes working in October and then six more by January, so we hope to start the survey early in 2008, and the nominal survey will take three years. Our telescopes are pretty humble by astronomy standards. The telescopes are 16-inch telescopes—tiny compared to what we often use for our research, telescopes that are 10 meters [about 400 inches] in size. But I think that it’s not unrealistic that someone will make the first detection of a transiting planet in the habitable zone of its star in the next couple of years.

Suppose you find a planet the size of Earth. How do you then look for life?
We are very biased by having grown up here on Earth, but there’s a huge challenge in asking yourself the question, “What different forms might life take?” It would be so difficult to recognize life if it were very different chemically from life on Earth. The easier question is to look for life that is very similar to life on Earth. That’s probably going to be our first step. When we talk about life on other planets, we’re talking about life as we know it.

The first measurement is to determine that the planet has an atmosphere. You need a thick atmosphere for life as we know it. Then the trick is to examine the atmosphere spectroscopically for the presence of certain molecules. If we look at the spectrum of Earth, we see there’s a lot of oxygen. All of that oxygen is driven by biological activity. The only way Earth’s atmosphere has this large quantity of oxygen, especially in the presence of methane and other things that would like to react with oxygen, is that there’s this driver, which is life, which through photosynthesis supports this equilibrium. We look to see if life has done things to that distant atmosphere that we know it did to the atmosphere here on Earth—that’s a nice remote-sensing approach; it doesn’t require any assumptions about the life, like that it wants to communicate with us or anything fancy like that.
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If you stepped back from the solar system and you took a spectrum of Earth and Mars and Venus, you would see that there’s something really special about Earth. The atmospheres of Venus and Mars have mostly carbon dioxide, which is not a good molecule for life. However, if you don’t see those [Earth-like] signals, you can’t conclude that there isn’t life, because the life may be completely different; it may proceed in some chemical pathway that we might mistake for nonbiotic processes, for geologic processes.

How do you think people will be affected if we discover that there is another living world out there?
Philosophically, if it were the case that the galaxy is full of habitable planets, and perhaps even other civilizations, I think that people would think of themselves quite differently. Or to know that Earth was truly unique in that it was the only habitable planet would affect how many people view their place in the universe. When I went to school, there weren’t planets around the stars—they were there, of course, but nobody had ever detected them. My daughters will grow up in a world where there were always planets around the stars. They’ll learn in school that of course there are planets around the stars—hundreds of them. By the time they go to school, even a few years from now, there may be a thousand. And maybe even by the time they’re in a university, and hopefully before then, it’ll just be a fact that there is life on some of those planets. There will be this amazing change, and they’ll have just grown up in this world where that was always the case.

What are we learning about our own lives on Earth as we look at these distant planets?
Well, I think there is certainly a very clear answer to that if we look ahead. If we find life on other planets, what we want to know is whether the basic forces of evolution and biology are universal. You kind of wonder about how life started on Earth. Maybe it’s the case that you just have to cook up a planet with roughly the right properties and life is unavoidable—life will just spontaneously get going on any such planet, and that it’s a very universal process. Or maybe that’s a really rare process. Maybe it’s not enough to have all the right conditions. Even if you have those right conditions, it’s still one in a billion. So I think it really is something that is very close to home. http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx


Has there been any specific new research triggered by these studies of planets around other stars?
We want to understand a lot of the molecules that we look at in planets around other stars. Those molecules are the exact same molecules as here on Earth, but we now want to see them under very different conditions, very high temperatures and pressures. And so we have to go and study them here on Earth. We’ve been learning a lot about the spectral signatures of water and methane, motivated by these exoplanet studies. Those molecules are crucial to us here on Earth. You’d think we would know everything there is to know about water, but that’s not true.

Did you ever worry that you wouldn’t find anything when you began searching for planets?
I was very nervous at the time that we wouldn’t find any of these planets, or that it wouldn’t turn into a very rich field. It’s given me a great sense of delight to see that those risks were rewarded many times beyond my expectations. But it’s only with accepting a level of risk that there’s the possibility of a truly novel discovery. If you do a very conservative project that you know will be productive, in the sense that it’s going to yield some results, there’s a limit on what is the most exciting thing that could happen within that project. If that thing isn’t something that would really keep you up at night, then why are you going through the motions?

How has planet hunting changed since you started?
Maybe 10, certainly 20, years ago—if you talked about looking for life on other planets, then you were kind of nutty, right? It was probably a very dangerous thing to do if you were a junior faculty who might be looking for tenure, let’s say. And that’s completely changed—I think now there’s this huge sense that we are really going to make this work, and we’re going to figure out how to actually study the atmospheres of these planets that we’re detecting and look for the chemical signatures of biological activity. So that has gone from being a kind of crazy scientific idea that could never be tested to something that’s really at the heart of the big funding agencies, in particular NASA.

Why search for distant planets when there’s still so much we don’t know about our own Earth?
Look back through history and you can find writings from the Greeks that talk about life on planets orbiting other stars. I think there’s been this abiding human question about whether we are alone in the universe. And I think that strikes at the very soul of humanity—of how we picture ourselves in the cosmos. We’ve learned in the last hundred years of the incredible physical size and age of the universe. And now the question is, as it has always been, are we truly alone? And I think that everybody is willing to put in a little bit of money to actually get at the answer to that question.
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Has there been any specific new research triggered by these studies of planets around other stars?
We want to understand a lot of the molecules that we look at in planets around other stars. Those molecules are the exact same molecules as here on Earth, but we now want to see them under very different conditions, very high temperatures and pressures. And so we have to go and study them here on Earth. We’ve been learning a lot about the spectral signatures of water and methane, motivated by these exoplanet studies. Those molecules are crucial to us here on Earth. You’d think we would know everything there is to know about water, but that’s not true.

Did you ever worry that you wouldn’t find anything when you began searching for planets?
I was very nervous at the time that we wouldn’t find any of these planets, or that it wouldn’t turn into a very rich field. It’s given me a great sense of delight to see that those risks were rewarded many times beyond my expectations. But it’s only with accepting a level of risk that there’s the possibility of a truly novel discovery. If you do a very conservative project that you know will be productive, in the sense that it’s going to yield some results, there’s a limit on what is the most exciting thing that could happen within that project. If that thing isn’t something that would really keep you up at night, then why are you going through the motions?

How has planet hunting changed since you started?
Maybe 10, certainly 20, years ago—if you talked about looking for life on other planets, then you were kind of nutty, right? It was probably a very dangerous thing to do if you were a junior faculty who might be looking for tenure, let’s say. And that’s completely changed—I think now there’s this huge sense that we are really going to make this work, and we’re going to figure out how to actually study the atmospheres of these planets that we’re detecting and look for the chemical signatures of biological activity. So that has gone from being a kind of crazy scientific idea that could never be tested to something that’s really at the heart of the big funding agencies, in particular NASA.

Why search for distant planets when there’s still so much we don’t know about our own Earth?
Look back through history and you can find writings from the Greeks that talk about life on planets orbiting other stars. I think there’s been this abiding human question about whether we are alone in the universe. And I think that strikes at the very soul of humanity—of how we picture ourselves in the cosmos. We’ve learned in the last hundred years of the incredible physical size and age of the universe. And now the question is, as it has always been, are we truly alone? And I think that everybody is willing to put in a little bit of money to actually get at the answer to that question.
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The cellphones that so many of us carry around in our pockets every day are packed with functionality. They can be used for Web browsing, watching TV, purchasing digital music, gaming, Bluetooth synching, capturing photos and videos, instant messaging and GPS navigation. Oh, and they also make phone calls.

It seems that this last attribute -- the ability to make and receive calls on a cellphone -- is overlooked and underestimated by many manufacturers. But believe it or not, there are plenty of people out there who simply want to use their cellphones for calls, period.

These individuals range from college students who frequently damage or lose their phones to wary, first-time buyers to senior citizens whose kids or grandchildren insist they use a cellphone. About a year ago, GreatCall Inc. introduced its Jitterbug cellphones, which were aimed squarely at the senior set with large keys, a free operator service and the phone's own number prominently displayed on a sticker.

It seems that GreatCall was on to something. Verizon Wireless recently followed the company's lead by introducing its straightforward, no frills Coupe, a cellphone that offers many of the helpful traits found on Jitterbug phones, like large screen fonts, but without a lot of extras. Verizon simultaneously unveiled two calling plans designed specifically for seniors, and was followed a month later by AT&T and its own monthly plan for those 65 and over. AT&T also has an uncomplicated phone of its own in the works for 2008.

This week I tested Verizon's $40 (with a two-year contract) Coupe (www.verizonwireless.com1) against GreatCall's $147 Jitterbug Dial (www.jitterbug.com2) to see how the two stacked up. I found the Jitterbug more comfortable to use for longer phone calls because of its cushiony earpiece, which blocks out external sound and helps the phone rest easier between your shoulder and ear during conversations. And Jitterbug's mantra of simplicity will appeal to cellphone newcomers.

But for those who have been using cellphones and are familiar with the way they work, Jitterbug's nonconformist features -- like Yes and No buttons in place of Send and End and the use of a dial tone whenever the clamshell-shaped phone is opened -- can come across as too basic, to the point that they're confusing. One example: many standard cellphones redial the last number called when the Send button is pressed twice, but redialing on the Jitterbug requires navigating through five screens to redial the last number.

The Coupe is the smaller of the two and blends in with other cellphones. It includes a few of the extra functions found in normal mobile phones, like an alarm clock, calculator and the capability to send and receive text messages; perhaps most people who buy the Coupe won't use it for texting, but it's nice to have the built-in option. (The Jitterbug doesn't have any of these features.) Right now, this cellphone only comes in shiny black with a blue border around its outside display screen. An included charging cradle adds a touch of convenience.

The Coupe also has some fun features that give it a more personal touch, including a choice of 24 ringtones and 10 wallpaper designs for the main screen's background. After seeing low-grade camera lenses on nearly every digital device that I've picked up recently, the Coupe looked a little naked without one.

Three red buttons labeled I, C and E (for In Case of Emergency) are positioned just below the phone's screen and can be assigned names and numbers to work as shortcuts to those most often called. A specially marked "911" button on the phone's keypad is designated specifically for emergencies, though this must be held down to use and, even then, asks if the caller definitely intended to call 911.

A speaker button is also clearly labeled on the Coupe's keypad, and pronounced volume adjustment keys line the phone's side. On-screen fonts appear larger than those found on regular cellphones.

Verizon's well-known network is sure to be a draw for potential buyers, especially because any plan used with the Coupe includes free calls to other Verizon Wireless users. Though any of this carrier's plans work with this basic phone, the Nationwide 65 Plus plan made its debut with the Coupe in hopes of appealing to those ages 65 and up. A single-line plan allows 200 anytime minutes and 500 night and weekend minutes for $30 monthly; the two-line plan offers roughly double the minutes (to be shared) for double the price. These plans aren't exclusively usable with the Coupe.

GreatCall's Jitterbug comes in two $147 models: the Dial, with a numeric keypad and the OneTouch, with just three large buttons labeled Operator, Tow and 911. I've tested both in the past, but this time around I looked at the Dial because it's most comparable to Verizon's Coupe.

The Jitterbug Dial phone comes in black or white, and its buttons and all of its on-screen lettering appear considerably larger than the Verizon Coupe's. Its number keys glow bright white and are encircled by yellow borders, while the Coupe's digital keypad is black with glowing blue numbers -- colors that aren't as distinctive. Unlike the Coupe, Jitterbug doesn't come with a charging cradle, though GreatCall has plans for adding cradles in 2008.

A free operator service can be reached from Jitterbug phones by pressing "0." This operator greets users by name, places calls on the user's phone (saving you the trouble of dialing) and can add numbers to a phone's contact list if a user doesn't want to or can't do this.

The Jitterbug can be pre-programmed with names and numbers; I ordered mine with five pre-programmed numbers, a luxury that nervous new cellphone owners might find worthwhile. Things get difficult when you try to enter your contacts. Even though each number key has three or four letters assigned to its key as on all phones, adding a contact involves using Jitterbug's clumsy system of choosing one letter at a time from the screen. You're better off using the free operator service for this.

Jitterbug phones let users store only 50 contact names and numbers, while Verizon's Coupe will store 500. Many first-time cellphone owners will be content with 50, but, again, options are good.

The Jitterbug and Coupe each have small screens on their outer shells that display the time, date and phone numbers of incoming calls. But the Coupe displays its remaining battery power both on this outer screen and inside on its main screen, while the Jitterbug only flashes battery status on the screen if the battery reaches a certain low level, or if you navigate to a special "Phone Info" screen.
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Behind the scenes, GreatCall's Jitterbug phones run using networks set up by other carriers; I never had any trouble dialing out or receiving calls. A variety of calling plans can be used with Jitterbug phones ranging from $10 monthly for pay-as-you-go at 35 cents a minute to $80 monthly for 800 minutes. Add-on packages of minutes and sharing plans are also available.

If you're familiar with cellphones, the Jitterbug will be a confusing step back for you, even though its free operator service and comfortable earpiece are pluses. Some people will prefer the Jitterbug's larger fonts and number keys to the Verizon Coupe's smaller, more stylish build. Still, the Coupe is a good option for people who have at least some familiarity with technology and cellphones. Each in its own way does a good job of sticking to the basic task of handling phone calls.








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For people who find it difficult to concentrate at work, some scientists suggest the problem is too few distractions, not too many, New Scientist reports.

Scientists used to think that the act of concentrating itself might screen out distractions. But researchers such as Nilli Lavie at University College London believe that making a deliberate effort to concentrate isn’t enough to filter out irrelevant information. Instead, the brain becomes more engaged in tasks as the visual demands of the problem increase and effectively block additional stimuli. In practical terms, the research could be used to improve children’s textbooks, or to add textured backgrounds or moving images to enhance dull slide presentations.

Not everyone is persuaded by the theory. John Duncan, an attention researcher at the University of Cambridge, says that different areas of the brain that involve hearing or physical cues such as hunger also play a role in concentration that go well beyond visual perception.
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WASHINGTON — At least four top White House lawyers took part in discussions with the Central Intelligence Agency between 2003 and 2005 about whether to destroy videotapes showing the secret interrogations of two operatives from Al Qaeda, according to current and former administration and intelligence officials.

The accounts indicate that the involvement of White House officials in the discussions before the destruction of the tapes in November 2005 was more extensive than Bush administration officials have acknowledged.

Those who took part, the officials said, included Alberto R. Gonzales, who served as White House counsel until early 2005; David S. Addington, who was the counsel to Vice President Dick Cheney and is now his chief of staff; John B. Bellinger III, who until January 2005 was the senior lawyer at the National Security Council; and Harriet E. Miers, who succeeded Mr. Gonzales as White House counsel.

It was previously reported that some administration officials had advised against destroying the tapes, but the emerging picture of White House involvement is more complex. In interviews, several administration and intelligence officials provided conflicting accounts as to whether anyone at the White House expressed support for the idea that the tapes should be destroyed.
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In June, biologists at the J. Craig Venter Institute announced that they had successfully transplanted the genome of one species of bacteria into another bacterial species. “This was the ultimate in identity theft,” says Venter, a biologist well known for his private-sector contribution to the sequencing of the human genome. “The chromosome [genome] that we put in took over the cell completely, and any characteristics of the original species were lost.”
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The transplant team took several steps to be sure the transfer was complete. First, they added two genes to the donor species’ chromosome: one that made the cells resistant to the antibiotic tetracycline and one that made them turn blue. By dosing all the post-transplant bacteria with tetracycline and looking for blue colonies, the scientists could identify which cells had the donor DNA.
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Next, they tested all the blue, tetracycline-resistant bacteria for any traces of the recipient species’ genome. When they found none, they knew the bacteria must contain only the donor species’ genome. Finally, they found that all the proteins manufactured by the new bacteria were characteristic of the donor species.
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This is a critical advance in Venter’s quest—which he has been pursuing for a decade—to create a fully synthetic life-form. Now, he says, it could be just a matter of months before a living cell stocked with a synthetic genome becomes a reality.
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Throughout 2007 in Australia, the evening news announced the levels of the nation’s reservoirs, billboards posted water consumption statistics, and the public fretted over reports of a strained economy. What is said to be the country’s worst drought in a millennium continues for a seventh year, driving drinking-water reserves to record lows across the country. Environmental experts warn that Australia’s plight should be making the whole world thirsty: As global warming continues, many nations around the world may have to adapt to less water.

Last April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that water shortages will intensify in Australia, as well as across Africa, China and other areas of Asia, parts of Europe, and the United States. Lack of water may affect 3.2 billion people by 2100.

In response, desalination plants for Australia’s major cities are either under construction or planned. Conservation incentives and industrial water recycling programs are also helping reduce demand.

