Saturday, March 29, 2008


We know that there are complex organic molecules in space. Just like individual atoms, molecules can emit light at very specific colors, and by finding those colors of emitted light we can detect the molecules. In general, the light is actually in the radio wavelength part of the spectrum, so giant radio telescopes are used to find them. The observations are a bit tricky, because molecules have lots of ways of emitting different kinds of light, so the total energy the molecule has to emit at any particular color gets gets spread out over all the different colors. Think of it this way: the more lottery winners there are, the less each winner gets from the contest. In the same way, because molecules can emit light in many colors, each color gets less of the total energy, making it fainter and harder to detect.
So molecules, especially complex organic ones like amino acetonitrile, are pretty faint emitters and hard to see. But scientists at Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, did it. They identified 51 different specific colors of radio light coming from a dense hot cloud of gas near the galactic center, and those colors are tagged as being from our friend above. This cloud, called B2, is a known haven for organic molecules such as formaldehyde, ethyl alcohol, and acetic acid (given those last two, my guess is that alien winemakers in B2 have their successes and failures).
Amino acids are the building blocks of life, as biologists are fond of saying; they are the basis of proteins and our DNA is coded to make them. Finding them in space is an interesting task, because that would mean the conditions to form amino acids are easy to come by. Plus, it’s possible for them to literally rain down from space. Amino acids have been found in meteorites, for example. But never in space.
So finding amino acetonitrile is a big step in finding a proper amino acid in space. It means that another big piece of the amino acid puzzle is available in space, and that’s encouraging. Finding a true amino acid source in space may just mean we need to be more diligent and look more carefully.
It’s there, and announcing its presence, but it’s whispering.

A few days ago I wrote about how the Cassini Saturn probe dove through water ice plumes erupting from the surface of the icy moon Enceladus. The pictures were incredible, but it may very well be that the other detectors got the big payoff.

They detected organic compounds in the plumes.
Now remember, organic molecules don’t necessarily mean life. What Cassini detected were heavy carbon-based molecules, including many that are the building blocks for making things like amino acids and other compounds necessary for life as we know it.
[…] it is now unambiguous that the jets emerging from the south polar fractures contain organic materials heavier than simple methane — acetylene, hydrogen cyanide, formaldehyde, propane, etc. — making the sub-surface sources of Enceladus’ dramatic geological activity beyond doubt rich in astrobiologically interesting materials.
It’s been supposed for some time that Enceladus, like Jupiter’s moon Europa, has a subsurface ocean. The surface itself is mostly water ice, implying strongly that any ocean would have water as well. The plumes erupt out from cracks in the surface, and when Cassini dove through them it got to directly sample the interior of Enceladus. And it tasted organic compounds, 20 times as dense as previously thought.

There was a second discovery as well: the cracks were much warmer than expected. They were at an admittedly chilly -93 Celsius, but that’s 17 Celsius higher than thought. Two plumes come from the warmest of these regions as well.
Coupled together, these two items indicate that if there is an ocean beneath the frozen crust of the moon, then it’s reasonably warm, and rich in organic compounds. We don’t know how life started on Earth, but it’s a good guess that an ocean thick with organic compounds was involved at some point.
This is a fantastically provocative and interesting development! The ingredients for life exist on a tiny moon orbiting a ringed giant, and better yet they sit in a mixing bowl that has been churning away for billions of years. What lies beneath that hidden face?

Gov. David A. Paterson reimbursed his campaign committee this week for two stays at a Manhattan hotel that he has acknowledged using to carry on an extramarital affair, his aides said Friday.

Mr. Paterson used his campaign’s American Express Platinum Card to pay for the hotel stays — one night in November 2002 and another in April 2003, totaling $253 — but he has no recollection of the circumstances, and no records could be found to shed light on them, according to the aides.

Henry T. Berger, an election lawyer for Mr. Paterson, also told reporters that the governor used his campaign credit card to buy furniture and men’s clothing in 2004, but reimbursed the committee at the time for the $2,138 in spending.

The remarks by Mr. Berger, made to reporters in his office at the Empire State Building, came as the governor and his aides try to put to rest any suggestion of wrongdoing and move on from his acknowledgment Tuesday that he had extramarital affairs.

Mr. Paterson had been asked by reporters about his campaign’s spending on stays at the hotel, which is not far from his Harlem home. State election law prohibits the use of campaign money for personal expenses, but if politicians promptly reimburse a campaign they can usually avoid any penalties.

In repaying the committee for the hotel stays, the governor was not admitting that they were related to an affair, Mr. Berger said, adding that he found nothing improper in any of the expenditures that he reviewed.

Mr. Berger, whom Mr. Paterson asked to review his campaign finances, said he examined a series of expenses reporters had asked about, as well as records of Mr. Paterson’s Senate campaigns going back to 1999.
He said he did not expect Mr. Paterson to make any additional reimbursements.

“We were able to find either backup documentation or clear recollection from David or his then-staff as to everything, except for the two events,” he said, referring to the hotel stays at what was then a Quality Inn on the Upper West Side.

The session, which was also attended by the governor’s spokesman, Errol Cockfield, grew strained at times as reporters pressed for explanations for various hotel stays and payments to women. Mr. Cockfield took exception to some of the questioning.

“In some cases,” he said, “the inquiries have bordered on being sexist by suggesting that many of the women involved in campaign work for the senator, women doing legitimate work, were somehow romantically linked to the senator.”

Mr. Paterson, who was catapulted into the governorship Monday after Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal, has struggled to answer questions about whether he improperly used campaign money in the relationships he said he had with other women during a troubled time in his marriage.

He has given conflicting accounts, alternately denying and then saying it was possible that he inadvertently used his campaign credit card for personal expenses. He stressed that if he had used the card for personal expenses, he would have repaid the committee.

Mr. Berger also provided a new explanation for a $500 campaign payment to a state employee with whom Mr. Paterson had an affair, one that conflicted with the version of events that the governor offered earlier in the week. In his recollection of the payment, Mr. Paterson had said that it was made to reimburse her for a contribution she made on his behalf to the 2002 gubernatorial campaign of H. Carl McCall, a Democratic former state comptroller.

Such an expenditure would have been illegal, since campaign contributors cannot be reimbursed by someone else, and state election records showed no donation from the woman to Mr. McCall. On Friday, Mr. Berger said that Mr. Paterson’s recollection was wrong, and that the $500 was actually payment for her work updating the campaign committee’s donor database.

Mr. Cockfield also responded to questions about another woman, who campaign records show was paid $1,000 in 2002 for staff work. The New York Post reported Friday that the woman denied having worked for the campaign, but Mr. Cockfield discounted that, saying she either did not remember it or was simply trying to avoid being dragged into the story.

“That woman did, in fact, do work for the campaign staff and was paid for it,” he said.

“Sometimes I think my head is so big because it is so full of dreams,” says John Merrick in the play The Elephant Man. He might have been speaking for the Boskops, an almost forgotten group of early humans who lived in southern Africa between 30,000 and 10,000 years ago.
Judging from fossil remains, scientists say the Boskops were similar to modern humans but had small, childlike faces and huge melon heads that held brains about 30 percent larger than our own.

That’s what fascinates psychiatrist Gary Lynch and cognitive scientist Richard Granger. “Just as we’re smarter than apes, they were probably smarter than us,” they speculate. More insightful and self-reflective than modern humans, with fantastic memories and a penchant for dreaming, the Boskops may have had “an internal mental life literally beyond anything we can imagine.” Lynch and Granger base their characterization on our current understanding of how the human brain works, describing in detail its physiology and structure and comparing it with the brains of other primates. They also explore what the Boskops’ big brains tell us about evolution (why didn’t they survive?) and about the future of human intelligence (can we engineer bigger brains?). These are questions, one suspects, that even the smallest-brained Boskop would have approved of.

The Mutual UFO Network, or MUFON, is one of the oldest and largest UFO investigative organizations in the United States.

MUFON was established as the Midwest UFO Network in Quincy, Illinois, on May 30, 1969, by Walter H. Andrus, Allen Utke, John Schuessler, and other scientific-minded researchers. Most of MUFON's early members had earlier been associated with APRO (Aerial Phenomena Research Organization).

The organization now has more than 3,000 members worldwide, with a majority of its membership base situated in the continental United States. MUFON operates a worldwide network of regional directors for field investigations of UFO sightings reports, holds an annual international symposium and publishes the monthly MUFON UFO Journal.

The stated mission of MUFON is the scientific study of UFOs for the benefit of humanity through investigations, research and education.

Along with CUFOS (the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies) and FUFOR (the Fund for UFO Research), MUFON is part of the UFO Research Coalition, a collaborative effort by the three main UFO investigative organizations in the US whose goal is to share personnel and other research resources, and to fund and promote the scientific study of the UFO phenomenon.

MUFON is currently headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado under the direction of James Carrion.

Even before the alleged Dulce Base achieved notoriety, many cattle mutilations were said to occur in the Dulce area, and there were also allegations of UFOs visiting the area.
In the 1970s, New Mexico State Police officer Gabe Valdez investigated mutilations in the region.

Dulce Base conspiracy theories were first circulated in the 1980s. According to researcher Greg Bishop (Bishop, 2005), the claims of Paul Bennewitz are the earliest source for the Dulce Base stories. Bennewitz was a New Mexico businessman and physicist who operated Thunder Scientific Corporation, a company which manufactured high-altitude testing equipment mostly for use at Kirtland Air Force Base.

According to Bennewitz, he uncovered evidence of a highly secret U.S. Air Force program designed to monitor satellites launched by the Soviet Union. Bennewitz was already interested in reports of UFOs, alien abduction and cattle mutilations, and he interpreted the secret program as evidence of extraterrestrials on earth.

Bennewitz communicated his findings to civilian UFO group APRO, who dismissed him as a deluded crank. In late 1980, Bennewitz contacted Kirtland AFB officials. For most of the 1980s, U.S Air Force Sergeant Doty and/or ufologist William Moore would relate reams of mostly spurious information to Bennewitz as part of a disinformation campaign designed to distract him from secret military projects at Kirtland.

Bennewitz accepted nearly all of the information as reliable, and focused his energies towards writing a document he called "Project Beta.” Over the years, Bennewitz grew ever more paranoid, and his health deteriorated so badly that he had a nervous breakdown and retired from the UFO research scene before his 2005 death.

Since Bennewitz introduced the story of the Dulce Base, the conspiracy theories have grown, and have flourished on the World Wide Web.

According to some UFO conspiracy theories, a joint alien/U.S. military underground base exists, perhaps devoted to genetics. The theories regarding Dulce sometimes state that alien technology was traded for permission to engage in human and animal mutilations. A battle was said to have taken place there between aliens and humans, though the time of this alleged encounter varies from the 1970s to the 1980s. Some sources allege that horrific genetic experiments are conducted in lower levels of the facility (usually level 6 or 7, depending on the source); these levels are sometimes referred to as "Nightmare Hall."

According to the legend, Project Aquarius (1966) was a plan for investigation of UFOs, carried out and funded by the CIA. Bishop notes that Bennewitz is the earliest source for the Project Aquarius tale. This project was slated to begin after December 1969 when Project Grudge and Project Blue Book were closed. In 1969, the base was built northwest of Dulce in joint agreement between CIA and aliens from space. The base is allegedly located on the Jicarilla Apache Indian Reservation. The entrance is on Mount Archuleta (or Archuleta Mesa). The base gets water and electricity from the Navajo River, and dumps waste water back into the same river. The U.S. government occupies the upper levels of the underground base, while the aliens control the lower levels.

Vibrations from the ground near the town of Dulce have allegedly caused speculations of an underground facility; however, these are more likely minor earthquakes, which are known to occur in the area. Military helicopters have also been said to be "unusually milling" around the deserted area, although these claims are, at present, unproven.