“Australia is the canary in the coal mine when it comes to the impact of climate change on water resources,” says Ross Young, executive director of the Water Services Association of Australia. “Many people thought there would be adequate time to adapt to less water. The lesson from Australia is that the shift has been very dramatic and has occurred in a very short period.
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December 17, 2007, 1:42 pm
What the Internet Knows About You
Posted by Ben Worthen

We often wonder why there isn’t more outrage when companies announce they’ve lost data about customers or employees. Here’s part of the answer: Most Americans don’t care what information about them is publicly available. HTTP://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US
That doesn’t mean Americans aren’t curious what the Internet knows about them. A new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, a non-profit organization which tracks the Internet’s impact on society, found that 47% of Americans say they’ve searched the Internet for information about themselves on the search engine Google, up from 22% in 2002. (While less than half of Americans say they’ve Googled themselves, 72% have looked for information about other people.) Sixty percent of these searches returned information.
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Thirty-five percent of people who use the Internet say that their home addresses and the name of the company they work for are available for anyone to see online. Other information available online includes email addresses (32%), phone numbers (30%), things they’ve written (24%) and photographs (23%). Eighty-seven percent of searchers say the information they find is accurate. Twenty-one percent are surprised about how much information is available. HTTP://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US


So people are waking up to the fact that this information is out there and that it’s next to impossible to control. But most aren’t concerned: Pew says that 60% of the people who took its survey aren’t worried about the information about them available online. Of those who do care, only 54% have taken steps to limit the information about themselves that’s available.

Why aren’t people concerned? Our guess is that it’s evolutionary. Five years ago, as the study shows, people didn’t even think to look what information might be available about themselves online – heck, only half the population does now. Outrage will rise in proportion to the number of people who find things they don’t like.
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Louis J Sheehan The matter that makes up everything we can see or touch, either on Earth or beyond, is exceedingly rare, cosmically speaking. Most of the material in the universe is something called dark matter, mysterious stuff that doesn’t emit or reflect light and doesn’t interact with what we think of as ordinary matter. It reveals its presence only by its gravitational effects, guiding the evolution of the early universe and still affecting the motion of galaxies. Earth-based experiments have attempted to detect dark matter particles, but so far they have drawn a blank.

Astronomers, however, have had a better year, continuing to find evidence of the crucial role dark matter plays in shaping the visible cosmos. Thanks to about a thousand hours of observation by the Hubble Space Telescope, scientists have compiled a dark matter map of a tiny slice of the sky, about two square degrees of the entire sky’s 40,000-square-degree span. The map, which was published in the journal Nature last January, confirmed a central prediction of modern astrophysics: Galaxies formed in, and remain bound to, enormous clouds of dark matter.

In the early universe, astronomers believe, dark matter provided the gravitational scaffolding on which ordinary matter coalesced and grew into galaxies. According to these dark matter theories, as the visible galaxies formed, some of the matter surrounding them should have clumped together into hundreds of small satellite galaxies, most of which should survive today. But the observed number of satellite galaxies is only a fraction of what the theory predicts. “We should see about a hundred to a thousand, but up to 2005, there were only 12,” says Marla Geha, an astrophysicist at Yale University. Astronomers call it the missing satellite problem. HTTP://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US


Louis J Sheehan Astronomers had speculated that the existence of small, dark matter–dominated satellite galaxies might solve the problem, but there was no evidence that any such galaxies existed.

Last spring, Geha and Josh Simon, a colleague at Caltech, used the 10-meter Keck II telescope on Hawaii’s Mauna Kea to study the mass of eight newly discovered satellite galaxies, detected over the last two years by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, an ongoing effort to make a detailed map of a million galaxies and quasars. Geha and Simon found that these satellite galaxies were much fainter and smaller in mass than the other known satellites—and 99 percent of their mass was in the form of dark matter. Given that the galaxies found by Geha and Simon have such high concentrations of dark matter, it’s likely that many other satellite galaxies could be 100 percent dark matter.

“We expect some to be undetectable, with no stars or gas,” says Geha. “There are indirect ways of finding the dark matter satellites, but it will take more work.”

Some astrophysicists believe that dark matter particles may occasionally annihilate each other, producing bursts of high-energy gamma rays. If the Milky Way has dark matter satellites, and if they do emit gamma rays, the Gamma-Ray Large Area Space Telescope, scheduled for launch in February, might detect them.

Dark matter may also be responsible for creating the most awesome objects in the universe: the enormous black holes believed to lurk in the center of nearly every large galaxy. Tom Theuns and Liang Gao, astronomers at Durham University in England, used a computer model last year to study how two types of dark matter, known as warm and cold, may have influenced the formation of the very first stars in the universe—and the first giant black holes. HTTP://LOUIS-J-SHEEHAN.US


Louis J Sheehan In their simulations, Gao and Theuns found that within clumps of cold dark matter, single massive stars formed, but warm dark matter formed filaments about a quarter the width of the Milky Way, attracting enough ordinary matter to create some 10 million stars—and some of these very first stars could still be around. “You could potentially form low-mass stars,” says Theuns. “And they live very much longer. They could live for 13 billion years and could be in the Milky Way today. Maybe we’ve seen them already. Who knows?”

But the most unexpected result of the model was that the filaments could catastrophically collapse, warping space-time to form a huge black hole.

The model suggested that collapsing dark matter could warp space-time to form a huge black hole.

“Even if only 1 percent of the mass in a filament takes part in the collapse, that’s already 100,000 times the mass of the sun, a very good start to making one of these supermassive black holes,” Theuns says. “We know that the formation of these supermassive black holes has to be very rapid because we can see very bright quasars very soon after the Big Bang, not much later than the epoch of the first star formation.”

Is there any chance that astronomers could detect an echo of the primordial cataclysms that birthed these black holes?

“You would think it’s such a violent process that something would be left over from that,” Theuns says. “I don’t have any predictions, but you would think there would be something.”
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Voters Signal a Hunger for Change
December 18, 2007; Page A2

Change is the most powerful word in politics, and it's beginning to appear American voters want to send change roaring through the system like a gale-force wind in 2008.

We're talking about the kind of change that doesn't merely adjust the dials but twists them in a decidedly different direction. The signs that such sentiment is afoot in the land are starting to multiply.

They can be seen in the rise of Mike Huckabee among Republicans and Barack Obama among Democrats in the presidential campaign. The two candidates are gaining ground precisely because they represent a significant departure from the status quo.

The change imperative is implicit in all kinds of polling numbers. In the Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, two-thirds of those surveyed now regularly say that things are "off on the wrong track," the highest sustained level of dissatisfaction in 15 years.

The sentiment was evident last week in the results of a little-noticed special election to fill a House seat in Ohio vacated by the death of Republican Rep. Paul Gillmor. Republicans should have kept the seat easily. The Fifth District has been reliably Republican for decades, and the Republican candidate won more than 60% of the vote in nine of the previous 10 House elections. But this year, Republicans had to spend heavily to keep the seat, and new Rep. Bob Latta got just 57% of the vote. Republicans held back the winds of change.

The change impulse can even be seen in the success this year of Rep. Ron Paul in the Republican presidential race. His libertarian message of scaling back government on all fronts once would have been considered too radical. Yet he already has raised an impressive $18 million this quarter alone, which will make him a force to be reckoned with in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary and beyond.

Elections that truly change the country's direction aren't very common. In fact, they come along perhaps once in a generation. And, of course, a shocking event such as a terrorist attack next year could change the equation, compelling voters to value stability over change.

For now, though, change with a capital "C" would figure to hurt Republicans most, because they've been in charge most of this decade. But Democratic incumbents shouldn't be too sanguine.

The groundwork for a big-change election this year may have been set in the results of the 2006 election, when Democrats swept into power in both the House and the Senate.

But often such a congressional election is followed by a general election in which voters get cold feet about lasting change. In 1958, for instance, Democrats picked up a whopping 49 seats in the House and 15 in the Senate in the middle of Dwight Eisenhower's second term. But the Democratic surge didn't continue; two years later, Democrats lost 20 seats in the House and John F. Kennedy barely won the presidency.

Similarly, Republicans picked up 54 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate in the Gingrich revolution of 1994. But two years later, Republicans relinquished three of those House seats, and Democrat Bill Clinton easily won re-election.

Sometimes, though, the tremors in an off-year election are followed by a true earthquake in a general election. In 1978, Republicans took over 15 House seats and three Senate seats. That simply set up the Ronald Reagan landslide of 1980, in which Republicans took over the White House and gained 34 House seats and an unusually high 12 Senate seats, the biggest Senate swing in two decades.

Politicians themselves often don't see the signs of an earthquake. Rep. Rahm Emanuel, the third-ranking Democrat in the House, says that in 1980 many Democrats wanted to run against Mr. Reagan, thinking him too conservative for the country.

The question, of course, is whether 2008 will be another 1980. One intriguing hint of change comes in the behavior of Republican voters. In recent years, Republicans have tended to act like the well-behaved kids in school, who walk in straight lines and keep quiet. They have reliably fallen in behind the establishment candidate.

This year, with no incumbent president or vice president running, there isn't an obvious establishment favorite, and Republicans are all over the map -- hence, the rise of Mr. Huckabee, and the surprising resilience of another unconventional Republican candidate, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, atop national Republican polls.

Now, the task for other campaigns is to show they understand the forces of change. Republican Sen. John McCain has done better since he's stopped acting like the establishment candidate and starting acting more like a maverick. The campaign of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who once led comfortably in Iowa and New Hampshire, is seeking to persuade voters that Mr. Huckabee's occasional collisions with ethics and reform forces while governor of Arkansas show he isn't the agent of change he purports to be.

The further Romney message is that competence is key to changing the system and that their man has proved he has it. Mr. Romney has led "very large organizations toward success," says spokesman Kevin Madden. "He didn't do that by sitting in committee hearing rooms on Capitol Hill."

And on the Democratic side, the goal of Hillary Clinton's campaign is to show that she is a change agent as much as Sen. Obama is. Its message: There would be no bigger change than electing a woman president. And some experience working within the system, which she has, makes it easier to change that system.

Write to Gerald F. Seib



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Black holes are weird. Well, duh, right?

But they do something that surprises most people: besides hoovering down almost everything nearby, they can also eject material as well. And by eject, I mean send it out screaming at nearly the speed of light and heated to a bazillion degrees.

Picture from Chandra of the active galaxy pair 3C321

The image above is from the Chandra X-Ray Observatory, and it’s all about this scary scenario. Let’s take a walk down the gravity well, shall we?

Basically, as matter swirls down into the maw of the hole, it forms a flattened disk called an accretion disk. Friction, magnetism, and other forces heat the disk up. A lot. At the poles of the disk, all this heat and force can focus twin beams of fury, jets of matter and energy of unbelievable violence.

Every galaxy has a supermassive black hole in its core, and if these black holes are actively feeding, they can emit these beams. They can be so energetic that these galaxies, called Active Galaxies, are among the brightest objects in the entire Universe!

As you can imagine, it sucks to be in the path of that beam. All that high-energy radiation pelting you, even from thousands of light years away, can be enough to do some serious hurt.



This object is actually two galaxies. Both have active black holes in their cores, but one of the two is creating these death ray beams… and the other galaxy is in the way.

The picture from Chandra shows this drama unfolding. The beams are coming from the lower left, where the more active galaxy sits. The orange and red colors (from Hubble) represent optical and ultraviolet light emitted by the galaxy. This generally indicates regions where stars are being born; it appears as if the beams from the black hole are compressing gas in the galaxy, collapsing it, and aiding it in forming stars.

Purple represents high-energy X-rays (seen by Chandra), caused by all sorts of events, but quite a bit is from the beam slamming into material in the galaxy itself. The blue is lower energy radio emission. Radio waves (detected by MERLIN) are also generated when the beam hits the other galaxy in the upper right. You can see how the beam gets distorted as it rams into the gas in the other galaxy.

The two galaxies are only 20,000 light years apart (for comparison, our Milky Way Galaxy is 100,000 light years across), so the galaxy in the upper right is enduring a world universe of hurt. Any planets in the path of that beam are being pummeled by all manners of radiation. It’s not easy to know if that would make them uninhabitable, but it seems likely; the beams would interact with the air and destroy most of the molecules in the upper atmosphere. Ozone is very susceptible to this, and it’s our ozone layer that protects us from damaging ultraviolet light from the Sun. Without it, the krill and other sea life making up the base of the food chain on our planet would die.

That would be, to use a scientific word, a bummer.

By studying the interaction of the beam from the one galaxy with the other, astronomers can learn just what sorts of things happen when galaxies go bad. And while this seems far removed from our everyday life, I have to add that there is a supermassive black hole in the center of our Galaxy. It’s not currently active, and to be honest there’s no indication that the beams would be aimed at us that even if it were to start chomping down on gas clouds and stars; most likely they would be aimed up and out of the Galaxy, very far from where we are.

Still, forewarned is forearmed. The more we know about this stuff, the better I feel.

Plus, geez, it’s just so cool! Too bad they didn’t release this image before I chose my Top Ten images of the year.

And, finally, I’ll note that I talk about this (as well as black holes in general, and other kinds of killer beams) in "Death from the Skies!" It’ll be a few more months before it’s out, but if you like destruction writ large, you’ll have fun reading the book.








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Over the past three decades, China has emerged as an economic colossus, becoming the world’s source of cheaply manufactured exports. In 2007, numerous reports of contaminated Chinese imports revealed a nasty downside to this rapid growth.

The first blow came in March, with the revelation that cat food and dog food were killing family pets across the United States; it contained wheat gluten, an ingredient imported from the People’s Republic of China, which was laced with deadly melamine.

In May came the news that some American hospitals and prisons were distributing Chinese toothpaste tainted with diethylene glycol, a potentially fatal compound.

The biggest wallop hit over the summer, when Mattel and other companies announced they’d sold thousands of Chinese-made toys that were coated with lead-based paint. The businesses involved juggled recalls and apologies as China’s government scrambled to repair its industrial reputation.

In August, the crisis prompted China’s commerce minister, Bo Xilai, to protest that “more than 99 percent” of the country’s exports “are of good quality and are safe.”

The blowups over tainted products, however, overshadowed landmark news regarding a far more dangerous Chinese export: pollution. Back in 2000, China’s economic planners boldly predicted that the country would double its energy usage by 2020. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, in turn, estimated that China would surpass the United States as the world’s leading emitter of carbon dioxide by that same year. Propelled by a decade of blistering growth unfettered by environmental regulations, China managed to hit its energy usage goal in 2007, 13 years ahead of schedule. And depending on whose estimates you accept, the country has already taken the carbon-dioxide emissions crown.

Given that China is home to 20 percent of the planet’s population and a burgeoning, ever more consuming middle class, it’s not surprising that the country’s footprint on the environment is growing. What is shocking is the extent to which that footprint is stomping not just China’s ecology but that of the rest of the planet.

China has become the leading importer of illegally harvested timber. It is the global hub for endangered wildlife trafficking. The Chinese are the world’s largest consumers of grain, meat, coal, and steel. And China is feeding its appetites for those commodities—and increasingly for oil—by investing in resource extraction in less-developed areas like Africa. Even in a government not prone to harsh self-evaluation, a top Chinese environmental official pronounced ominously last year that the pollution crisis at home “allows for no optimism.”

The statistics are staggering. Fourteen thousand new cars hit the road each day, and by the year 2020, China is expected to have 130 million cars. Meanwhile, about 70 percent of China’s nontransportation energy comes from burning 3.2 billion tons of coal each year. The nation is building coal-fired power plants—one of the dirtiest forms of energy production—at a clip of two to three a week. China is also home to 5 of the 10 most polluted cities on the planet, according to China’s own State Environmental Protection Administration (SEPA)—including the major coal-mining city of Linfen, the most polluted city in the world. The World Bank estimated in early 2007 that air pollution alone causes at least 700,000 premature deaths in China annually.

The impact of all this extends far beyond China’s borders. Taken as a group, its coal-fired power plants emit the world’s highest levels of sulfur dioxide (a major element of acid rain) and mercury, both of which rise high into the atmosphere and hitch a ride on air currents circling the globe. One study, published last year in the Journal of Geophysical Research, calculated that three-quarters of the black carbon pollution in the atmosphere over the western United States originates in Asia. It is estimated that as much as 35 percent of all the mercury pollution in the western United States comes from abroad, and China is most likely the main culprit. According to the World Wildlife Fund, untreated waste has turned China’s Yangtze River basin into the single largest polluter of the Pacific Ocean. “There’s no doubt,” says Elizabeth Economy, director of Asia Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, “that what China is doing on the domestic front has an enormous effect on the globe.”

Within China, the devastation is more intense. One-third of its land has been hit by acid rain, according to the head of SEPA. One hundred ten of its cities are short of water. Available water is so polluted that nearly 700 million Chinese citizens drink from supplies contaminated by human and animal excrement.

The conventional wisdom has long held that China is merely following the path of the United States and other developed countries that polluted—and in some cases, continue to do so—on their way to a wealthier populace and eventual stricter environmental controls. But the epic pace of China’s development could spawn an ecological catastrophe of a different order. “What China is facing in terms of environmental challenges,” Economy says, “is not comparable to anything we have faced in this country.”