There is a claim that the area was partially scanned with ground-penetrating radar, producing 'interesting' results, but these results are not currently available.

Some less substantial evidence includes supposed 'leaked documents', videos and witness reports. Allegedly, a collection of security camera tapes and technical documents were stolen from the base by a disgruntled security officer. These were stored in an unknown location along with the officer's 'flash', a weapon, resembling a flashlight, which is claimed to emit some form of directed radiation. The actual documents which were stolen have not been revealed to the public, however a collection of drawings based on the documents and surveillance footage is available. Sometime in the 1990's a Japanese documentary producer had a 1-minute animation produced, based on the alleged contents of the stolen information. This animation is available on the internet and was never claimed by its creators to be actual footage. There are also a small number of black-and-white photographs available, which are signed "TAL". It has been suggested that these photographs are actually from the Cheyenne Mountain facility.

Many people have supposedly witnessed UFOs in the area.

Many details of the lore surrounding the Dulce base—vast underground bases with many subterranean levels, battles with alien or underground creatures, etc.—resemble those of the alleged Montauk Project.

In popular media, the computer video game Half-Life appears to be based on the Dulce base lore.

This is just a quick followup to the news of the naked-eye GRB from a few days ago. I’ve been getting email and seeing things popping up in other astroblogs, so I figured I’d chime in.

I want to mention that given the distance and brightness of the burst, it is most likely the single most luminous event ever witnessed by humans. I think that’s somethin’ right there.

The image above is from Swift: it was taken by the X-Ray Telescope on board the satellite mere minutes after the burst was detected. Having seen a few Swift X-ray images, let me say that that sucker was bright. Very cool.
In news from the ground: Pi of the Sky is a GRB hunting robotic telescope in Poland, and it has great images and animations of the GRB seen as it was on the rise, even as Swift was detecting the gamma rays. This is a very cool idea: telescopes on the ground with very wide fields of view look at the same part of the sky at the same time as Swift. Remember, Swift is a satellite in low Earth orbit, and it sees a large portion of the sky at once. When gamma rays from a GRB are detected by Swift, it immediately (in a few seconds!) sends down the rough coordinates of the burst so other telescopes can observe it as quickly as possible — many GRBs fade to invisibility in seconds. So a telescope looking at the same part of the sky as Swift cuts down even those precious seconds, getting the burst simultaneously in optical light as Swift sees the gamma-rays.
In this case, it paid off incredibly: they caught the burst actually getting brighter, which is rare all by itself. But to have that happen with a burst of this distinction, well, that’s a major coup. Hats off to the astronomy folks in Poland for getting this. Of course, they gave us Copernicus, so they have a long history in ground-breaking astronomy.
Reports are pouring in from all over the world (and I mean all over and above it), and at the moment it’s mostly technical data: brightness, spectra, and so on. I suspect in the next few days a more coherent picture of this burst will emerge, but it will get better when it fades enough to look for the host galaxy — the galaxy in which the burst occurred. Sometimes the galaxy can be seen well enough to show that the burst came from a place in it where stars are actively being born. That implies this was a young supermassive star that exploded, the kind that doesn’t live long enough to wander out from its stellar nursery. Spectra of the galaxy can give an idea of the chemical content of it, how much of elements like iron and calcium can be seen, hinting again at physical conditions in the galaxy.

No problems so far, the immigration agent told the American citizen and his 22-year-old Colombian wife at her green card interview in December. After he stapled one of their wedding photos to her application for legal permanent residency, he had just one more question: What was her cellphone number?

The calls from the agent started three days later. He hinted, she said, at his power to derail her life and deport her relatives, alluding to a brush she had with the law before her marriage. He summoned her to a private meeting.
And at noon on Dec. 21, in a parked car on Queens Boulevard, he named his price — not realizing that she was recording everything on the cellphone in her purse.

“I want sex,” he said on the recording. “One or two times. That’s all. You get your green card. You won’t have to see me anymore.”

She reluctantly agreed to a future meeting. But when she tried to leave his car, he demanded oral sex “now,” to “know that you’re serious.” And despite her protests, she said, he got his way.

The 16-minute recording, which the woman first took to The New York Times and then to the Queens district attorney, suggests the vast power of low-level immigration law enforcers, and a growing desperation on the part of immigrants seeking legal status. The aftermath, which included the arrest of an immigration agent last week, underscores the difficulty and danger of making a complaint, even in the rare case when abuse of power may have been caught on tape.

No one knows how widespread sexual blackmail is, but the case echoes other instances of sexual coercion that have surfaced in recent years, including agents criminally charged in Atlanta, Miami and Santa Ana, Calif. And it raises broader questions about the system’s vulnerability to corruption at a time when millions of noncitizens live in a kind of legal no-man’s land, increasingly fearful of seeking the law’s protection.

The agent arrested last week, Isaac R. Baichu, 46, himself an immigrant from Guyana, handled some 8,000 green card applications during his three years as an adjudicator in the Garden City, N.Y., office of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, part of the federal Department of Homeland Security. He pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor charges of coercing the young woman to perform oral sex, and of promising to help her secure immigration papers in exchange for further sexual favors. If convicted, he will face up to seven years in prison.

His agency has suspended him with pay, and the inspector general of Homeland Security is reviewing his other cases, a spokesman said Wednesday. Prosecutors, who say they recorded a meeting between Mr. Baichu and the woman on March 11 at which he made similar demands for sex, urge any other victims to come forward.

Money, not sex, is the more common currency of corruption in immigration, but according to Congressional testimony in 2006 by Michael Maxwell, former director of the agency’s internal investigations, more than 3,000 backlogged complaints of employee misconduct had gone uninvestigated for lack of staff, including 528 involving criminal allegations.

The agency says it has tripled its investigative staff since then, and counts only 165 serious complaints pending. But it stopped posting an e-mail address and phone number for such complaints last year, said Jan Lane, chief of security and integrity, because it lacks the staff to cull the thousands of mostly irrelevant messages that resulted. Immigrants, she advised, should report wrongdoing to any law enforcement agency they trust.

The young woman in Queens, whose name is being withheld because the authorities consider her the victim of a sex crime, did not even tell her husband what had happened.

A slim, shy woman who looks like a teenager, she said she had spent recent months baby-sitting for relatives in Queens, crying over the deaths of her two brothers back in Cali, Colombia, and longing for the right stamp in her passport — one that would let her return to the United States if she visited her family.

She came to the United States on a tourist visa in 2004 and overstayed.
When she married an American citizen a year ago, the law allowed her to apply to “adjust” her illegal status. But unless her green card application was approved, she could not visit her parents or her brothers’ graves and then legally re-enter the United States. And if her application was denied, she would face deportation.

She had another reason to be fearful, and not only for herself. About 15 months ago, she said, an acquaintance hired her and two female relatives in New York to carry $12,000 in cash to the bank. The three women, all living in the country illegally, were arrested on the street by customs officers apparently acting on a tip in a money-laundering investigation. After determining that the women had no useful information, the officers released them.

But the closed investigation file had showed up in the computer when she applied for a green card, Mr. Baichu told her in December; until he obtained the file and dealt with it, her application would not be approved. If she defied him, she feared, he could summon immigration enforcement agents to take her relatives to detention.

So instead of calling the police, she turned on the video recorder in her cellphone, put the phone in her purse and walked to meet the agent. Two family members said they watched anxiously from their parked car as she disappeared behind the tinted windows of his red Lexus.

“We were worried that the guy would take off, take her away and do something to her,” the woman’s widowed sister-in-law said in Spanish.

As the recorder captured the agent’s words and a lilting Guyanese accent, he laid out his terms in an easy, almost paternal style. He would not ask too much, he said: sex “once or twice,” visits to his home in the Bronx, perhaps a link to other Colombians who needed his help with their immigration problems.

In shaky English, the woman expressed reluctance, and questioned how she could be sure he would keep his word.

“If I do it, it’s like very hard for me, because I have my husband, and I really fall in love with him,” she said.

The agent insisted that she had to trust him.
“I wouldn’t ask you to do something for me if I can’t do something for you, right?” he said, and reasoned, “Nobody going to help you for nothing,” noting that she had no money.

He described himself as the single father of a 10-year-old daughter, telling her, “I need love, too,” and predicting, “You will get to like me because I’m a nice guy.”

Repeatedly, she responded “O.K.,” without conviction. At one point he thanked her for showing up, saying, “I know you feel very scared.”

Finally, she tried to leave. “Let me go because I tell my husband I come home,” she said.

His reply, the recording shows, was a blunt demand for oral sex.

“Right now? No!” she protested. “No, no, right now I can’t.”

He insisted, cajoled, even empathized. “I came from a different country, too,” he said. “I got my green card just like you.”

Then, she said, he grabbed her. During the speechless minute that follows on the recording, she said she yielded to his demand out of fear that he would use his authority against her.

The charges against Mr. Baichu, who became a United States citizen in 1991 and earns roughly $50,000 a year, appear to be part of a larger pattern, according to government records and interviews.

Mr. Maxwell, the immigration agency’s former chief investigator, told Congress in 2006 that internal corruption was “rampant,” and that employees faced constant temptations to commit crime.

“It is only a small step from granting a discretionary waiver of an eligibility rule to asking for a favor or taking a bribe in exchange for granting that waiver,” he contended. “Once an employee learns he can get away with low-level corruption and still advance up the ranks, he or she becomes more brazen.”

Mr. Maxwell’s own deputy, Lloyd W. Miner, 49, of Hyattsville, Md., turned out to be an example. He was sentenced March 7 to a year in prison for inducing a 21-year-old Mongolian woman to stay in the country illegally, and harboring her in his house.

Other cases include that of a 60-year-old immigration adjudicator in Santa Ana, Calif., who was charged with demanding sexual favors from a 29-year-old Vietnamese woman in exchange for approving her citizenship application.
The agent, Eddie Romualdo Miranda, was acquitted of a felony sexual battery charge last August, but pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery and was sentenced to probation.

In Atlanta, another adjudicator, Kelvin R. Owens, was convicted in 2005 of sexually assaulting a 45-year-old woman during her citizenship interview in the federal building, and sentenced to weekends in jail for six months. And a Miami agent of Immigration and Customs Enforcement responsible for transporting a Haitian woman to detention is awaiting trial on charges that he took her to his home and raped her.

“Despite our best efforts there are always people ready to use their position for personal gain or personal pleasure,” said Chris Bentley, a spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Services. “Our responsibility is to ferret them out.”

When the Queens woman came to The Times with her recording on Jan. 3, she was afraid of retaliation from the agent, and uncertain about making a criminal complaint, though she had an appointment the next day at the Queens district attorney’s office.

She followed through, however, and Carmencita Gutierrez, an assistant district attorney, began monitoring phone calls between the agent and the young woman, a spokesman said. When Mr. Baichu arranged to meet the woman on March 11 at the Flagship Restaurant on Queens Boulevard, investigators were ready.

In the conversation recorded there, according to the criminal complaint, Mr. Baichu told her he expected her to do “just like the last time,” and offered to take her to a garage or the bathroom of a friend’s real estate business so she would be “more comfortable doing it” there.

Mr. Baichu was arrested as he emerged from the diner and headed to his car, wearing much gold and diamond jewelry, prosecutors said. Later released on $15,000 bail, Mr. Baichu referred calls for comment to his lawyer, Sally Attia, who said he did not have authority to grant or deny green card petitions without his supervisor’s approval.

The young woman’s ordeal is not over.
Her husband overheard her speaking about it to a cousin about a month ago, and she had to tell him the whole story, she said.

“He was so mad at me, he left my house,” she said, near tears. “I don’t know if he’s going to come back.”

The green card has not come through. “I’m still hoping,” she said.