Ironically, the environmental goals set by the Chinese government appear more progressive than those of the United States. In its latest five-year plan, issued in 2005, the central government targeted a 20 percent improvement in energy productivity by 2010. The previous year, it pledged that 10 percent of the nation’s energy would come from renewables by 2010. This year, it began requiring that new cars meet fuel economy standards higher than those in the United States.

The problem comes in enforcement. Local officials, charged with meeting aggressive economic targets for their region’s industry, tend to ignore national environmental regulations, covering up spills and building new power plants behind the backs of central government regulators. Efforts to meet the 20 percent energy-–productivity pledge, for example, are already well behind schedule.

In late October, China’s environmental protection agency announced a new policy regarding pollution by export manufacturers, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. Any company found in violation would be forced to close for one to three years.

“I think that the leadership is at a very important tipping-point moment,” says Orville Schell, director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society. “With the Olympics coming up, a new catalytic element has arisen. They will be getting the mass scrutiny of the world at a time when they want to show their advantage.”

Although it’s easy to view China as some sort of ecological evil empire, its fate is entwined with the U.S. appetite for consumption and growth. The United States still holds the title as the world’s biggest consumer of world resources and largest emitter of all greenhouse gases. Our per capita emissions dwarf those of China, or any other nation for that matter. An estimated 7 percent of China’s carbon-dioxide emissions derive from U.S. consumption of goods made in China. “People are becoming much more aware that a lot of the pollution reaching the United States arises from manufacturing the goods we buy,” says Barbara Finamore, head of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) China Clean Energy Program. “I think just like with toy safety, we are going to see a lot more demand that the goods are not just safe in and of themselves to use but also come from factories that are complying with China’s environmental laws.”

Some nongovernmental organizations in China have been pushing for reform over the last decade. Members of these grassroots outfits, often operating at the risk of arrest or harassment, press for environmental improvements through public demonstrations and the limited legal action allowed. “On the positive side, you have demonstrations, you have marches, you have hundreds of thousands of people writing letters to complain about pollution and request that something get done about it,” says Economy. “On the other hand, you also have citizen activism such that when Beijing said we are going to shut down the factories in advance of the Olympics, factory managers are coming back and saying no.”

Louis J Sheehan The good news is that overhauling outdated technology might easily rein in the devastating pollution. Much of China’s industry uses energy-guzzling equipment from the 1970s, and the NRDC estimates that by using existing technology and enforcing simple building codes, the country could cut its energy demands by half or more in the next decade.

“There is no other country in the world as dynamic and rapidly changing as China,” observes Alex Wang, an NRDC attorney who directs the council’s China Environmental Law Project in Beijing. “It really is a country where things can be dramatically different from one day to the next.”

Just as quickly as China became the world’s leading polluter, it could find a greener path to development. But if it fails, the outcome will be more than just a public relations nightmare.


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Olmert: Israel risks South Africa-like struggle


By Josef Federman, The Associated Press
JERUSALEM — Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert warned in a published interview Thursday that "the state of Israel is finished" if a Palestinian state is not created. He said the alternative is a South African-style apartheid struggle.

The explosive reference to apartheid came as Olmert returned from a high-profile peace conference in the USA, hoping to prepare a skeptical nation for difficult negotiations with the Palestinians.

WHAT'S NEXT?: Navigating path to peace will still be tricky

Though Olmert has long said that the region's demography works against Israel, the comments published in the Haaretz daily newspaper were among his strongest. Israeli officials have long rejected any comparison to the racist system once in place in South Africa.

Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas agreed this week at a summit in Annapolis, Md., to resume peace talks after a seven-year freeze.

The two leaders pledged to try to reach an agreement on the creation of a Palestinian state by the end of next year.

In the interview, Olmert said it is a vital Israeli interest to create a Palestinian state because of the growing Arab population in the area.

"The day will come when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights," Olmert told Haaretz. "As soon as that happens, the state of Israel is finished."

The interview was published on the 60th anniversary of the historic United Nations decision to partition Palestine, setting up separate Jewish and Arab states. The vote led to a war, and the Palestinian state was not created.

The Palestinians want to form their state in Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem — areas Israel captured in the Mideast war in 1967.

Jews are a solid majority inside Israel — roughly 76% of the population of 6.4 million. However, if the West Bank and Gaza are included, Arabs make up about half the population.

To ensure Israel can maintain its character as a democracy with a solid Jewish majority, Olmert supports a withdrawal from much of the West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem, following Israel's pullout from Gaza in 2005.

Israel's Arab citizens have the right to vote, but about 3.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza do not have Israeli citizenship or rights.

Olmert, a hard-liner earlier in his career, has repeatedly warned in recent years that Israel cannot remain both Jewish and democratic if it holds on to the West Bank and Gaza. He has never used the South African analogy in public.

The Israeli leader received an important boost Thursday when police recommended that prosecutors drop an investigation into whether Olmert illegally intervened in the government's sale of a bank two years ago. The threat of indictment in the case cast a cloud over Olmert for months, but police decided there was insufficient evidence.

The decision, coming after months of investigations, including two interrogations of Olmert himself, was forwarded to the attorney general, who makes the final decision on whether to indict. That decision is weeks or months away, but an indictment is unlikely.

Police are still conducting two other corruption investigations against Olmert, who has denied any wrongdoing.

Two polls published in Israeli newspapers Thursday showed the Israeli public to be highly skeptical of the fledgling peace process.

The polls, conducted by the Dahaf Institute and Dialog agency, found that fewer than one in five Israelis say they believe the Annapolis conference was a success, and more than 80% of the public says the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will not meet their goal of reaching a deal in 2008.

Louis J Sheehan

http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us

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http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx


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The polls each questioned about 500 people and had margins of error of +/—4.5 percentage points.
































The serpent’s tails coil together menacingly. A horn juts sharply from its head. The creature looks as if it might be swimming through a sea of stars. Or is it making its way up a sheer basalt cliff? For Bruce Masse, an environmental archaeologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, there is no confusion as he looks at this ancient petroglyph, scratched into a rock by a Native American shaman. “You can’t tell me that isn’t a comet,” he says.
In Masse’s interpretation, the petroglyph commemorates a comet that streaked across the sky just a few years before Europeans came to this area of New Mexico. But that event is a minor blip compared to what he is really after. Masse believes that he has uncovered evidence that a gigantic comet crashed into the Indian Ocean several thousand years ago and nearly wiped out all life on the planet. What’s more, he thinks that clues about the catastrophe are hiding in plain sight, embedded in the creation stories of cultural groups around the world. His hypothesis depends on a major reinterpretation of many different mythologies and raises questions about how frequently major asteroid impacts occur. What scientists know about such collisions is based mainly on a limited survey of craters around the world and on the moon. Only 185 craters on Earth have been identified, and almost all are on dry land, leaving largely unexamined the 70 percent of the planet covered by water. Even among those on dry land, many of the craters have been recognized only recently. It is possible that Earth has been a target of more meteors and comets than scientists have suspected.

Masse’s epiphany came while poring over Hawaiian oral histories regarding the goddess Pele and wondering what they might reveal about the lava flows that episodically destroy human settlements and create new tracts of land. He reasoned that even though the stories are often clouded by exaggerations and mystical explanations, many may refer to actual incidents. He tested his hypothesis by cross-checking carbon-14 ages for the lava flows against dates included in royal Hawaiian genealogies. The result: Several flows matched up with the specific reigns associated with them in the oral histories. Other myths, Masse theorizes, hold similar clues.
Masse’s biggest idea is that some 5,000 years ago, a 3-mile-wide ball of rock and ice swung around the sun and smashed into the ocean off the coast of Madagascar. The ensuing cataclysm sent a series of 600-foot-high tsunamis crashing against the world’s coastlines and injected plumes of superheated water vapor and aerosol particulates into the atmosphere. Within hours, the infusion of heat and moisture blasted its way into jet streams and spawned superhurricanes that pummeled the other side of the planet. For about a week, material ejected into the atmosphere plunged the world into darkness. All told, up to 80 percent of the world’s population may have perished, making it the single most lethal event in history.
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The Web has helped home buyers find places to live for years, through real-estate agencies' sites and classified listings. But now a number of sites have emerged that provide a raft of information beyond price, location and photos.
Among other things, these sites allow house hunters to screen prospective neighbors, evaluate school districts and see how members of the community rate a street's Internet connectivity and cellphone service. Shoppers can keep abreast of the news in a neighborhood they're considering, and get alerts when houses list for sale or restaurants open -- or when a registered sex offender moves to the area. Consumers can find energy-efficient homes and compare locations by levels of toxic waste or drought conditions. And both buyers and sellers can join discussions with others who are in the market and real-estate professionals.
All of this information can be particularly helpful in turbulent real-estate markets like today's, when many people would welcome greater assurance that they're making the right decision.
Here's a survey of what's out there.
"You can see just about any type of information about a house on Trulia.com," says Matthew Orr, a Long Beach, N.Y., resident who used the site to find the home he and his fiancée are due to close on this month.
For starters, users can enter a city, town or ZIP Code and see a listing of every home for sale, sortable by price, address, number of bedrooms or bathrooms, broker or type of home (single-family or multi-family). They can also narrow the search by establishing parameters for location, size and property type. Mr. Orr says he and his fiancée used Trulia.com, which is owned by San Francisco-based Trulia Inc., to zero in on houses with big yards for their dogs, and he recommends the site's home-comparison features.
Clicking on a listing brings up a page with a more-detailed description of the home, including how long it has been on the market, and photos. This page also offers lists of similar homes for sale and similar recently sold homes, with links to pages for each of those homes; charts comparing the home's price to those of the similar homes and to the average listing and sale prices in the area; a sales history for the home, drawn from public records; and a link to a real-estate guide for the area that includes information on market trends, schools, crime statistics, income levels and commuting times.
There are also discussion boards, and users can arrange to have email alerts sent to them when properties within their search parameters are listed or sold. The site can also send alerts when the price of a particular house changes or the house is sold.
Similar features are available on the site owned by Seattle-based Zillow.com5. Boulder, Colo., resident Melanie Fredericks says that when she and her husband were considering selling their house and buying a new home closer to their jobs, they used Zillow.com to "gather all the information before even heading to a real-estate agent, and decided to wait for a better time to sell." One feature she found helpful was what the site calls Zestimates, which are Zillow.com's estimates of the value of homes, including homes that aren't listed for sale.
Another interesting feature of Zillow.com is that people whose homes aren't on the market but who would consider selling at the right price can post a "Make Me Move" price to see if there's any interest worth exploring.
Users of these and other real-estate sites should keep in mind that the data the sites use can sometimes be dated. For instance, information on the number of bedrooms and bathrooms may not reflect recent renovations. And the census figures the sites use for demographic profiles may be years old, so they may not reflect recent trends in rapidly changing neighborhoods or towns.
One way to supplement the statistical information on real-estate sites and to get help with particular questions or concerns is to seek input from others in the market and from real-estate professionals on the sites' discussion boards. Both Trulia and Zillow say these are their most popular features.
Lisa Suarez, an insurance broker from San Leandro, Calif., turned to a discussion board on Trulia.com recently after months of failing to find a buyer for her home.
Ms. Suarez posted a message on Trulia Voices at 2 a.m. asking if anyone had any suggestions on how to speed up the process of selling her home. Within minutes, she says, she was contacted by a real-estate agent who offered some advice that Ms. Suarez liked, and the two agreed to meet. Ms. Suarez hired the agent, Cindi Hagley of Windermere Real Estate Services Co. in San Ramon, Calif., and within three weeks had two offers for her house that she is considering. "In this devastating market, it means everything that you can reach someone out there that's listening," she says.

Other sites are designed to give users a look at neighborhoods through the eyes of the people who live there. On recently launched StreetAdvisor.com6, based in Melbourne, Australia, buyers can look for input from residents of a particular street about their neighbors, local services and more.
For instance, potential buyers looking at a home on North Carlyn Ave. in Campbell, Calif., can read a review of life on the street written by Tom Huggett, who has lived there for 21 years. He notes that the first houses were built before World War II, and readers can practically feel the shade of the mature sycamores, redwoods, oaks and fruit trees he describes. The people range from infants to seniors, he says, and are "friendly but not nosey and helpful but not pushy." And he notes that it's only about three blocks to a "newly vibrant downtown" with a lot of bars, restaurants and shops.
Reviewers also rate their street for its overall "vibe," which includes neighborly spirit and night life, among other factors; for its Internet and pay-TV access and cellphone reception; for its "health," which includes factors like cleanliness, noise levels and traffic; for the cost of living and real-estate values; and for services and amenities like public transportation, medical facilities, schools, child care, and parks and recreation. Users can post pictures and videos as well.
One drawback of the site is that it hasn't had the time to build up much content. Mr. Huggett is the only contributor from his street, for instance, and users will find no comments for many streets.
For a different take on neighborhood life, house hunters can check San Diego-based RottenNeighbor.com7. This site lets users post complaints about their neighbors, so it can serve as a warning about frictions in a neighborhood. One recent user in Chicago wrote that the "guy on the top floor of this building plays his stereo all day and night. It's so loud....He's why I'm moving."
Again, while such sites can be useful, there is a caveat. There is no way for sites that depend on user-generated content to verify the vast majority of information that people post, and of course such comments are largely, and often entirely, subjective.

Several sites cater to house hunters' concerns about energy efficiency and the environment. Walkscore.com8, started by Seattle-based Front Seat Management LLC in July, rates the walkability of a neighborhood by the proximity of stores, restaurants, schools, parks, libraries and more to an address the user submits.
In the wake of a recent rash of brush fires, water shortages and other drought conditions around the country, Sperling's Best Places of Portland, Ore., launched DroughtScore.com9 last month. By entering a ZIP Code, town or city, users can see a graph showing the past 13 months of drought levels in an area, based on statistics from the National Climatic Data Center.
For a broad view of the environmental conditions in a neighborhood, the best resource is the Environmental Protection Agency. At EPA.gov10, house hunters can click on the "Where You Live" tab to learn about levels of air and water pollution, hazardous-waste sites and releases of toxic chemicals in a given city, county or ZIP Code.
At EnergyStar.gov11, a joint site of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy, users can find builders working with the EPA to build homes that meet the government's Energy Star standards for energy efficiency. Another site, EcoBroker.com12, owned by EcoBroker International, Evergreen, Colo., can also help users find homes with energy-efficient and environmentally friendly features.

Other sites specialize in information on school systems and crime statistics, areas that some real-estate agents aren't inclined to talk about because of concerns that their comments could be construed as steering people away from or toward certain neighborhoods.
"I'm very careful as to what I tell buyers when they ask those questions," says Toni L. Medjuck, owner of Beach to Bay Realty in Seminole, Fla. "I'd rather refer them to where they can find the information."
For Sergey Krasnovsky and his wife, planning a move to Seattle meant using GreatSchools.net13 to narrow their search to two school districts for their 8-year-old son. Only then did they look for a potential home to buy. "The site lets you analyze each school not only based on [statistical ratings] but also on real feedback from parents," Mr. Krasnovsky notes.
The site gives information for both public and private schools, including test scores, the ethnicity of students, student-teacher ratios and spending per pupil. In addition to written reviews, parents rate schools for principal leadership, teacher quality, extracurricular activities, parent involvement, and safety and discipline. The site is owned by GreatSchools Inc., a nonprofit organization based in San Francisco. Another site, SchoolMatters.com14, a service of the Standard & Poor's division of McGraw-Hill Cos., provides information on public schools only.
For crime statistics, Las Vegas-based AreaConnect LLC lets users compare data for more than 8,000 cities at www.AreaConnect.com/crime15. Family Watchdog LLC, based in Indianapolis, provides the addresses and pictures of registered sex offenders at FamilyWatchdog.us16. The site also will send email and cellphone alerts if a registered offender moves into a given neighborhood.
For a much broader scope, YourStreet.com17, owned by San Francisco-based YourStreet Inc., lets users find recent news reports and commentary from blogs for any location in the U.S. The material includes crime reporting but also covers the full spectrum of community news. Users can also initiate or join discussions about local events. "We look at news as the foundation of what is really going on in a local community," says James Nicholson, YourStreet's CEO and founder.

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Jim Hammond is an elite athlete. He works out two hours a day with a trainer, pushing himself through sprints, runs, and strength-building exercises. His resting heart rate is below 50. He’s won three gold medals and one silver in amateur competitions this year alone, running races from 100 to 800 meters. In his division, he’s broken four national racing records. But perhaps the most elite thing about Hammond is his age.
He is 93. And really, there’s nothing much wrong with him, aside from the fact that he doesn’t see very well. He takes no drugs and has no complaints, although his hair long ago turned white and his skin is no longer taut.
His secret? He doesn’t have one. Hammond never took exceptional measures during his long life to preserve his health. He did not exercise regularly until his fifties and didn’t get serious about it until his eighties, when he began training for the Georgia Golden Olympics. “I love nothing better than winning,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful thing for me.” Hammond is aging, certainly, but somehow he isn’t getting old—at least, not in the way we usually think about it.