Researchers found that specific variations in a stress-related gene appeared to be influenced by trauma at a young age — in this case child abuse. That interaction strongly increased the chances for adult survivors of abuse to develop signs of PTSD.

Among adult survivors of severe child abuse, those with the specific gene variations scored more than twice as high (31) on a scale of post-traumatic stress, compared with those without the variations (13).

The worse the abuse, the stronger the risk in people with those gene variations.

The study of 900 adults is among the first to show that genes can be influenced by outside, nongenetic factors to trigger signs of PTSD. It is the largest of just two reports to show molecular evidence of a genetic influence on PTSD.

"We have known for over a decade, from twin studies, that genetic factors play a role in vulnerability to developing PTSD, but have had little success in identifying specific genetic variants that increase risk of the disorder," said Karestan Koenen, a Harvard psychologist doing similar research. She was not involved in the new study.

The results suggest that there are critical periods in childhood when the brain is vulnerable "to outside influences that can shape the developing stress-response system," said Emory University researcher and study co-author Dr. Kerry Ressler.

The study appears in Wednesday's Journal of the American Medical Association.
Several study authors, including Ressler, reported having financial ties to makers of psychiatric drugs.

Ressler noted that there are probably many other gene variants that contribute to risks for PTSD, and others may be more strongly linked to the disorder than the ones the researchers focused on.

Still, he and outside experts said the study is important and that similar advances could lead to tests that will help identify who's most at risk. Treatments including psychotherapy and psychiatric drugs could be targeted to those people, Ressler said.

About a quarter of a million Americans will develop PTSD at some point in their lives after being victimized or witnessing violence or other traumatic events. Rates are much higher in war veterans and people living in high-crime areas.

Symptoms can develop long after the event and usually include recurrent terrifying recollections of the trauma. Sufferers often have debilitating anxiety, irritability, insomnia and other signs of stress.

Dr. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said the study is particularly valuable for the light it sheds on military veterans, who are known to be vulnerable to PTSD.

He said the results help explain differences in how two people see the same roadside bomb blast. One simply experiences it as "a bad day but goes back and is able to function." The other later develops paralyzing stress symptoms.

"This could be quite a wave that will hit us over the months and years ahead," Insel said. His agency paid for the study.

Study participants were mostly low-income black adults, aged 40 on average, who sought non-psychiatric health care at a public hospital in Atlanta.
They were asked about experiences in childhood and as adults and gave saliva samples that underwent genetic testing.

Almost 30 percent of participants reported having been sexually or physically abused as children. Most also had experienced trauma as adults, including rape, attacks with weapons and other violence.

Researchers focused on symptoms of PTSD rather than an actual diagnosis, and found that about 25 percent had stress symptoms severe enough to meet criteria for the disorder, Ressler said.

Childhood abuse and adult trauma each increased risks for PTSD symptoms in adulthood. But the most severe symptoms occurred in the 30 percent of child abuse survivors who had variations in the stress gene.

Researchers were not able to determine if the symptoms were reactions to the child abuse or to the more recent trauma — or both, said co-author Rebekah Bradley, also of Emory University.

The study is an important contribution to a growing body of research showing how severe abuse early in life can have profound, lasting effects, said Duke University psychiatry expert John Fairbank, co-director of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress. He was not involved in the research.

1 Who invented relativity? Bzzzt—wrong. Galileo hit on the idea in 1639, when he showed that a falling object behaves the same way on a moving ship as it does in a motionless building.

2 And Einstein didn’t call it relativity. The word never appears in his original 1905 paper, “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies,” and he hated the term, preferring “invariance theory” (because the laws of physics look the same to all observers—nothing “relative” about it).

3 Space-time continuum? Nope, that’s not Einstein either. The idea of time as the fourth dimension came from Hermann Minkowski, one of Einstein’s professors, who once called him a “lazy dog.”

4 But Einstein did reformulate Galileo’s relativity to deal with the bizarre things that happen at near-light speed, where time slows down and space gets compressed. That counts for something.

5 Austrian physicist Friedrich Hasenöhrl published the basic equation E = mc2 a year before Einstein did.

6 Never heard of Hasenöhrl? That’s because he failed to connect the equation with the principle of relativity. Verdammt!

7 Einstein’s full-time job at the Swiss patent office meant he had to hash out relativity during hours when nobody was watching. He would cram his notes into his desk when a supervisor came by.

8 Although Einstein was a teetotaler, when he finally completed his theory of relativity, he and his wife, Mileva, drank themselves under the table—the old-fashioned way to mess with the space-time continuum.

9 Affection is relative. “I need my wife, she solves all the mathematical problems for me,” Einstein wrote while completing his theory in 1904. By 1914, he’d ordered her to “renounce all personal relations with me, as far as maintaining them is not absolutely required for social reasons.”

10 Rules are relative too. According to Einstein, nothing travels faster than light, but space itself has no such speed limit; immediately after the Big Bang, the runaway expansion of the universe apparently left light lagging way behind.

11 Oh, and there are two relativities.
So far we’ve been talking about special relativity, which applies to objects moving at constant speed. General relativity, which covers accelerating things and explains how gravity works, came a decade later and is regarded as Einstein’s truly unique insight.

12 Pleasure doing business with you, chum(p): When Einstein was stumped by the math of general relativity, he relied on his old college pal Marcel Grossmann, whose notes he had studied after repeatedly cutting class years earlier.

13 Despite that, the early version of general relativity had a major error, a miscalculation of the amount a light beam would bend due to gravity.

14 Fortunately, plans to test the theory during a solar eclipse in 1914 were scuttled by World War I. Had the experiment been conducted then, the error would have been exposed and Einstein would have been proved wrong.

15 The eclipse experiment finally happened in 1919 (you’re looking at it on this very page). Eminent British physicist Arthur Eddington declared general relativity a success, catapulting Einstein into fame and onto coffee mugs.

16 In retrospect, it seems that Eddington fudged the results, throwing out photos that showed the “wrong” outcome.

17 No wonder nobody noticed: At the time of Einstein’s death in 1955, scientists still had almost no evidence of general relativity in action.

18 That changed dramatically in the 1960s, when astronomers began to discover extreme objects—neutron stars and black holes—that put severe dents in the shape of space-time.

19 Today general relativity is so well understood that it is used to weigh galaxies and locate distant planets by the way they bend light.

20 If you still don’t get Einstein’s ideas, try this explanation reportedly from The Man Himself: “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour and it seems like a minute. That’s relativity.”

1 The practice of burying the dead may date back 350,000 years, as evidenced by a 45-foot-deep pit in Atapuerca, Spain, filled with the fossils of 27 hominids of the species Homo heidelbergensis, a possible ancestor of Neanderthals and modern humans.

2 Never say die: There are at least 200 euphemisms for death, including "to be in Abraham's bosom," "just add maggots," and "sleep with the Tribbles" (a Star Trek favorite).

3 No American has died of old age since 1951.

4 That was the year the government eliminated that classification on death certificates.

5 The trigger of death, in all cases, is lack of oxygen. Its decline may prompt muscle spasms, or the "agonal phase," from the Greek word agon, or contest.

6 Within three days of death, the enzymes that once digested your dinner begin to eat you.
Ruptured cells become food for living bacteria in the gut, which release enough noxious gas to bloat the body and force the eyes to bulge outward.

7 So much for recycling: Burials in America deposit 827,060 gallons of embalming fluid—formaldehyde, methanol, and ethanol—into the soil each year. Cremation pumps dioxins, hydrochloric acid, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide into the air.

8 Alternatively . . . A Swedish company, Promessa, will freeze-dry your body in liquid nitrogen, pulverize it with high-frequency vibrations, and seal the resulting powder in a cornstarch coffin. They claim this "ecological burial" will decompose in 6 to 12 months.

9 Zoroastrians in India leave out the bodies of the dead to be consumed by vultures.

10 The vultures are now dying off after eating cattle carcasses dosed with diclofenac, an anti-inflammatory used to relieve fever in livestock.

11 Queen Victoria insisted on being buried with the bathrobe of her long-dead husband, Prince Albert, and a plaster cast of his hand.

12 If this doesn't work, we're trying in vitro! In Madagascar, families dig up the bones of dead relatives and parade them around the village in a ceremony called famadihana. The remains are then wrapped in a new shroud and reburied. The old shroud is given to a newly married, childless couple to cover the connubial bed.

13During a railway expansion in Egypt in the 19th century, construction companies unearthed so many mummies that they used them as fuel for locomotives.

14 Well, yeah, there's a slight chance this could backfire: English philosopher Francis Bacon, a founder of the scientific method, died in 1626 of pneumonia after stuffing a chicken with snow to see if cold would preserve it.

15 For organs to form during embryonic development, some cells must commit suicide. Without such programmed cell death, we would all be born with webbed feet, like ducks.

16 Waiting to exhale: In 1907 a Massachusetts doctor conducted an experiment with a specially designed deathbed and reported that the human body lost 21 grams upon dying. This has been widely held as fact ever since. It's not.

17 Buried alive: In 19th-century Europe there was so much anecdotal evidence that living people were mistakenly declared dead that cadavers were laid out in "hospitals for the dead" while attendants awaited signs of putrefaction.

18 Eighty percent of people in the United States die in a hospital.

19 If you can't make it here . . . More people commit suicide in New York City than are murdered.

20 It is estimated that 100 billion people have died since humans began.

Beginning this spring, the genomic start-up company Navigenics will sell spit kits for $2,500 to those curious enough to learn more about their DNA. Along with results telling you the genetic disorders you can look forward to, you receive advice on how to reduce your chances of developing up to 20 diseases and an offer of genetic counseling sessions.

But paying $2,500 to find out that you are predisposed to Alzheimer’s, which has no cure and few treatment options, could seem like a raw deal. That’s why it seemed a bit unfair when, after spending millions to have his entire genome sequenced, Craig Venter found out that he has the apolipoprotein E gene, predisposing him to Alzheimer’s.
But Venter is unfazed. In fact, he has no regrets about the finding. Instead he is trying to do something about it—hoping to push back the onset of the disease by taking drugs, changing his diet, and exercising.

“I don’t feel like I have the threat of Alzheimer’s disease hanging over my future,” says Venter. The only person in his family since the early 16th century to have dementia was his great-grandmother, so the familial type of Alzheimer’s, which is responsible for about 3 percent of cases, is not likely. It’s the type called sporadic Alzheimer’s disease that Venter is trying to avoid; it causes 97 percent of cases.

For those of us lucky enough to reach age 85, half of us will suffer Alzheimer’s. By 2050, one in 85 people around the world will suffer from it—four times the current number.

Venter is taking proactive measures. He now takes statins, cholesterol-lowering drugs that are the top-selling medications in the United States, because he has heard from friends in the pharmaceutical industry that statins could prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s. Statins reduce the amount of cholesterol the liver produces by blocking the enzyme needed to make it. But it’s unclear if statins have an effect on cholesterol in the brain.

Jerome Goldstein, director of the San Francisco Alzheimer’s and Dementia Clinic, isn’t convinced they are all that effective. It’s true that “bad” cholesterol impairs your brain function, Goldstein says, but without cholesterol in your brain, you don’t form nerves. He prescribes statins to treat his patients with Alzheimer’s disease because it might possibly delay the disease’s progression. Giulio M. Pasinetti, director of the Center of Excellence for Research in Alzheimer’s Disease at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, is more adamant about statins’ lack of effectiveness, saying that large-scale clinical studies have proved that they don’t have any effect on the cholesterol in the brain.

“Thank god statins don’t change it,” says Pasinetti. "You don’t want to interfere with the fine-tuned mechanism associated with the function of the brain by changing the cholesterol level in the brain.”