They say aging is one of the only certain things in life. But it turns out they were wrong. In recent years, gerontologists have overturned much of the conventional wisdom about getting old. Aging is not the simple result of the passage of time. According to a provocative new view, it is actually something our own bodies create, a side effect of the essential inflammatory system that protects us against infectious disease. As we fight off invaders, we inflict massive collateral damage on ourselves, poisoning our own organs and breaking down our own tissues. We are our own worst enemy.
This paradox is transforming the way we understand aging. It is also changing our understanding of what diseases are and where they come from. Inflammation seems to underlie not just senescence but all the chronic illnesses that often come along with it: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, heart attack. “Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans,” says Russell Tracy, a professor of pathology and biochemistry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, whose pioneering research helped demonstrate the role of inflammation in heart disease. “It predicts having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic; predicts becoming fragile in old age; predicts cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent.”
The idea that chronic diseases might be caused by persistent inflammation has been kicking around since the 19th century. Only in the past few years, though, have modern biochemistry and the emerging field of systems biology made it possible to grasp the convoluted chemical interactions involved in bodywide responses like inflammation. Over a lifetime, this essential set of defensive mechanisms runs out of bounds and gradually damages organs throughout the body.
When you start to think about aging as a consequence of inflammation, as Tracy and many prominent gerontologists now do, you start to see old age in a different, much more hopeful light. If decrepitude is driven by an overactive immune system, then it is treatable. And if many chronic diseases share this underlying cause, they might all be remedied in a similar way. The right anti-inflammatory drug could be a panacea, treating diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even cancer. Such a wonder drug might allow us to live longer, but more to the point, it would almost surely allow us to live better, increasing the odds that we could all spend our old age feeling like Jim Hammond: healthy, vibrant, and vital. And unlike science fiction visions of an immortality pill, a successful anti-inflammatory treatment could actually happen within our lifetime.
For the last century and a half, the average life span in wealthy countries has increased steadily, climbing from about 45 to more than 80 years. There is no good reason to think this increase will suddenly stop. But longer life today often simply means taking longer to die—slowly, expensively, and with more disease and disability. “If you talk to many old people, what they are really desperate about is not the fact that they’re going to die but that they are going to be sick, dependent, have to rely on others,” says Luigi Ferrucci, chief of the longitudinal studies section at the National Institute on Aging and director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the nation’s longest-running study of old age.
Biologists have known for a while that inflammation increases with age, but until recently, given everything else that slumps, spikes, or goes off the rails as we get old, it didn’t seem especially important. Some researchers on aging still think that way.
But a big clue linking inflammation with aging came in the late 1990s, when Tracy and his colleagues showed that C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein, is an amazingly accurate predictor of a future heart attack—as good as or better than high blood pressure or high cholesterol. At least in heart disease, inflammation isn’t just a bystander. What’s more, we could do something to decrease it. Aspirin, which was already known to help people with heart disease, seems to work primarily by reducing inflammation.
So why should our own immune system rely on such an apparently dangerous mechanism? The answer lies in the fact that infectious disease has historically been the number one killer of human beings, and responding to this threat has profoundly shaped our biology. Possessing a fierce and ferocious immune response primed to keep us alive long enough to reproduce was an evolutionary no-brainer.




.

PARADIGM LOST
As Drug Industry Struggles,
Chemists Face Layoff Wave
Lipitor Pioneer Is Out
At Doomed Pfizer Lab;
A Blockbuster Drought
By AVERY JOHNSON
December 11, 2007; Page A1
ANN ARBOR, Michigan -- In January, Pfizer Inc. announced it was closing its storied research laboratories here, laying off 2,100 people. Among the casualties: Bob Sliskovic, a 23-year lab veteran who helped create the world's most successful drug.

The closure and Dr. Sliskovic's abrupt change of circumstances are emblematic of the pharmaceutical industry's declining fortunes. It was at the Ann Arbor facility in the late 1980s that Dr. Sliskovic first assembled the chemicals that make up Lipitor, the cholesterol-lowering drug that has generated about $80 billion in sales since its launch and ranks as the bestselling pharmaceutical product ever. Today, Lipitor is nearing the end of its patent life, and Pfizer hasn't been able to come up with enough promising new drugs to replace it.
Following that initial breakthrough some 20 years ago, Dr. Sliskovic worked on several other research projects, but none panned out. His losing streak mirrors the industry's. A byproduct of the late-19th-century chemical business, pharmaceutical research thrived for more than a century by finding chemical combinations to treat diseases. But after contributing substantially both to human health and drug-industry profits, it has failed to produce significant innovations in recent years.
High failure rates have long plagued chemistry-based drug research. Between 5,000 and 10,000 compounds are tested for every drug that makes it to market. In recent years, the problem seems to have gotten worse. Despite spending tens of billions of dollars more on research and development, pharmaceutical companies have fewer and fewer drugs to show for it. In 2006, the industry received Food and Drug Administration approval for just 18 new chemical-based drugs, down from 53 in 1996. Moreover, many of those drugs are variations of existing medicines.
Robert Massie, president of the American Chemical Society's database of chemistry research, says some researchers are questioning how many more chemical combinations there are that are useful against diseases. "It's like how coming out with metal drivers in golf was a huge innovation, but now it's incremental. You're just coming out with drivers that are a little longer or rounder," he says.
As pills like Lipitor made out of elements from the periodic table prove harder to come by, pharmaceutical research is being superseded by the newer field of biotechnology. The latter relies mostly on biologists who make proteins from live cells.
The shift is exacting a human toll, as big drug companies like Pfizer lay off thousands of chemists, casting a pall over what was once a secure, well-paying profession. "When I started in this industry in the 1980s, you didn't worry about things like this," Dr. Sliskovic says of the lab closure.
It isn't clear how many chemists have lost pharmaceutical-company jobs. But overall, 116,000 chemists were employed in 2006, down from 140,000 in 2003, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During the same period, employment of biologists rose to 116,000 from 112,000. Just as the rise of biotechnology is contributing to an economic boom in Northern California, the decline of chemical-based research is hurting the Michigan cities of Ann Arbor and Kalamazoo, along with some regions of New Jersey and Illinois.

Dr. Sliskovic, a 50-year-old with a mustache and the scattered air of a scientist, was raised in Doncaster, a coal-mining town in northern England. His father, a refugee from the former Yugoslavia, found work there after World War II. As a child, Dr. Sliskovic says he was fascinated by such things as the properties that "make a mint minty."
That interest led him to pursue a doctorate in chemistry. In 1982, his Ph.D. adviser told him of a friend who worked as a consultant for a pharmaceutical company in New York. The company was looking for chemists to do postdoctoral research. Raised with a passion for American comic books, Dr. Sliskovic says he jumped at the opportunity to come to the U.S.
Two years later, his research completed, he received a job offer from Warner-Lambert Co.'s Ann Arbor labs. "Holy cow! I accept," he remembers saying.
Dr. Sliskovic was hired as the pharmaceutical business entered a golden era of huge profits. Its labs churned out drugs for chronic conditions such as heart disease and depression, while its armies of salesmen promoted them through aggressive marketing. Warner-Lambert assigned him to a team of three other chemists investigating a new idea: whether lowering cholesterol -- the soft, waxy substance that can clog arteries -- would help people avoid heart attacks. Other companies were at work on similar projects.
Dr. Sliskovic's new boss, Bruce Roth, had invented a chemical structure that he thought would work. In the late 1980s, Dr. Sliskovic fine-tuned the compound, isolating its potent part. An early version of the compound wasn't absorbed well by the body, so the team brainstormed about how to modify it to get more of it into the bloodstream. "We sat around the table and said 'You try this, you try that,' and they said, 'Bob, why don't you look at salt formation?'" Dr. Sliskovic recalls.
A calcium salt he tried solved the problem, and Lipitor was born. Though it would reach the market in 1997 after several rival drugs, Lipitor would turn into a blockbuster because it was more potent.
Its runaway success sparked Pfizer's $116 billion hostile takeover of Warner-Lambert in 2000. Ahead of the takeover, Pfizer suggested one of Warner's main appeals was its research-and-development force. "We would like to keep them all," Pfizer's then-research chief, John Niblack, told The Wall Street Journal in 1999. "You need a big staff to run this strategy. Warner-Lambert offers us a nice instant fix."
With the acquisition, New York-based Pfizer inherited the Ann Arbor labs where Dr. Sliskovic worked and continued to base much of its pharmaceutical research there. Between 2001 and 2006, it invested $300 million to expand the facilities.
By that time, Dr. Sliskovic had moved on to other projects. As Lipitor traveled down the long road of animal and human testing in the early '90s, he led a group of chemists developing drugs to prevent cholesterol from being absorbed by the body and stored in arteries. Lipitor, by contrast, works by reducing the amount of cholesterol the liver produces.

One compound, called avasimibe, seemed to work well in animals. Despite skepticism from higher-ups, Dr. Sliskovic and his team persuaded Warner-Lambert to take it into human testing. For a while, it looked as though avasimibe could be a contender to succeed Lipitor. But it failed in an intermediate stage of clinical testing, and the company abandoned it.
Dr. Sliskovic had devoted about six years to the drug. He recalls needing pep talks from his boss about picking up and starting over. He blocked out disappointment, he says, by throwing himself into the day's science rather than thinking about the odds of creating a marketable drug. "You've got to develop the hide of a rhino," he says.
In the mid-90s, he tried to develop compounds to counter inflammation in the heart, which some scientists think can cause heart attacks. Those projects also flopped but got him interested in another area of research, inflammatory arthritis.
Dr. Sliskovic took on the challenge of finding a drug that would repair the cartilage that can break down between bones and cause arthritic pain. But the several compounds he concocted didn't meet testing requirements. In 1999, Dr. Sliskovic was promoted to a management role that took him away from the day-to-day work of drug discovery. He says his new job required him to teach his scientists how to remain excited in the wake of failure. "It was me who started telling them, 'Oh well, never mind. What can we do about this other project?'" he says.
But over time those failures added up. In December 2006, Pfizer killed torcetrapib, the cholesterol compound the company had placed its hopes on, because it was associated with too many deaths in clinical testing. It was a huge setback because Pfizer didn't have much else in its research pipeline to replace Lipitor's sales. The company relies on Lipitor for more than a quarter of its revenues, and the drug could face generic competition as early as 2010.
The company has had some successes: Pfizer appears to have a rich cancer-drug pipeline and has come up with two notable new chemical-based hits recently, the antismoking medicine Chantix and a pain drug, Lyrica, which was discovered in Ann Arbor. The company's new chief executive, Jeffrey Kindler, has emphasized biotech after taking over some 16 months ago. In October, Pfizer opened a new biologics center in San Francisco.
By January 2007, Mr. Kindler was promising to do something radical to shake the world's biggest drug maker out of its worsening slump. Rumors of layoffs were swirling at Pfizer. Few imagined anything as drastic as closing the half-century-old Ann Arbor labs, where Pfizer was just finishing the $300 million expansion.
Dr. Sliskovic says he learned of the closure on Jan. 22, in a morning meeting with the site's top managers. The room went silent, he says.
After the meeting, Dr. Sliskovic called his wife on her cellphone to tell her the news. She thought he was kidding. Realizing he was serious, she offered to increase her hours at her part-time job at a pet-food store. Later, at home over lunch, his 19-year-old daughter asked whether they would have to sell the family's three horses.
The announcement also took Michigan officials by surprise. The state, which has the country's worst unemployment rate, was already reeling from auto-industry cuts. Pfizer was also Ann Arbor's largest taxpayer, contributing $14 million a year into city coffers. At a press conference later in the day, local officials pledged to fight for scientists to stay in the area. Later, they pledged $8 million in interest-free loans for start-ups run by laid-off scientists or existing companies that hire them. A state-budget deadlock delayed the money for months, but it is now being handed out to scientists.
Pfizer offered about half of the Ann Arbor researchers internal transfers, mostly to its other big research facility, in Groton, Conn. But a higher proportion of those offers went to biologists than to chemists, former lab employees say. Though it is far from abandoning chemistry-based research, Pfizer has been increasingly outsourcing chemistry work to contract research organizations, some in India. Pfizer declined to comment on which scientists were offered transfers.
In April, about 80 laid-off Pfizer chemists from Ann Arbor traveled to nearby Detroit to hear a talk by career consultant Lisa Balbes. Ms. Balbes told them the story of a former chemist who now uses her skills to enhance acoustics in stereo systems. Her message: Start thinking about different career paths.
As winter turned into spring, Dr. Sliskovic found himself going to a parade of goodbye parties for colleagues. Dr. Roth, his former boss, left in April for Genentech Inc., the biotech pioneer based in South San Francisco. Dr. Sliskovic organized the send-off. In early May, David Canter, the head of the Ann Arbor site, threw a dinner party for other departing employees. A band played songs parodying Pfizer and the executive who symbolized headquarters' decision-making: John LaMattina, Pfizer's Connecticut-based head of research. To the tune from Evita, they sang, "Don't Cry for Me, LaMattina."

A few weeks later, Dr. LaMattina himself announced his retirement, as part of Mr. Kindler's broad reorganization of top company executives.Martin Mackay, who succeeded Dr. LaMattina as research chief and played a major role in the research restructuring, says the company was "very aware" of its impact on the community. "We made this decision after very careful and thorough review of all possible alternatives," Mr. Mackay said in a statement.
Scott Larsen, one of the chemists who attended the going-away party, came to Pfizer four years ago when the company merged with his former employer, Pharmacia Corp. He applied for a transfer to Groton but didn't get an offer. He tells his two sons, who are both in college and love science, not to go work for a drug company.
In August, Dr. Sliskovic's team stopped doing research and began transferring projects to other Pfizer sites. The labs are now being cleaned, inspected and sealed off. The 177-acre campus is a ghost town of empty rooms and boxed-up equipment.
Dr. Sliskovic didn't seek an internal transfer. He felt that moving would be too hard on his family.
As acting head of chemistry at the Ann Arbor labs, Dr. Sliskovic earned far above the $112,000 a year paid to the average chemist of his experience level. Dr. Sliskovic says he will receive severance pay for between 18 months and two years. With two children in college and another in high school, he says, two years is the longest he could afford to forgo a paycheck.
Dr. Sliskovic has already repainted the family kitchen and living room. Now he is festooning the house and yard with holiday lights. Worried about their financial future, his wife, Cindy, took a second part-time job at the barn where they keep their horses. The irony that the drug her husband helped discover will bring in nearly $13 billion for Pfizer this year hasn't been lost on her. As a staff scientist, Dr. Sliskovic earned no bonus or royalties for his work on Lipitor.
Former Pfizer scientists have founded 23 companies in the area. Dr. Sliskovic says he would prefer to do the creative work of discovering drugs instead of the rote chemistry some such companies do for drug makers.
Instead, he dreams of being involved in another blockbuster. Sometimes, he says, he lies in bed at night wondering if it will happen. "If the best thing I did was Lipitor in 1988, it's like being the high-school athlete who was on the football team and that was that," he says.

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Louis J Sheehan Major Jackson
attended these gatherings with unfailing regularity, but soon after
his arrival he drew the line at dancing, and musical parties became
the limit of his dissipation. He was anything but a convivial
companion. He never smoked, he was a strict teetotaller, and he never
touched a card. http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
His diet, for reasons of health, was of a most
sparing kind; nothing could tempt him to partake of food between his
regular hours, and for many years he abstained from both tea and
coffee. In those peaceful times, moreover, there was nothing either
commanding or captivating about the Professor of Artillery. His
little romance in Mexico had given him no taste for trivial
pleasures; and his somewhat formal manner was not redeemed by any
special charm of feature.
http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us

It took some time for his subordinates to develop a deep and abiding respect for General Jackson, but after he lead them to numerous victories against superior forces the bond was established that lasted until his untimely death. One of the great contradictions in Jackson's life was his steadfast Christian beliefs contrasted with his unrelenting will to destroy the enemy on the battlefield. For example, http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx

Tate mentions an exchange between Jackson and his chief surgeon when the surgeon inquired, "How shall we ever cope with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy?" http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
After a long pause Jackson replied, "Kill them, sir! Kill every man." It was that strength of will that helped make Jackson the hero that he was and is.