Pasinetti’s research is based on more holistic, natural treatments. Pasinetti has shown that polyphenols in red wine reduce cognitive decline—and may prevent it—in mice genetically altered to develop Alzheimer’s; he hopes to prescribe red wine (and grape juice varieties) to humans in the future. Pasinetti also suggests that exercising regularly, restricting caloric intake, and choosing healthy nutrients will go a long way to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

Goldstein agrees. “There are other things you can do that will prolong life.
Walk a mile a day. Solve crossword puzzles. Read instead of watching TV. Take certain vitamins. Take good health measures. Control cholesterol.”

Although no one agrees just how to deal with the knowledge that one is likely to get Alzheimer’s, millions of dollars is spent on research into the disease each year. With personal genetic testing ready to take off, that’s good news for the many people who will be learning their genetic predispositions.

On September 4, geneticist Craig Venter invited the world to take a peek at his DNA. The first person ever to do so, the entrepreneur and science showman published his entire individual genetic sequence in a scientific journal. Replicating Venter’s $70 million technological feat is too costly for most of us, and it’s not clear what good it would serve to know that, like Venter, one has a genetic marker for wet earwax—or Alzheimer’s disease, which can’t be prevented or cured.

Venter’s stunt is nevertheless a fitting symbol for 2007, a year marked by milestones in the quest for personalized medicine. “This will be seen as the year things turned the corner,” says Huntington Willard, director of the Duke Institute for Genome Science and Policy in Durham, North Carolina. “Patients are receiving genomic tests and benefiting from them; there are real live people being taken care of now.”

In February, for example, the Food and Drug Administration approved MammaPrint, a test designed to help breast cancer patients. MammaPrint surveys 70 genes in tumor cells, checking whether they’re turned on or off in an individual patient. By reading each patient’s total gene activity profile, doctors can predict whether a tumor is likely to spread and thus whether the patient needs to undergo chemotherapy in addition to surgery. The company behind the test, Agendia, based in the Netherlands, estimates that it will spare 60,000 American women unnecessary chemotherapy each year.

This year also marked the debut of a raft of tests based on genomics, the analysis of entire genomes. These tests are based on a catalog of human variation called the HapMap, which was released in 2005. HapMap is a directory of “single nucleotide polymorphisms,” or SNPs, places in the genome where differences between individuals (in the form of single chemical letters) appear in the DNA code. SNPs act like signposts, marking larger chunks of the genome that vary among individuals. By comparing SNPs in patients with a disease to SNPs in the HapMap, scientists can easily pinpoint the SNPs that are unique to that disease. Such SNPs can then guide scientists to the nearby genes that cause the disease, the same way a corner gas station might serve as a landmark to guide visitors to your neighborhood and eventually to your house.

Even before they determine the genetic culprit in a disease, however, scientists can use its SNP pattern to identify those who have the genetic signature of risk for that disease. This year, scientists found SNPs linked to type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and a long list of other ailments.

A number of companies are already selling tests based on these new findings. Iceland-based deCODE Genetics, for example, announced its launch in April of T2, a new SNP-–screening test for type 2 diabetes. Other companies are promising to bundle multiple SNP-based tests together, providing consumers a more complete health profile. Navigenics, for one, a company based in Redwood Shores, California, promises to “use the latest genetic science to illuminate the future of your health and arm you with the knowledge to change it for the better.”

A personal genome may one day become part of everyone’s medical record, providing powerful information about an individual’s genetic predispositions.

“Using genomics to make predictions about health is a powerful paradigm,” says Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.
“We’re going to see a lot of these tests as we reveal more and more genetic changes linked to disease.”

The tests offered so far, however, cannot predict for sure whether a person will develop a given disease. Currently available tests reveal only the risk that one could become ill. It is unclear how that will help patients, Willard says: “How do you respond to a test that says your risk is elevated by 25 percent? That’s pretty meaningless; it’s open to all sorts of misinterpretation.” An employer, for instance, might refuse to give a high-stress job to an individual with an SNP profile unique to heart attack victims—even if that profile raises the risk of a heart attack only slightly.

Unfortunately, this year, lawmakers punted legislation designed to prevent such discrimination. In April, Congress was set to pass the long-delayed Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act. The bill aims to prevent insurance or workplace discrimination based on genetic test results. It sailed through the House of Representatives, and President Bush promised to sign it. But at the last minute, Tom Coburn, Republican senator from Oklahoma, placed a hold on the bill because of its language concerning embryos and fetuses, among other things. The bill is now stalled.

This has not deterred those like Venter, who want to bare their genetic foibles to the world. Nobel Prize–winner James Watson, for instance, announced the completion of his personal genome sequence in May. He promised to publish it but hasn’t yet. Others, like futurist and tech guru Esther Dyson, are having parts of their genomes sequenced in a project led by geneticist George Church of Harvard University and MIT.

We don’t yet know enough about the genetic roots of disease to help these early adopters learn much from their genomes. But that will change, and scientists predict that a personal genome may one day become part of everyone’s medical record, providing powerful information about an individual’s genetic predisposition to disease.

Although that day is still a long way off, it’s much closer than it used to be, thanks to this year’s first steps toward personalized medicine, says Kathy Hudson, director of Johns Hopkins University’s Genetics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “For a long time, all the action in genomics was in the lab,” she says. “Now it’s spilling out into the real world, and that’s really exciting.”

In the traditional view of photosynthesis, the energy carried by photons streaming from the sun is transferred by bouncing from one chlorophyll molecule to the next, a process that ultimately builds simple carbohydrates from water and carbon dioxide. But last spring, a team led by Graham Fleming, deputy director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reported that the process is much more interesting than that.

Using ultrafast lasers, they found that the interaction between the sun’s energy and the chlorophyll molecules in a bacterium relies on a piece of quantum mechanical weirdness known as superposition, where a single photon’s energy can temporarily be in many different states at once. This allows photosynthesis to probe all the possible reaction pathways within the various chlorophyll molecules.
The most efficient pathway is selected and energy is transferred through the bacterium as the superposition collapses.