Stonewall Jackson usually thought only in terms of attack. This attitude was exemplified on December 14, 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Vastly outnumbered by the Federals, Jackson was asked by a staff member, ⌠How shall we ever cope with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy ?■ Jackson▓s reply was to the point, ⌠Kill them, sir, kill every man!■


General Jackson.."Kill them, kill them all, sir!"

http://Louis-J-Sheehan.us
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/page1.aspx
http://louis-j-sheehan.us/Blog/blog.aspx




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December 9, 2007

Your Child’s Disorder May Be Yours, Too
By BENEDICT CAREY
BY age 2 it was clear that the boy had a sensibility all his own, affectionate and distant at the same time, often more focused on patterns and objects than the people around him.
He was neither naturally social like his mother, nor an early and gifted reader like his father. Quirky, curious, exuberant, he would leap up and dance across the floor after solving a problem or winning a game, duck walking like an N.F.L. receiver posing for a highlight film.
Yet after Phil and Susan Schwarz received a diagnosis for their son, Jeremy, of high functioning autism, they began to think carefully about their own behaviors and histories.
Mr. Schwarz, a software developer in Framingham, Mass., found in his son’s diagnosis a new language to understand his own life. His sensitivities when growing up to loud noises and bright light, his own diffidence through school, his parents’ and grandparents’ special intellectual skills — all echoed through his and Jeremy’s behavior, like some ancient rhythm.
His son’s diagnosis, Mr. Schwarz said, “provided a frame in which a whole bunch of seemingly unrelated aspects of my own life growing up fit together for the first time.”
Researchers have long known that many psychiatric disorders and developmental problems run in families. Children born to parents with bipolar disorder, in which moods cycle between euphoria and depression, run about eight times the normal risk for developing a mood problem. Those born to parents with depression run three times the usual risk. Attention and developmental disorders like autism also have a genetic component.
AS more youngsters than ever receive diagnoses of disorders — the number has tripled since the early 1990s, to more than six million — many parents have come to recognize that their own behavior is symptomatic of those disorders, sometimes in a major, but more commonly, in a minor way. In effect, the diagnosis may spread from the child to other family members, forcing each to confront family frustrations and idiosyncrasies that they might prefer to have left unacknowledged.
“It happens very frequently, with all sorts of disorders, from attention-deficit difficulties to mood problems like bipolar disorder,” said Dr. Gregory Fritz, a child psychiatrist and academic director of Bradley Hospital in Providence, R.I., the largest child-psychiatry hospital in the country. “Sometimes it’s a real surprise, because the child is the first one in the family ever to get a thorough evaluation and history. The parents are there, and they begin to see the pattern.”
But diagnosing an adult through his or her child has its risks, psychiatrists say. In an act of solidarity, parents may exaggerate similarities between their thinking and behavior and their son’s or daughter’s. Families desperate to find a diagnosis for a troubled child are also prone to adopt a vague label — bipolar disorder, say, which is not well understood in young children — and attribute all variety of difficulties to it, when the real source may be elsewhere.
But psychological experts say traces of a disorder in the family tree are very often real, and the stickier issue is what to do once they surface.
Depending on the family, for instance, one parent may not want to shoulder the responsibility for having “passed on” the behavior problem, they say. “The adult may have spent a lifetime compensating for the problem, as well, and is still struggling with it and would rather not be identified that way,” said Dania Jekel, executive director of the Asperger’s Association of New England.
Openness can nonetheless have its benefits, say parents who have chosen to accept their contribution to a child’s diagnosis. Self-examination, for instance, may lead to an appropriate diagnosis for the adult.
Norine Eaton, 51, of Williamsville, N.Y., reared two boys who were diagnosed with attention deficit disorders. “The younger one was literally climbing out second-floor windows, climbing bookcases, onto counters,” she said. “Nothing was safe in the house. It was insanity.”
After the boy and his brother each received a diagnosis of attention deficit disorder, Ms. Eaton sought treatment at the Center for Children and Families at the State University at Buffalo, where she now works. She soon began thinking about her own behavior, past and present. She had long had difficulty focusing on even simple jobs, like paying bills on time and remembering and keeping appointments.
She decided to have one of her sons’ psychologists evaluate her for attention problems. The symptoms of attention deficit disorder, which some scientists now see as a temporary delay in the maturing of the brain, can last through adulthood, but it almost always shows up first in childhood. To make a proper diagnosis, doctors like to see some evidence of a problem in childhood — evidence that can be hard to come by.
“In my case, I went to school here in Buffalo, and I dug through some boxes and found reports going back to elementary school,” Ms. Eaton said. “Sure enough, they said things like, ‘Disorganized,’ and ‘Has trouble paying attention.’”
She now takes a stimulant medication, she said, that helps her focus enough to compensate for the problem, by making calendars, notes to herself, and responding to invitations and messages on time. Once it’s out in the open, knowledge of a parent’s diagnosis or behavioral tendencies can ease strained relations in a family, especially if the previously unappreciated disability contributed to the rupture.
John Halpern, 76, a retired physicist living in Massachusetts, began to review his own life not long after hearing a radio interview with an expert on Asperger’s syndrome. He immediately recognized himself as a textbook case, he said, and decided to call his daughter, whom he hadn’t spoken to in 10 years. He wanted to apologize, he said, “for my inadequacy as both a father and a husband to her mother.”
But as soon as he started explaining, he said, his daughter cut him off. “That’s Asperger’s,” she told him. “She knew,” he said. “She had been looking into it herself, wondering if in fact I had it.”
Mr. Halpern said that over several calls they shared feelings and agreed “to work on our new relationship and see how far we can take it.” The two now talk regularly, at least once a week, he said.
Children made miserable by a psychiatric or developmental disorder may not always want company; but they often long for evidence that they aren’t the only ones putting a burden on the family, some psychiatrists say. Having a parent with the same quirks who can talk about it eases the guilt a child may feel. The child has a fellow traveler, and in some families maybe more.
“When we got reports that our son was not interacting in school, that he was very quiet, slouching, unusual — we said, ‘Well, that’s us; our family is like that,’” said Susan Shanfield, 54, a social worker living in Newton, Mass.
AFTER her son’s difficulties were diagnosed as a learning deficit, a neuro-lingual disorder, she quickly identified some of the same traits in herself. “It was very therapeutic for me,” she said. “I had known I was different from an early age, and now I had a definition that could at least explain some of that. I also told my father, a man now in his 80s, and he was very moved by it.” He has since talked openly about painful memories from growing up, and during his time raising his own family, that were all but off-limits before, she said, and become more tolerant of his own past mistakes and others’.
It can alter the present, too, if parent and child have enough common ground. Mr. Schwarz, the software developer in Framingham, said he became in some ways like a translator for his son, who’s now 16.
“I think there are a lot of parents of kids with these diagnoses who have at least a little bit of the traits their kids have,” Mr. Schwarz said. “But because of the stigma this society places on anything associated with disability, they’re inhibited from embracing that part of themselves and fully leveraging it to help their kids.”




























Astronomers are radically reshaping our picture of the Milky Way’s neighbors. Our corner of the cosmos, known as the Local Group, includes two giant spiral galaxies—the Milky Way and Andromeda—and smaller satellite galaxies orbiting them. The Milky Way was thought to have about 10 satellites, but within the last year or so, that number has nearly doubled. “Most astronomers, myself included, thought we at least knew the members of the Local Group,” says Daniel Zucker of Cambridge University, whose team found the new batch of eight galaxies. “I don’t think anyone expected us to find a significant population of these things. They’re fainter than anybody thought a galaxy could be—even smaller and less luminous than what are typically considered dwarf galaxies,” he adds, so they became “hobbit galaxies.” One, Leo T, still has gas associated with it, providing the raw material for stellar births. “It’s arguably the smallest star-forming galaxy known,” Zucker says. The survey that found the satellite galaxies scanned only a fifth of the sky, so there could be dozens more waiting to be found.
In another surprise, Harvard University astrophysicist Nitya Kallivayalil recently announced that two of our largest satellite galaxies probably aren’t satellites at all. Kallivayalil found that the Large and Small Magellanic clouds are shooting by us at around 200 miles per second, faster than a satellite would. With that kind of speed, she says, they are likely to be travelers speeding through the region. The only scenario in which the clouds could remain satellites enthralled in the gravitational pull of the Milky Way requires that the galaxy have twice its currently estimated mass.

Astronomers are also resizing our largest neighboring galaxy, Andromeda, finding that its radius is up to five times larger than anyone thought. Observations revealed a halo of stars half a million light-years from the galaxy’s center but still bound to it. “Much of the space between the Milky Way and Andromeda is filled with stars that belong to those galaxies,” says University of California at Santa Cruz astronomer Raja Guhathakurta, whose team discovered the halo. “They practically overlap. It really challenges the notion of galaxies as groups of stars with empty space between them.”
Future astronomers will become intimately acquainted with Andromeda as it screams toward us on a collision course with the Milky Way. A new simulation indicates that the first pass of galactic jousting will occur in 2 billion years, and the galaxies will fuse within 5 billion years. As the universe expands, all other galaxies will fade from sight. Harvard astrophysicist Avi Loeb, who developed the simulation, says astronomers should appreciate that we live at a special time in cosmic history: “Now when we look up, we see many galaxies. In the distant future, this will become a lonely place, with nothing to look at. If we want to learn about the universe at large, we’d better do it while we still can.”


















Muons Meet the Maya
At its most glamorous, the life of an experimental high-energy physicist consists of smashing obscure subatomic particles with futuristic-sounding names into each other to uncover truths about the universe—using science's biggest, most expensive toys in exciting locations such as Switzerland or Illinois. But it takes a decade or two to plan and build multibillion-dollar atom smashers. While waiting, what's a thrill-seeking physicist to do?

How about using some of the perfectly good, and completely free, subatomic particles that rain down on Earth from space every day to peek inside something really big and mysterious, like, say, a Mayan pyramid? That's exactly what physicist Roy Schwitters of the University of Texas at Austin is preparing to do.
High-energy particles known as muons, which are born of cosmic radiation, have ideal features for creating images of very large or dense objects. Muons easily handle situations that hinder other imaging techniques. Ground-penetrating radar, for instance, can reach only 30 meters below the surface under ideal conditions. And seismic reflection, another method, doesn't fare well in a complex medium. With muons, all you need is a way to capture them and analyze their trajectories.
Besides probing pyramids in Belize and Mexico, physicists are applying the muon method to studying active volcanoes and detecting nuclear materials. The concept sounds out of this world, but it's really quite simple. When cosmic rays hit the Earth's atmosphere, collisions with the nuclei of air atoms spawn subatomic particles called pions that quickly decay into muons that continue along the same path. Many of the muons survive long enough to penetrate the Earth's surface. Because of their high energy, the particles can easily pass through great volumes of rock or metal or whatever else they encounter. However, they are deflected from their path by atoms in the material, and the denser the material, the greater the deflection.
Schwitters wants to exploit this deflection to see if there are any rooms or chambers inside a Mayan pyramid in Belize, he told science journalists in Spokane, Wash., at a recent meeting sponsored by the Council for the Advancement of Science Writing. His team is building several muon detectors that would be buried in shallow holes around the base of the pyramid to create an image of what's inside by measuring the trajectories of the muons that pass through it.
"What you see is very much like an X ray," he says. "If you see a spot with more muons, it means there's a space there. If you see fewer muons, it means there's something extra-dense there."
Schwitters won't be the first to marry physics and archaeology in this way. In 1967, Nobel prize–winning physicist Luis Alvarez of the University of California, Berkeley placed a muon detector in a chamber beneath the pyramid of Khafra in Egypt to see if it was hiding any burial chambers like those discovered in the larger pyramid of Khufu. He found none, but the experiment showed that the method worked.

As the director of the Superconducting Supercollider laboratory in Texas until 1993, when Congress gave the project the axe, Schwitters is no stranger to waiting for the next big thing. And he has always been intrigued by the possibility of applying the tools of the high-energy physics trade elsewhere, so a chance conversation with one of Alvarez' former colleagues, combined with a little spare time, got Schwitters wondering what other enigmatic ancient structures were waiting to be probed.
Archaeologist Fred Valdez, director of the Mesoamerican Archaeological Research Laboratory at UT Austin, had the answer: an enormous pyramid in the third-largest Mayan city in Belize. The city is in an area in northwestern Belize known as La Milpa, which was home to one of the densest populations of Maya from as early as 1000 B.C. until around A.D. 850. The area was packed with four large cities, each with 20,000 or more residents, that were only around 8 to 12 kilometers apart with 60 or more towns, villages, and hamlets in between. Valdez believes there is much to be learned from the society that existed there.
"The amazing part is how close how many of these large cities are to each other," he said. "The Maya were clearly expert at adapting to their environment and exploiting their environment, clearly making better use of things than we are today, just to support the populations that were there."
Because there isn't a chamber below the La Milpa pyramid, Schwitters plans to harness muons with four or five smaller detectors spaced around the structure to get a three-dimensional view inside. Each detector will be a cylinder wrapped with strips of polystyrene, which emits light when hit by a muon. The bursts of light as each particle passes through both sides of the detector will be recorded by photo detectors at the end of the cylinder and used to reconstruct the muon trajectories.
Dense matter will deflect muons away from their paths, so fewer muons will hit the detectors from that area while more particles will pass through empty spaces to reach the detectors. A computer program will translate the information into an image that can be read like a CT scan or an X ray with bright spots indicating voids and dark areas correlating to more dense matter. Because muons hit the Earth at the rate of about 1 per square centimeter per minute, it will take several months to get a good image of the guts of the pyramid. Schwitters hopes he'll be able to resolve chambers as small as a cubic meter.

Knowing exactly where to dig to find potential tombs or other chambers could save precious time when dealing with very large structures like the pyramid in Belize. It could also save artifacts that need special treatment, sometimes within hours, to keep them from deteriorating from exposure. Dust in a tomb that is normally trampled during excavation could contain valuable information about diseases that affected the Maya, or about the plants and herbs they used.
"Ideally, the results would give us a look into the building without having to do the destructive process of excavation," Valdez said.
He envisions being able to drill a small auger hole into a chamber and send a fiber-optic camera down to take a look. That way he can study the chambers exactly as they were left, and the appropriate experts and equipment can be on hand to deal with the contents as they are exposed by coating them with resin, immersing them in water, or sealing them in an airtight case.
"That's tremendous information," he said. "It's almost like 20/20 hindsight."
With funding from Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., and support from UT and National Instruments, Schwitters' team has already built and successfully tested one detector at UT that weighs in around a ton, at 4.5 m long with a 1.5 m diameter. The detectors that will go to Belize will be much smaller, around the size of water heaters and weighing about 200 pounds. Depending on funding, the detectors could be ready for showtime in 2009.
Another team of scientists may be just months away from using muons to image the Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán, Mexico, in a quest to learn why the pyramid was built. And if burial chambers such as those found in the nearby Pyramid of the Moon are discovered, they could reveal whether the society was ruled by a single person or a government of several leaders.
Led by physicist Arturo Menchaca-Rocha of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, the team is currently working out some kinks in its detector having to do with wires cracking from temperature changes. Once that hurdle is cleared, which will likely be sometime after January, their single detector will be placed in a tunnel discovered under the pyramid in 1971, much like Alvarez' experiment in Egypt.
"We are quite delayed," Menchaca-Rocha said in an e-mail from a meeting in Veracruz. "But the pyramid has been sitting there for 2,000 years, so it can wait for us to be perfectly happy about the detector."

In the meantime, physicists at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico are looking to muons to help detect special nuclear materials such as plutonium and uranium at the country's borders. Current nuclear-detection capability relies on identifying the gamma-ray radiation emitted by the materials, but that doesn't always work.
"If someone wants to bring in nuclear material to build a bomb, they need to shield it with something dense like lead to stop the gamma rays," says Los Alamos physicist Chris Morris.
So Morris is working on a detector that would use muons to root out both nuclear materials and shielding. Lead is dense enough to perturb a muon's path, and it is even easier to spot the muon fingerprint of things like plutonium and uranium because their high density and big atomic charge scatter the particles more than anything else.
Los Alamos lab has partnered with Decision Sciences Corporation of San Diego to build a prototype four-sided muon detector that resembles a carport before the end of the year. Vehicles would drive into the device like entering a car wash and wait while detectors on all four sides of the tunnel record muon trajectories. A single muon would be recorded by multiple detectors, revealing any changes in its path.
"It measures the track of every muon going through the vehicle," Morris says. "In 20 seconds you can detect whether or not they have a chunk of metal that's 4 inches by 4 inches by 4 inches. If you went a little longer, you can see something smaller."

But the real strength of muon imaging is tackling very large structures, such as volcanoes, that defy other methods. Scientists led by Hiroyuki Tanaka of the University of Tokyo installed a single muon detector 1 kilometer from the summit of Mount Asama on the main island of Japan. By measuring muons traveling nearly horizontally through the volcano, the detector successfully imaged a lava mound that was created a few hundred meters below the crater floor during a 2004 eruption and a conduit below it.
"The cosmic-ray muon imaging technique has much higher resolving power than conventional geophysical techniques, with resolutions up to several meters allowing it to see smaller objects and greater detail in volcanoes," Tanaka wrote in a report on the results of the Mount Asama study in the Nov. 15 Earth and Planetary Science Letters.
Tanaka's team has also used muon detection to image a lava dome that has been smoking since 1945 on the flank of Usu volcano in Hokkaido, Japan. Both of Tanaka's current studies involved single detectors. But adding more detectors would give a three-dimensional view and help untangle the effect of higher-density materials on the muons from that of a longer distance traveled through somewhat less-dense material.
"This technique might provide a way to forecast a volcanic eruption by monitoring changes in the density of the magma channel inside the summit region of a volcano," Tanaka writes in a study on the lava dome in the Nov. 16 Geophysical Research Letters.
Even more promising is a real-time digital muon camera that Tanaka is working on that could capture real-time images of an active volcano. He hopes to have one installed with a view of Mt. Asama from 1.5 km away by May 2008, and a second one sometime thereafter that could provide a 3-D picture of Asama's next eruption.
"With this device, I think that the technique would be more practical for use in forecasting eruptions," he wrote in an e-mail from Japan.
Schwitters envisions other geologic studies that could benefit from muon detection, such as gauging the size and location of underground aquifers or assessing the stability of the geology around nuclear-waste depositories. But for now he is content to focus on the pyramids buried under dirt, trees, and vines in the forest in Belize.
"There is good reason to believe they contain rooms and chambers that have not been disturbed since the Maya left, and that's what makes them so exciting," he says.














































Jim Hammond is an elite athlete. He works out two hours a day with a trainer, pushing himself through sprints, runs, and strength-building exercises. His resting heart rate is below 50. He’s won three gold medals and one silver in amateur competitions this year alone, running races from 100 to 800 meters. In his division, he’s broken four national racing records. But perhaps the most elite thing about Hammond is his age.
He is 93. And really, there’s nothing much wrong with him, aside from the fact that he doesn’t see very well. He takes no drugs and has no complaints, although his hair long ago turned white and his skin is no longer taut.
His secret? He doesn’t have one. Hammond never took exceptional measures during his long life to preserve his health. He did not exercise regularly until his fifties and didn’t get serious about it until his eighties, when he began training for the Georgia Golden Olympics. “I love nothing better than winning,” he says. “It’s been a wonderful thing for me.” Hammond is aging, certainly, but somehow he isn’t getting old—at least, not in the way we usually think about it.

They say aging is one of the only certain things in life. But it turns out they were wrong. In recent years, gerontologists have overturned much of the conventional wisdom about getting old. Aging is not the simple result of the passage of time. According to a provocative new view, it is actually something our own bodies create, a side effect of the essential inflammatory system that protects us against infectious disease. As we fight off invaders, we inflict massive collateral damage on ourselves, poisoning our own organs and breaking down our own tissues. We are our own worst enemy.
This paradox is transforming the way we understand aging. It is also changing our understanding of what diseases are and where they come from. Inflammation seems to underlie not just senescence but all the chronic illnesses that often come along with it: diabetes, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s, heart attack. “Inflammatory factors predict virtually all bad outcomes in humans,” says Russell Tracy, a professor of pathology and biochemistry at the University of Vermont College of Medicine, whose pioneering research helped demonstrate the role of inflammation in heart disease. “It predicts having heart attacks, having heart failure, becoming diabetic; predicts becoming fragile in old age; predicts cognitive function decline, even cancer to a certain extent.”
The idea that chronic diseases might be caused by persistent inflammation has been kicking around since the 19th century. Only in the past few years, though, have modern biochemistry and the emerging field of systems biology made it possible to grasp the convoluted chemical interactions involved in bodywide responses like inflammation. Over a lifetime, this essential set of defensive mechanisms runs out of bounds and gradually damages organs throughout the body.
When you start to think about aging as a consequence of inflammation, as Tracy and many prominent gerontologists now do, you start to see old age in a different, much more hopeful light. If decrepitude is driven by an overactive immune system, then it is treatable. And if many chronic diseases share this underlying cause, they might all be remedied in a similar way. The right anti-inflammatory drug could be a panacea, treating diabetes, dementia, heart disease, and even cancer. Such a wonder drug might allow us to live longer, but more to the point, it would almost surely allow us to live better, increasing the odds that we could all spend our old age feeling like Jim Hammond: healthy, vibrant, and vital. And unlike science fiction visions of an immortality pill, a successful anti-inflammatory treatment could actually happen within our lifetime.
For the last century and a half, the average life span in wealthy countries has increased steadily, climbing from about 45 to more than 80 years. There is no good reason to think this increase will suddenly stop. But longer life today often simply means taking longer to die—slowly, expensively, and with more disease and disability. “If you talk to many old people, what they are really desperate about is not the fact that they’re going to die but that they are going to be sick, dependent, have to rely on others,” says Luigi Ferrucci, chief of the longitudinal studies section at the National Institute on Aging and director of the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, the nation’s longest-running study of old age.
Biologists have known for a while that inflammation increases with age, but until recently, given everything else that slumps, spikes, or goes off the rails as we get old, it didn’t seem especially important. Some researchers on aging still think that way.
But a big clue linking inflammation with aging came in the late 1990s, when Tracy and his colleagues showed that C-reactive protein (CRP), an inflammatory protein, is an amazingly accurate predictor of a future heart attack—as good as or better than high blood pressure or high cholesterol. At least in heart disease, inflammation isn’t just a bystander. What’s more, we could do something to decrease it. Aspirin, which was already known to help people with heart disease, seems to work primarily by reducing inflammation.
So why should our own immune system rely on such an apparently dangerous mechanism? The answer lies in the fact that infectious disease has historically been the number one killer of human beings, and responding to this threat has profoundly shaped our biology. Possessing a fierce and ferocious immune response primed to keep us alive long enough to reproduce was an evolutionary no-brainer.
Inflammation is what gives us that response. It serves as all-purpose protection against invaders and traumatic damage. To take a simple scenario, suppose you are bitten by a cat. First, coagulation factors promote clotting in order to stanch bleeding and prevent germs from spreading from the wound site. A menagerie of phagocytes, which swallow and destroy pathogens, surge out of the bloodstream and squeeze into the affected tissue, engulfing bacteria and secreting cytokines—messenger proteins that send out the call for more responders. The phagocytes also generate reactive oxygen species, unstable compounds that chew up bacteria as well as damaged human tissue.
At the same time, other switches get flipped throughout the body, modifying everything from metabolism to cell growth, via other cytokines, such as IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor–a, and things like CRP, which mark bacteria for destruction. The specialized adaptive immune response eliminates any remaining germs.
So far, so good. But the inflammation response can kick in even when there’s no invader. Atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, is a classic example. In response to fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries, a type of phagocyte called a macrophage identifies the growing lesions as trouble spots and infiltrates them, swelling and destabilizing the deposits. Those lesions can then break open, resulting in the formation of a blood clot that can clog blood vessels and cause heart attacks. The more active the macrophages are, the more CRP is in the bloodstream, and the more likely the lesions will break open, block your arteries, and kill you.
The evidence that inflammation is behind other diseases is indirect, but it is mounting. Researchers have long known that in patients with Alzheimer’s, the areas of the human brain clogged with senility-associated plaques also bristle with inflammatory cells and cytokines. Modern research has found that cytokines block memory formation in mice. In diabetes, inflammation and insulin resistance apparently track together, and drugs that effectively restore insulin sensitivity also appear to reduce inflammatory factors like IL-6 and CRP. Inflammation is also being investigated by a group at Leiden University in the Netherlands as a culprit in declining lung function, in osteoporosis, and in old-age depression. Even the weakness of old age may have an inflammatory cause: Ferrucci has found that inflammatory activity breaks down skeletal muscle, leading to the loss of lean muscle mass. Being fat makes all these diseases strike earlier, and that seems to be at least in part because fat cells spur more inflammation.
These findings have provided researchers with a totally new appreciation of how subtly inflammation can work and how wildly awry it can go over time. It’s not about “a massive infection or a welt the size of an egg because you got hit in the head with a two-by-four,” Tracy says. “Inflammation also goes on at a much lower level.” As it simmers in the background, over years and decades, collateral damage accumulates—in the heart, in the brain, everywhere. Harvey Jay Cohen, chairman of the department of medicine and director of the Center for the Study of Aging at Duke University Medical Center, likens inflammation to “little waves lapping on the shore. It’s a relatively low level of activity, one that sustained over time wears away at the beach and stimulates other bad events.”
Evolution has designed into us a cruel trade-off: What saves us in the short term kills us over the long haul. As we get older, acute episodes of inflammation tend to turn into chronic ones, perhaps because the regulation of the immune system becomes less efficient. Inflammatory factors in the blood can increase two- to fourfold. Chronic infections may be partly to blame. Although we usually don’t know it, nearly all adults are infected with the Epstein-Barr virus, and at least 60 percent of us with cytomegalovirus. These two pathogens can stay in our bodies in a latent state, hiding out in our cells. But Ronald Glaser, a viral immunologist at Ohio State University Medical Center and his research partner (and wife), psychologist Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, think that these viruses are not fully dormant. They’ve found evidence (pdf) that with age, antibodies to these viruses increase, indicating a reawakened virus and an active immune response.
Early experiences may also influence the way that inflammation affects an individual’s aging, says Caleb Finch, a neurobiologist and gerontologist at the University of Southern California. Analyzing historical birth and death records from 19th-century Europe, he and Eileen Crimmins, a gerontologist and sociologist at the University of Southern California, found that longevity is directly related to exposure to childhood disease. Children born during years of high neonatal mortality who survived to adulthood didn’t live as long as those born in healthier years. The reason, he says, is inflammation: A high infectious burden in childhood results in a high inflammatory burden in adulthood, which results in a shorter, sicker life. Conversely, Finch believes that people in affluent countries now live so long because their childhoods are free from diseases like measles, typhoid, malaria, whooping cough, and worms. Without these diseases, people grow bigger and stronger—and live much longer.
Looking beyond provocative findings like those in Finch’s study, Tracy and other researchers on aging say that it may be too simplistic to think of inflammation in terms of straightforward cause and effect. Instead we must think of human biology as a group of interdependent systems. “Is inflammation a response to aging, or is it causing aging or disease?” Tracy asks. “My answer is: Yep, yep, yep. It does all those things. There’s no other way to think about it—it’s both cause and response to what’s going on.”
Inflammation is not uncontested as a theory of aging. There are many competing hypotheses. Yet inflammation reinforces some more than others, potentially establishing a plausible constellation of mechanisms responsible for aging.

For example, according to the “free radical” hypothesis of aging, we get older because of constant cellular damage caused by reactive oxygen compounds that are a natural product of metabolism. Inflammation can partly explain how this might work. Macrophages, as part of the inflammatory response, produce reactive oxygen species in order to attack bacteria. Oxidative stress and inflammation clearly egg each other on, and calming one can inhibit the other.
To take another prominent example, a low-calorie diet is known to increase the life spans of creatures ranging from flatworms to rats, but no one knows why, or whether it will help humans live longer. Inflammation provides a clue: Dietary restriction sharply inhibits the inflammatory response, and that may be part of why it promotes longevity at the same time that it reduces insulin resistance and slows dementia. Yet another widely discussed theory of why we age blames the shortening of telomeres, chromosomal structures that, in most cells, dwindle with each division and may ultimately limit the number of times any cell can divide. It is possible that inflammation could play a role here, too, because it prompts the faster turnover of cells in the immune system and other tissues.
Still, nobody thinks that there is a single root cause of aging—different species may age in different ways, and multiple mechanisms are probably at work. “I think it would be a mistake to suggest that inflammation is the cause of aging, or that all theories of aging must be tied to it,” Cohen says. Then again it may not ultimately matter whether inflammation is the most significant cause of our decay. More important is that inflammation offers an unparalleled opportunity to do something about it.

Some ways to reduce inflammation are elementary. It is impossible to know exactly what is going on in Jim Hammond’s body, but all the aspects of his regimen—healthy food, exercise, and a good attitude—reduce systemic inflammation. Those of us without his tenacity can turn to drug companies, which are exploring new anti-inflammatory drugs like flavonoids. Researchers are also looking at new uses for old drugs—trying to prevent Alzheimer’s using ibuprofen, for example. “The research is really to prevent the chronic debilitating diseases of aging,” says Nir Barzilai, a molecular geneticist and director of the Institute for Aging Research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York. “But if I develop a drug, it will have a side effect, which is that you will live longer.”
Some of this research stretches the boundaries of what we know. Rudi Westendorp, head of the department of gerontology and geriatrics at the Leiden University Medical Center, is trying to treat old-age depression with drugs that are currently used for autoimmune conditions like rheumatoid arthritis. Harvard University researchers are considering a vaccine against atherosclerosis, which may provoke a reaction that suppresses inflammation.
The caveat with these experiments is that by modifying inflammation, we are playing with fire. After all, fighting off infection is an absolutely essential bodily function. “The danger of monkeying around in a system like that is that you may do more harm than good,” Cohen says. But humans appear willing to renegotiate the ancient evolutionary bargain that traded robust reproductive health for frail old age.
Think of Jim Hammond if you have any doubts. In his blog, he describes running the 800-meter race in the 2007 National Senior Olympics games. “I won in a photo finish, and I broke the national record,” he wrote. The crowd went nuts. At the age of 93, Hammond had the most exhilarating experience of his entire life.




























December 4, 2007
NEWS ANALYSIS
An Assessment Jars a Foreign Policy Debate About Iran
By STEVEN LEE MYERS
WASHINGTON, Dec. 3 — Rarely, if ever, has a single intelligence report so completely, so suddenly, and so surprisingly altered a foreign policy debate here.
An administration that had cited Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons as the rationale for an aggressive foreign policy — as an attempt to head off World War III, as President Bush himself put it only weeks ago — now has in its hands a classified document that undercuts much of the foundation for that approach.
The impact of the National Intelligence Estimate’s conclusion — that Iran had halted a military program in 2003, though it continues to enrich uranium, ostensibly for peaceful uses — will be felt in endless ways at home and abroad.
It will certainly weaken international support for tougher sanctions against Iran, as a senior administration official grudgingly acknowledged. And it will raise questions, again, about the integrity of America’s beleaguered intelligence agencies, including whether what are now acknowledged to have been overstatements about Iran’s intentions in a 2005 assessment reflected poor tradecraft or political pressure.
Seldom do those agencies vindicate irascible foreign leaders like President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who several weeks ago said there was “no evidence” that Iran was building a nuclear weapon, dismissing the American claims as exaggerated.
The biggest change, though, could be its effect on President Bush’s last year in office, as well as on the campaign to replace him. Until Monday, 2008 seemed to be a year destined to be consumed, at least when it comes to foreign policy, by the prospects of confrontation with Iran.
There are still hawks in the administration, Vice President Dick Cheney chief among them, who view Iran with deep suspicion. But for now at least, the main argument for a military conflict with Iran — widely rumored and feared, judging by antiwar protesters that often greet Mr. Bush during his travels — is off the table for the foreseeable future.
As Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, put it, the intelligence finding removes, “if nothing else, the urgency that we have to attack Iran, or knock out facilities.” He added: “I don’t think you can overstate the importance of this.”
The White House struggled to portray the estimate as a validation of Mr. Bush’s strategy, a contention that required swimming against the tide of Mr. Bush’s and Mr. Cheney’s occasionally apocalyptic language.
The national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said the estimate showed that suspicions about Iran’s intentions were warranted, given that it had a weapons program in the first place.
“On balance, the estimate is good news,” Mr. Hadley said, appearing at the White House. “On one hand, it confirms that we were right to be worried about Iran seeking to develop nuclear weapons. On the other hand, it tells us that we have made some progress in trying to ensure that that does not happen. But it also tells us that the risk of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon remains a very serious problem.”
Mr. Hadley insisted, as he and others have, that the administration had hoped and still hoped to resolve the outstanding questions about Iran’s nuclear programs using diplomacy, not force. But the nuances of his on-this-hand-on-the-other argument will probably make it much harder to persuade American allies to accept the administration’s harder line.
One official pointed out that the chief American diplomat on the Iran question, Under Secretary of State R. Nicholas Burns, had just met with counterparts from Europe, Russia and China, and had seemed to make some headway on winning support for a third round of sanctions by the United Nations Security Council. The official said Mr. Burns could not divulge the intelligence findings at that meeting on Friday because Congress had not been briefed.
The immediate task for Mr. Burns and other administration officials is to untangle the confusion caused by its own statements and findings and to persuade skeptics that this time, the United States has it right about what Iran was doing before 2003 and what that means for what it might do in the future.
“The way this will play is that the intelligence community has admitted it was wrong,” said Jon B. Alterman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “So why should we believe them now?”
Mr. Hadley said the drastic reversal in the intelligence agencies’ knowledge about Iran’s weapons programs was based “on new intelligence, some of which has been received in the last few months.”
He also said that he and other senior officials, including Mr. Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, had reviewed it and debated it two weeks ago.
With some of the administration’s most prominent hawks having departed and not taking part in the review of findings like these, it is possible that the zeal for another military conflict has diminished. After all, the first two wars on Mr. Bush’s watch remain unresolved at best.
Senator Hagel said he hoped that the administration might in its final year in office show the kind of diplomatic flexibility it did with North Korea over its nuclear weapons or with the conference in Annapolis, Md., last week on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He has previously called for the United States to open direct and unconditional talks with Iran to end the state of enmity that has existed since 1979.
He said Iran’s halt of weapons activity had created an opening for such talks, indicating, as the assessment does, that Iran’s government may be more rational than the one that Mr. Bush said in August had threatened to put the entire region “under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.”
“If we’re wise here, if we’re careful, I think we have some opportunities,” Mr. Hagel said.
The findings, though, remain open for interpretation, as they always do, even in documents meant to reflect the consensus of the intelligence community. When it comes to Iran, at odds with the United States on many fronts beyond the nuclear question, hawks remain.
“Those who are suspicious of diplomacy are well dug in in this administration,” said Kurt M. Campbell, chief executive officer of the Center for a New American Security.
John R. Bolton, the former ambassador to the United Nations, who recently left the administration and began to criticize it, sounded very much like Mr. Hadley on Monday, saying the assessment underscored the need for American toughness. He said Iran’s intentions would always remain a concern as long as it continued to enrich uranium.
“The decision to weaponize and at what point is a judgment in the hands of the Iranians,” he said. He added that the finding that Iran halted a weapons program could just mean that it was better hidden now.




JAKARTA (Reuters) - Many of Indonesia's islands may be swallowed up by the sea if world leaders fail to find a way to halt rising sea levels at this week's climate change conference on the resort island of Bali.
Doomsters take this dire warning by Indonesian scientists a step further and predict that by 2035, the Indonesian capital's airport will be flooded by sea water and rendered useless; and by 2080, the tide will be lapping at the steps of Jakarta's imposing Dutch-era Presidential palace which sits 10 km inland (about 6 miles).
The Bali conference is aimed at finding a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012, on cutting climate warming carbon emissions. With over 17,000 islands, many at risk of being washed away, Indonesians are anxious to see an agreement reached and quickly implemented that will keep rising seas at bay.
Just last week, tides burst through sea walls, cutting a key road to Jakarta's international airport until officials were able to reinforce coastal barricades.
"Island states are very vulnerable to sea level rise and very vulnerable to storms. Indonesia ... is particularly vulnerable," Nicholas Stern, author of an acclaimed report on climate change, said on a visit to Jakarta earlier this year.
Even large islands are at risk as global warming might shrink their land mass, forcing coastal communities out of their homes and depriving millions of a livelihood.
The island worst hit would be Java, which accounts for more than half of Indonesia's 226 million people. Here rising sea levels would swamp three of the island's biggest cities near the coast -- Jakarta, Surabaya and Semarang -- destroying industrial plants and infrastructure.
"Tens of millions of people would have to move out of their homes. There is no way this will happen without conflict," Environment Minister Rachmat Witoelar said recently.
"The cost would be very high. Imagine, it's not just about building better infrastructure, but we'd have to relocate people and change the way people live," added Witoelar, who has said that Indonesia could lose 2,000 of its islands by 2030 if sea levels continue to rise.
CRUNCH TIME AT BALI
Environmentalists say this week's climate change meeting in Bali will be crunch time for threatened coastlines and islands as delegates from nearly 190 countries meet to hammer out a new treaty on global warming.
Several small island nations including Singapore, Fiji, Kiribati, Tuvalu and Caribbean countries have raised the alarm over rising sea levels which could wipe them off the map.
The Maldives, a cluster of 1,200 islands renowned for its luxury resorts, has asked the international community to address climate change so it does not sink into a watery grave.
According to a U.N. climate report, temperatures are likely to rise by between 1.1 and 6.4 degrees Celsius (2.0 and 11.5 degrees Fahrenheit) and sea levels by between 18 cm and 59 cm (seven and 23 inches) this century.
Under current greenhouse gas emission levels, Indonesia could lose about 400,000 sq km of land mass by 2080, including about 10 percent of Papua, and 5 percent of both Java and Sumatra on the northern coastlines, Armi Susandi, a meteorologist at the Bandung Institute of Technology, told Reuters.
Indonesia, the world's fourth-most populous country, has faced intense pressure over agricultural land for decades.
Susandi, who has researched the impact of climate change on Indonesia, estimated sea levels would rise by an average of 0.5 cm a year until 2080, while the submersion rate in Jakarta, which lies just above sea level, would be higher at 0.87 cm a year.
A study by the UK-based International Institute for Economy and Development (IIED) said at least 8 out of 92 of the outermost small islands that make up the country's borders are vulnerable.
TOO MANY ISLANDS TO COUNT
Less than half of Indonesia's islands are inhabited and many are not even named. Now, the authorities are hastily counting the coral-fringed islands that span a distance of 5,000 km, the equivalent of going from Ireland to Iran, before it is too late.
Disappearing islands and coastlines would not only change the Indonesian map, but could also restrict access to mineral resources situated in the most vulnerable spots, Susandi said.
He estimates that land loss alone would cost Indonesia 5 percent of its GDP without taking into account the loss of property and livelihood as millions migrate from low-lying coastlines to cities and towns on higher ground.
There are 42 million people in Indonesia living in areas less than 10 meters above the average sea level, who could be acutely affected by rising sea levels, the IIED study showed.
A separate study by the United Nations Environment Programme in 1992 showed in two districts in Java alone, rising waters could deprive more than 81,000 farmers of their rice fields or prawn and fish ponds, while 43,000 farm laborers would lose their job.
One solution is to cover Indonesia's fragile beaches with mangroves, the first line of defense against sea level rise, which can break big waves and hold back soil and silt that damage coral reefs.
A more expensive alternative is to erect multiple concrete walls on the coastlines, as the United States has done to break the tropical storms that hit its coast, Susandi said.
Some areas, including the northern shores of Jakarta, are already fitted with concrete sea barriers, but they are often damaged or too low to block rising waters and big waves such as the ones that hit Jakarta in November.
"It will be like permanent flooding," Susandi said. "By 2050, about 24 percent of Jakarta will disappear," possibly even forcing the capital to move to Bandung, a hill city 180 km east of Jakarta.
(Editing by Megan Goldin)




















































WASHINGTON - One of the most complete dinosaur mummies ever found is revealing secrets locked away for millions of years, bringing researchers as close as they will ever get to touching a live dino.

The fossilized duckbilled hadrosaur is so well preserved that scientists have been able to calculate its muscle mass and learn that it was more muscular than thought, probably giving it the ability to outrun predators such as T. rex.
While they call it a mummy, the dinosaur is not really preserved like King Tut was. The dinosaur body has been fossilized into stone. Unlike the collections of bones found in museums, this hadrosaur came complete with skin, ligaments, tendons and possibly some internal organs, according to researchers.
The study is not yet complete, but scientists have concluded that hadrosaurs were bigger — 3 1/2 tons and up to 40 feet long — and stronger than had been known, were quick and flexible and had skin with scales that may have been striped.
"Oh, the skin is wonderful," paleontologist Phillip Manning of Manchester University in England rhapsodized, admitting to a "glazed look in my eye."
"It's unbelievable when you look at it for the first time," he said in a telephone interview. "There is depth and structure to the skin. The level of detail expressed in the skin is just breathtaking."
Manning said there is a pattern of banding to the larger and smaller scales on the skin. Because it has been fossilized researchers do not know the skin color. Looking at it in monochrome shows a striped pattern.
He notes that in modern reptiles, such a pattern is often associated with color change.
The fossil was found in 1999 in North Dakota and now is nicknamed "Dakota." It is being analyzed in the world's largest CT scanner, operated by the Boeing Co. The machine usually is used for space shuttle engines and other large objects. Researchers hope the technology will help them learn more about the fossilized insides of the creature.
"It's a definite case of watch this space," Manning said. "We are trying to be very conservative, very careful."
But they have learned enough so far to produce two books and a television program. The TV special, "Dino Autopsy," will air on the National Geographic channel Dec. 9. National Geographic Society partly funded the research.
A children's book, "DinoMummy: The Life, Death, and Discovery of Dakota, a Dinosaur From Hell Creek," goes on sale Tuesday and an adult book, "Grave Secrets of Dinosaurs: Soft Tissues and Hard Science," will be available in January.
Soft parts of dead animals normally decompose rapidly after death. Because of chemical conditions where this animal died, fossilization — replacement of tissues by minerals — took place faster than the decomposition, leaving mineralized portions of the tissue.
That does not mean DNA, the building blocks of life, can be recovered, Manning said. Some has been recovered from frozen mammoths up to 1 million years old, he said. At the age of this dinosaur, 65 million to 67 million years old, "the chance of finding DNA is remote," he said.
A Manchester colleague, Roy Wogelius, who also worked on the dinosaur, said "one thing that we are very confident of is that we do have some organic molecular breakdown products present." That look at chemicals associated with the animal is still research in progress.
Matthew Carrano, a paleontologist at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, said he could not comment in detail about the find because he had not seen the research. But, he added, "Any time we can get a glimpse of the soft anatomy of a dinosaur, that's significant."
The findings from Dakota may cause museums to rethink their dinosaur displays.
Most dinosaur skeletons in museums, for example, show the vertebrae right next to one another. The researchers looking at Dakota found a gap of about a centimeter — about 0.4 inch — between each one.
That indicates there may have been a disk or other material between them, allowing more flexibility and meaning the animal was actually longer than what is shown in a museum. On large animals, adding the space could make them a yard longer or more, Manning said.
Because ligaments and tendons were preserved, as well as other parts of Dakota, researchers could to calculate its muscle mass, showing it was stronger and potentially faster than had been known.
They estimated the hadrosaur's top speed at about 28 miles per hour, 10 mph faster than the giant T. Rex is thought to have been able to run.
"It's very logical, though, that a hadrosaur could run faster than a T. rex. It's a major prey animal and it doesn't have big horns on its head like triceratops. Hadrosaurs didn't have much in the way of defense systems, so they probably relied on fleet of foot," Manning said.
Dakota was discovered by Tyler Lyson, then a teenager who liked hunting for fossils on his family ranch. Lyson, who is currently working on his doctorate degree in paleontology at Yale University, founded the Marmarth Research Foundation, an organization dedicated to the excavation, preservation and study of dinosaurs.



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In 1982, I joined a bunch of my 13-year-old friends for a birthday party. We went to see a new movie, one we seemed certain to like. After all, it starred Harrison Ford, known to us as Han Solo and Indiana Jones, as a detective chasing down androids in a future world of vertiginous skyscrapers and flying cars.

As it turned out, I did like "Blade Runner," though the movie was considerably different than what I'd expected. There were gleaming skyscrapers and flying cars, but most of the movie took place either indoors or on crowded streets awash in rain and noise. Mr. Ford's character, Deckard, sure didn't seem much like Han or Indy: While he wasn't exactly the bad guy, he shot two women (one in the back) and spent much of the movie all but leveled by exhaustion, pain or both. Meanwhile, the villain -- Rutger Hauer's platinum-blonde replicant Batty -- wound up striking us as a sort of hero. In fact, the replicants seemed more caring, and more human, than the humans hunting them. For a 13-year-old it was at first confusing, then very interesting.

Now "Blade Runner" is back, in a recut, restored edition billed as director Ridley Scott's "final cut." Last week I watched the DVD, curious to see what changes had been made, if they'd improve a movie I vividly remembered in its original incarnation, and how the future imagined in "Blade Runner" holds up in an age of ubiquitous computing and communications.

Of course, "Blade Runner" never really left. It became a cult classic, appearing in a puzzling array of versions, and an Internet favorite. Not long after I first went online, I discovered newsgroup FAQs recounting the movie's troubled production, the tug-of-war between Mr. Scott and others over the story, and arguments about what the movie really "meant." I was fascinated: I hadn't known that Mr. Ford had disliked the movie, or that his Sam Spade voiceover and the oddly happy ending had been tacked on after test screenings. And I'd never seen the odd "unicorn scene" added in later releases, or read how it "proved" Deckard was also a replicant.

All this Net lore made "Blade Runner" a richer experience, but it was also frustrating: I wanted to see the movie I remembered again, but I wanted to see it the way Mr. Scott had intended it. That kept getting pushed off, though; for years Web chatter suggested a new edition would be on the way … soon.

Now, the wait is over and "Blade Runner" and I are at last reacquainted. The restored movie is beautiful, with superb sound, but I'd expected that. While it's possible the voiceover helped me get my bearings as a 13-year-old, I didn't miss it now -- particularly not in the film's powerful final minutes, with a battered Deckard left to ponder Batty's sacrifice in silence. I enjoyed following the clues about Deckard possibly being a replicant, and found the less-happy ending more satisfying. (Some of the continuity bloopers and special-effects flubs have also been cleaned up, and of course there are all manner of intriguing extras, from Mr. Scott's commentary to a exhaustive, occasionally exhausting warts-and-all documentary.)

How did the movie hold up for me? "Blade Runner" is set in Los Angeles in 2019, and some parts of that vision do now seem more derived from the early 1980s: Darryl Hannah's evil-doll replicant looks like she stepped out of first-wave MTV, Deckard wears a digital watch, and nobody has a cellphone.

And then there was one of my favorite scenes. Deckard uses a voice-activated computer to delve deep into a snapshot, zooming in until he finds the reflection of a face in a mirror in the background. It remains a startling piece of movie-making, one I often think about when working with high-resolution digital photos. But this time I found myself distracted. Why doesn't Deckard's software zoom in smoothly, like every program does today? This would be a real pain to use, I thought -- and was disappointed to think so.

But these are quibbles. I was still drawn in by the look and feel of "Blade Runner," slipping easily into the world it imagines. Yes, that world includes space colonies and attack ships off the shoulder of Orion. But we never see them, which is good -- because even in the best science fiction, everything from gadgetry to clothing typically strikes us as fantastic, and therefore fake. "Blade Runner" is different: We see a transformed but still-recognizable world, with odd but not-unfamiliar fashions, a familiar urban divide between conspicuous wealth and grinding poverty, and people trying to get by as best they can on crowded, chaotic streets.
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As a forerunner of cyberpunk, "Blade Runner" helped strip science fiction of starships and space wars, though it just pushes them offscreen instead of doing away with them entirely. (Another cyberpunk pioneer, William Gibson's "Neuromancer," also comes with the trappings of conventional sci-fi, with orbiting space stations and a self-aware supercomputer.) But "Blade Runner" also continues to speak to our hopes and fears. In 1982, it channeled fears of overpopulation and pollution, as well as American worries about Asia's rise. If some of those worries have subsided, new ones have replaced them: The weather has changed by 2019, and real animals have all but disappeared.

And the fear of being ceaselessly stifled and jostled and overwhelmed remains with us, though transferred from the real world to the virtual one. "Blade Runner" is full of noise and overrun by gadgetry, its buildings choked by the technological kudzu of advertisements and infrastructure. Yet peeking out amid the babble and clutter, we recognize things from our time -- old cars, photos, the books and piano in Deckard's apartment. They seem fragile and vulnerable, as if a few more rainy nights might leave them rotted and replaced, and we want desperately to hold onto them. Even without replicants or advertising zeppelins, that's a fear we've felt as well, watching with mingled excitement and anxiety as the digital age sweeps away old ways and familiar things.

Nearly 19,000 Americans died in 2005 of invasive infections caused by drug-resistant staphylococcus bacteria—more than were killed by AIDS, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The report, written by experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is the latest research to note the alarming spread of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus in communities across the U.S. and to document the bacteria's deadly impact.

MRSA is a superbug that does not respond to treatment with common antibiotics such as penicillin. More than 94,000 Americans contracted life-threatening MRSA infections in 2005, including blood and bone infections, pneumonia and inflammation of the heart's lining. Most appear to be traceable back to hospitals, nursing homes or medical clinics, the new CDC report found.

"This is really a call to action for health-care facilities to make sure they're doing everything they can to prevent MRSA," said R. Monina Klevens, the lead author of the report and a medical epidemiologist at the CDC.

This year, Illinois became the first state in the nation to require hospitals to report infection rates, test patients in intensive-care units for the bacteria and to take specific measures to prevent its spread.

Nancy Foster, vice president of patient safety at the American Hospital Association, called the study an "eye-opener" and said hospitals across the country will need to evaluate whether current strategies for combating MRSA are effective.

But a growing number of MRSA cases are also arising at community gyms and schools, and these, too, can be deadly. On Tuesday, a high school senior in Moneta, Va., died after being hospitalized for a week with an infection that spread to his kidney, liver, lungs and heart.
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"I've never heard of a bacterial invasive disease with an attack rate anywhere near this high in children and the elderly," said Dr. Robert Daum, a specialist in MRSA and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Chicago.

It's not known how the Virginia student contracted the infection, but officials ordered all 21 schools in the district closed for cleaning Wednesday. The bacteria can live on common surfaces, such as a table, for days or weeks and can be transmitted when someone touches it.

The CDC study found 32 of every 100,000 people in the communities studied contracted invasive MRSA infections. Rates were twice as high for African-Americans (66 per 100,000) and four times higher for the elderly (128 per 100,000). For infants younger than 1, the rate for blacks was four times that of whites.

African-Americans may be more vulnerable because they have higher rates of chronic illnesses such as diabetes, which require more visits to health-care providers, Klevens said. Infected individuals may then unwittingly spread the bacteria to other household members.

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The new CDC report is the most reliable overview of serious MRSA infections prepared to date. The data came from nine sites: Connecticut; Baltimore; the metropolitan areas of San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta and Portland, Ore.; and three counties in Minnesota, Tennessee and New York.

Instead of using administrative data, researchers checked medical records to confirm cases of invasive MRSA infections and double-checked laboratory results. An earlier CDC study that relied on administrative data had estimated 5,000 people die each year of dangerous MRSA infections.

Dr. William Jarvis, former acting director of the hospital infections program at the CDC, called upon the agency to strengthen recommended measures for preventing MRSA's spread in light of the new report's findings.

"The CDC recommends routine screening for HIV for everyone who goes to a doctor, but it doesn't even recommend routine screening for all hospital patients for MRSA," he said.

Dr. John Jernigan, deputy chief of prevention at the CDC, defended recent agency guidelines that call for health-care facilities to lower MRSA infection rates. The guidelines are voluntary and there is no timetable or national reporting of the data. But Jernigan said the recommendations will work if health-care facilities are serious about following them.



By day, David Lassiter's view of his surroundings is confined to what he can see from the cab of a ready-mix concrete truck.

By night, it is as vast as the universe.

On clear nights, Lassiter is in his backyard observatory, viewing planets, comets and other deep-space objects or photographing them with a computer-controlled camera designed for astrophotography.

His photographs have appeared in Astronomy Magazine and on its Web site. His photograph of Comet Holmes was recently a "Photo of the Day."

Lassiter, 59, of Fishing Creek Valley Road in Middle Paxton Twp., said he has always been interested in astronomy but didn't acquire his first telescope until about six years ago.

That was a 41/2-inch Newtonian reflector he bought for about $350.

"I always wanted to buy a telescope," Lassiter said. "I would look up at the night sky and wonder what is out there."

Today, a 14-inch research-grade Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope is the heart of his observatory, which is in a 10- by 12-foot wooden shed with a roll-off roof. Lassiter has invested more than $10,000 in equipment.

Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes use mirrors and a lens. The size of Lassiter's telescope refers to the size of its mirror.

The larger the mirror or lens, the more detail one can see, he said.

"I love astronomy and the beauty of it," Lassiter said. "After a long, stressful day, there is something about being able to roll back that roof, focus on some distant object in the universe, and mellow out.

"You are looking in the face of God, looking at God's amazing creation."

Michael Bakich, the photography editor for Astronomy Magazine, said he gets 100 to 200 photographs a week from backyard stargazers such as Lassiter.

"We love to get pictures from David and other amateurs," he said. "They are taking photographs of deep-space objects that rival those major observatories were making 25 or 30 years ago.

"The equipment that amateur astronomers are using today is much better than anything a large observatory was using 25 years ago," Bakich said.
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Digital imaging allows amateur astronomers to get more detail in their photographs.

Once he had the ability to view even the smallest and faintest celestial object, Lassiter wanted to photograph them.

He uses a computer-controlled digital camera that controls the focus of the telescope and the length of the exposure.

"I can photograph things with it, like the Horsehead Nebulae in the Constellation Orion, that I can't even see through the eyepiece of my telescope," he said.

Sky charts help him find the objects, much like Mapquest helps drivers find the best route to grandma's house.

Photographs show brilliant colors and details that can't be seen with the unaided eye, Lassiter said.

"The light cones in the human eye are too weak to pick the colors up, and it may take an exposure of several minutes for them to show up," he said. "When the live image finally comes up on your computer, you can see all these beautiful colors."

While he enjoys astrophotography, Lassiter also makes sure to leave time for plain old visual observation on rare perfect nights.
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"All these beautiful objects are out there, just waiting to be seen," he said.

"People call me a stargazer, but I don't spend any time looking at stars. All you see when you focus on a star is a bright point of light."




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COMMENTARY


A record eight million Americans moved from one state to another last year. Where is everyone going, and why? The answer has little to do with climate: California has arguably the nicest climate of any state in the nation -- yet in this decade more Americans have left the Golden State than entered it.

Migration patterns instead reveal which states have the most dynamic and desirable economies, and which are "has-been" states. The winners in this contest for the most valuable resource on the globe -- human capital -- are generally the states with the lowest tax, spending and regulatory burdens. The biggest losers are almost all congregated in the Northeast and Midwest. Liberals contend that tax rates, regulations, forced union laws and runaway government spending don't matter when it comes to creating jobs, high incomes and a higher quality of life. People tell us otherwise by voting with their feet.
[chart]

The American Legislative Exchange Council has just released a study we've done that presents a 2007 Economic Competitiveness Rating of the 50 states, based on 16 economic policy variables, including taxes, regulation, right to work, the legal system, educational freedom and government debt. Over the past decade, the 10 states with the highest taxes and spending, and the most intrusive regulations, have half the population and job growth, and one-third slower growth in incomes, than the 10 most economically free states. In 2006 alone 1,500 people each day moved to the states with the highest economic competitiveness from the states with the lowest competitiveness.

Of all the policy variables we examined, two stand out as perhaps the most important in attracting jobs and capital. The first is the income tax rate. States with the highest income tax rates -- California and New York, for example -- are significantly outperformed by the nine states with no income tax, such as Texas and Florida. As a study from the Atlanta Federal Reserve Board put it: "Relative marginal tax rates have a statistically significant negative relationship with relative state growth."

The other factor for attracting jobs and capital is right-to-work laws. States that permit workers to be compelled to join unions have much lower rates of employment growth than states that don't. Many companies say they will not even consider locating a factory in a state that does not have a right-to-work law.

Our study also finds that states with antigrowth tax and spending policies don't just lose people. Noncompetitive states like New York, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois and New Jersey are plagued by falling housing values, a shrinking tax base, business outmigration, capital flight and high unemployment rates, and less money for schools, roads and aging infrastructure. These factors of decline hurt the poor the most.

The Northeast is the classic case of a region suffering from self-inflicted wounds. In the year 2006, it was home to a smaller share of the U.S. population, and produced a smaller percentage of America's total value-added, than at any time in the nation's history. Why?

One big reason is that governments in the Northeast are about one-fifth more expensive than in the rest of America ($6,000 versus $5,000 of state spending per resident). An average-income family of four still saves $4,000 in lower income, property, sales taxes and fees by moving to just an average-tax state, and more like $6,000 a year by moving to, say, Florida. Since the Northeastern states tend to have highly progressive tax systems, the incentive to flee is even greater for higher-income earners.

Northeasterners complain disdainfully of the "war between the states" for jobs and businesses, and for good reason: They can't win. Southern and Western states are cherry-picking companies from the North Atlantic states. One Southern governor (who didn't want to be identified) recently told us his state had closed its economic development offices in Europe. "Why search for factories overseas when we can plunder high tax areas like Connecticut and New York?" he said.

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Auto and other manufacturing jobs are still being created in America -- but in Alabama, North Carolina and even Mississippi. It has to be infuriating to Northeasterners to learn that people and businesses are "trading up" by moving out of their region to the likes of Georgia and Alabama. But they are.

The states losing population are in effect suffering from a slow-motion version of the economic sclerosis that paralyzed much of Europe in the 1980s and '90s, particularly France and Germany with their massive welfare systems. At least the European socialist nations are finally starting to change their taxing and spending ways to win back jobs.

No such luck in this country. Five of the states near the bottom of our competitiveness ratings -- Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin -- have enacted major tax increases in the last two years. Maryland and Michigan just raised business and income taxes on upper-income earners, while arguing that raising the cost of doing business will attract more businesses. More likely it will induce companies to stay away, and people to move out.








With the wide-ranging conquests of Alexander the Great, the Greek or Hellenic polis 'city-state' gave way to Hellenistic Empire. Distinctions between Greek and barbarian fell; individuals, no longer simply part of their poleis (pl. of polis), were suddenly aware of the greater whole to which they belonged. Stoicism arose as an attempt to comprehend the new cosmopolitan order. The philosophy of the Stoics lasted for 500 years, during which time it had a major impact on Christianity, the idea of natural law, and moral virtue. Some of the major early stoics were Chrysippus, Cleanthes, and Zeno.
Chrysippus

Without Chrysippus, there wouldn't have been any Stoicism
- anonymous

He alone is the sage, the others only act as shadows.
- anonymous

Chrysippus (280-207) wasn't the founder of Stoicism. That honor goes to Zeno (c 336-264). Chrysippus wasn't even the second head of the stoa poikile. That honor goes to Cleanthes. Chrysippus was, however, the person on whom our knowledge of the early Stoics depends. Like Epicurus, he was a prolific writer, composing 705 books of which none remain except fragments preserved by others, including Cicero, Plutarch, Seneca, Aulus Gellius, and Athenaeus.

Some of Chrysippus' actions adversely affected the reputation of the Stoics. He refused to honor distinctions of rank. He would take opposite viewpoints for the sake of argument, but in the process show up the inconsistencies of Stoic beliefs. He sometimes argued illogically.

How Chrysippus died is not known. Two alternative theories are that Chrysippus died of laughter or over-proof wine.

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Cleanthes
Cleanthes (331-232), a wrestler from Lydia, had neither money nor genius, but through diligence and perseverance he served as Zeno's pupil for 19 years before succeeding him. He still had a long teaching career, since he died at 99, reportedly through intentional starvation.

Diogenes Laertius' Lives of Eminent Philosophers provides most of our information on Zeno of Citium because, although he was the founder of the Stoic school, none of his works survives. Zeno began his career as a merchant, but shipwreck led him to Athens and the Cynic philosopher, Crates. While under Crates' tutelage, Zeno wrote his Republic.

In the Republic, his utopian, rational society would have no need for laws. But since humans live in an imperfect society, they must accept social realities. Zeno opposed slavery, believed in sexual equality, opposed modesty, lived frugally, and appears to have drunk excessively.



Stoics and Moral Philosophy
8 Principles of Stoic Philosophy and Their Serenity Prayer-Like Advice
Below are 8 of the main ideas held by the Stoic philosophers.

1. Nature - Nature is rational.

2. Law of Reason - The universe is governed by the law of reason. Man can't actually escape its inexorable force, but he can, uniquely, follow the law deliberately.

3. Virtue - A life led according to rational nature is virtuous.

4. Wisdom - Wisdom is the the root virtue. From it spring the cardinal virtues: insight, bravery, self-control, and justice.

"Briefly, their notion of morality is stern, involving a life in accordance with nature and controlled by virtue. It is an ascetic system, teaching perfect indifference ( APATHEA ) to everything external, for nothing external could be either good or evil. Hence to the Stoics both pain and pleasure, poverty and riches, sickness and health, were supposed to be equally unimportant."

5. Apathea - Since passion is irrational, life should be waged as a battle against it. Intense feeling should be avoided.

6. Pleasure - Pleasure is not good. (Nor is it bad. It is only acceptable if it doesn't interfere with our quest for virtue.)

7. Evil - Poverty, illness, and death are not evil.

8. Duty - Virtue should be sought, not for the sake of pleasure, but for duty.

Serenity Prayer and Stoic Philosophy

The Serenity Prayer could have come straight from the principles of Stoicism as this side-by-side comparison of the the Serenity Prayer and the Stoic Agenda shows:

Serenity Prayer
God, grant me the serenity
To accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Stoic Agenda
"To avoid unhappiness, frustration,
and disappointment, we, therefore, need
to do two things: control those
things that are within our power
(namely our beliefs, judgments, desires,
and attitudes) and be indifferent
or apathetic to those things which
are not in our power (namely, things
external to us)."


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William R Connolly
Update: December 2007: It was pointed out to me that the main difference between the two passages is that the modern version includes a bit about knowing the difference between the two. While that may be, the Stoic version states those which are within our power -- the personal things like our own beliefs, our judgments, and our desires. Those are the things we should have the power to change.



"The life of virtue is the life in accordance with nature. Since for the Stoic nature is rational and perfect, the ethical life is a life lived in accordance with the rational order of things.'Do not seek to have events happen as you want them to, but instead want them to happen as they do happen, and your life will go well' (Handbook, ch. 8)."
-- Ecole Initiative Stoicism


999999

American Experience Vietnam: A Television History

Vietnam was before my time, so this was a good introduction for me. I’m sure it can’t cover everything and I accept same. For me, the show leaves unaddressed one important question/decision. First, a quick review of some facts from the show:

1. Tonkin in summer of 1964; the communists might have assumed they were attacking South Vietnamese and/or the CIA so these facts don’t matter for my question. However, the Americans DID retaliate by bombing the North.
2. On the eve of the November 1964 elections, the Communists attacked an American airbase near Saigon that was being used against them; this was the first Communist attack against an American installation. The Americans did NOT retaliate.
3. December 24, 1964, the Communists bomb the Brinks Hotel which hotel was occupied/used by high-ranking American Officers. The Americans did NOT retaliate (“who could bomb Santa Claus?”).
4. The Communists attack an American airbase in the Central Highlands (“Pleiku”) killing 8 and wounding 126 (it is not clear from the show how many of the forgoing casualties were Americans). The Americans DID retaliate AND planned sustained bombing but the bombing was postponed because of a coup attempt in Saigon in February of 1965.
5. Sustained bombing does begin as Operation Rolling Thunder.
6. On March 8, 1965, 3,500 Marines are brought in to defend the three jet-capable American airbases (these 3,500 are mentioned in the context of DaNang).
7. Three weeks after these Marines land, the Communists attack the American embassy in Saigon.
8. Less than one month after landing, the Marines’ mission is expanded to engage in offensive patrols (“ … don’t sit on your dittyboxes ….”).
9. 72,000 American troops are “committed” by the end of Spring. 200,000 American troops are “committed” by the end of the year.

The question(s): Did the Communists think that these pinpricks would dissuade the Americans from entering the War? Or what did they think the probability was that these attacks would dissuade the Americans rather than cause them to escalate their efforts? Surely the Communists did NOT want the Americans to escalate their presence/effort?
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(AP) -- Scientists have apparently broken the universe's speed limit.

For generations, physicists believed there is nothing faster than light moving through a vacuum -- a speed of 186,000 miles per second.

But in an experiment in Princeton, New Jersey, physicists sent a pulse of laser light through cesium vapor so quickly that it left the chamber before it had even finished entering.

The pulse traveled 310 times the distance it would have covered if the chamber had contained a vacuum.

Researchers say it is the most convincing demonstration yet that the speed of light -- supposedly an ironclad rule of nature -- can be pushed beyond known boundaries, at least under certain laboratory circumstances.
Not so impossible

"This effect cannot be used to send information back in time," said Lijun Wang, a researcher with the private NEC Institute. "However, our experiment does show that the generally held misconception that `nothing can travel faster than the speed of light' is wrong."

The results of the work by Wang, Alexander Kuzmich and Arthur Dogariu were published in Thursday's issue of the journal Nature.

The achievement has no practical application right now, but experiments like this have generated considerable excitement in the small international community of theoretical and optical physicists.

"This is a breakthrough in the sense that people have thought that was impossible," said Raymond Chiao, a physicist at the University of California at Berkeley who was not involved in the work. Chiao has performed similar experiments using electric fields.

In the latest experiment, researchers at NEC developed a device that fired a laser pulse into a glass chamber filled with a vapor of cesium atoms. The researchers say the device is sort of a light amplifier that can push the pulse ahead.

Previously, experiments have been done in which light also appeared to achieve such so-called superluminal speeds, but the light was distorted, raising doubts as to whether scientists had really accomplished such a feat.

The laser pulse in the NEC experiment exits the chamber with almost exactly the same shape, but with less intensity, Wang said.

The pulse may look like a straight beam but actually behaves like waves of light particles. The light can leave the chamber before it has finished entering because the cesium atoms change the properties of the light, allowing it to exit more quickly than in a vacuum.

The leading edge of the light pulse has all the information needed to produce the pulse on the other end of the chamber, so the entire pulse does not need to reach the chamber for it to exit the other side.

The experiment produces an almost identical light pulse that exits the chamber and travels about 60 feet before the main part of the laser pulse finishes entering the chamber, Wang said.

Wang said the effect is possible only because light has no mass; the same thing cannot be done with physical objects.

The Princeton experiment and others like it test the limits of the theory of relativity that Albert Einstein developed nearly a century ago.

According to the special theory of relativity, the speed of particles of light in a vacuum, such as outer space, is the only absolute measurement in the universe. The speed of everything else -- rockets or inchworms -- is relative to the observer, Einstein and others explained.
Application: faster computers?
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In everyday circumstances, an object cannot travel faster than light. The Princeton experiment and others change these circumstances by using devices such as the cesium chamber rather than a vacuum.

Ultimately, the work may contribute to the development of faster computers that carry information in light particles.

Not everyone agrees on the implications of the NEC experiment.

Aephraim Steinberg, a physicist at the University of Toronto, said the light particles coming out of the cesium chamber may not have been the same ones that entered, so he questions whether the speed of light was broken.

Still, the work is important, he said: "The interesting thing is how did they manage to produce light that looks exactly like something that didn't get there yet?"































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