“This is similar to quantum computing in some sense,” says Greg Engel, a member of Fleming’s team. “This is how quantum computing realizes its incredible efficiency and its ability to solve very complex problems, because it can evaluate many solutions at once.”

Superstrong pulses in Earth’s magnetic field can drive electrons to near light speed, physicists reported in June. These “killer” electrons can cripple satellites and they present a radiation threat to astronauts. Scientists have long wondered how they accumulate enough energy to zip around in space.

Qiugang Zong, of the University of Massachusetts Lowell, led a team of physicists who analyzed data from the European Space Agency and NASA’s Cluster spacecraft, four satellites situated at the edge of Earth’s magnetic field. The satellites observed the pulses in the wake of an October 2003 magnetic storm triggered by a coronal mass ejection—a plasma spitball shot out by the sun—that slammed into Earth’s magnetosphere. The influx of energetic particles created waves in our planet’s magnetic field, Zong’s team discovered. As the pulses approached Earth, the ultralow frequency waves made the planet’s magnetic field lines oscillate and accelerated electrons traveling along the field lines to extraordinarily high speeds.

“ULF waves are standing waves that stay in their location and vibrate like a string,” Zong says. “It’s amazing that the wave power transfers to the killer electrons.” Zong’s study represents the first time this process has been observed directly.

The storm that the Cluster spacecraft witnessed damaged several satellites and caused power outages in Sweden. Astronauts in the International Space Station were ordered into a heavily shielded module during the storm.
Fortunately for surface-–dwelling –humans, Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere do a good job protecting us from such killer electrons.

From April to September 2007, the largest outbreak of Ebola hemorrhagic fever since 2003 unfolded in the Kasaï Occidental province of the Democratic Republic of Congo. When the outbreak first came to international attention, authorities thought it was one of the largest ever, with approximately 400 suspected cases and more than 170 deaths. As the circumstances surrounding the outbreak came into better focus, those numbers came down. On October 3, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported around 25 confirmed cases, although not every potential contact had yet been screened for the virus.

Researchers aren’t sure where the outbreak originated or how it spread, but Ebola is usually caused by contact with a person or animal harboring the Ebola virus. Funeral traditions in the Congo, which often involve touching and washing the body, can help transmit the virus.

Unlike other outbreaks, which have occurred in city hospitals, the recent cases have been confined to more remote villages. “We haven’t detected one like this in a setting like this before,” says Armand Sprecher, a public health specialist with Doctors Without Borders.

Concurrent infections of typhoid and Shigella dysentery have complicated tracking the outbreak, according to Pierre Rollin, a virologist with the Centers for Disease Control, which responded to the outbreak, along with the local ministry of health, the WHO, the Public Health Agency of Canada, and Doctors Without Borders. Outbreaks like this may happen more frequently than we think, Rollin says, but go undocumented because they occur in very rural areas.

New genetic evidence suggests that evolution has continued to shape our species powerfully over the past 100,000 years. By looking for signals based on how much DNA mutates over generations, researchers found clues that as much as 10 percent of the human genome may be linked to these recent adaptive genetic changes.

Cornell University population geneticist Scott Williamson and colleagues analyzed over a million genetic variations in DNA samples from 24 individuals, including African Americans, European Americans, and Chinese.
They were looking for regions in the genome where a beneficial mutation is carried by everyone in a population. Then, by looking at the variability in the DNA surrounding the mutation, the team could figure out how long ago the mutation spread through the population.

More than a hundred sites in the genome showed strong evidence of recent selection, including genes that affect muscle tissue, hair, hearing, immune-system function, skin pigmentation, sense of smell, and the body’s response to heat stress.

For some of the traits, it’s easy to identify evolutionary pressures that could have favored certain mutations. Immune-function genes are logical targets for selection because, as Williamson explains, “If an individual carries a mutation that provides disease resistance, that confers a clear selective advantage.”

Changes to skin pigmentation pathways probably reflect selective pressures related to sunlight exposure that humans experienced as they spread out from humanity’s origins in Africa to other parts of the world and adapted to local environments. In other cases, such as the hair follicle genes, the forces driving our recent evolution remain a mystery.

While the corpses of their enemies still lay on the battlefield, the victors celebrated by slaughtering cattle and holding a gigantic feast. Then they dumped the war dead into a pit, heaved in the animal bones from their repast, and tossed their plates on top of the pile.

Now—nearly six millennia later—the unearthing of these remnants in what is now northeastern Syria is a spectacular archaeological find, one of several important discoveries made recently at Tell Brak, a 130-foot-high mound jutting above the northern fringe of the Mesopotamian plain.

Archaeologists from the University of Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, and Harvard University say Brak was one of the earliest and largest cities in the region—and therefore the world.
That assertion is shaking up Near Eastern archaeology, since scholars long assumed that the first substantial cities arose in southern Mesopotamia in today’s Iraq.

The remains of the battle date to about 3800 B.C., nearly a thousand years before writing, manufacturing-style craftsmanship, and other urban activities took a firm hold in the region. Yet the citizens of Brak were already using imported materials to make fine goods in large workshops, including a marble-and-obsidian chalice and a stamp seal with the image of a lion being caught in a net—a classic symbol of kingship in the ancient Near East.

Furthermore, this was no mere village: Close examination reveals the settlement extending over an astonishing 136 acres in the period of 4200 to 3900 B.C., larger than other settlements of the time, with the sole exception of Uruk in southern Mesopotamia. The team of archaeologists, led by Joan Oates of Cambridge, will return to Brak in the spring to continue their work.

A misplaced tooth held the clue to the identity of one of the world’s most powerful queens, Hatshepsut, and it took the detective work of Egypt’s Indiana Jones, Zahi Hawass, to figure it out. Alone near midnight at the Egyptian Museum in Cairo, Hawass—the secretary general for Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities—decided to scan a box with Hatshepsut’s name on it. To his surprise, a single molar in the box perfectly matched the space left by a missing tooth in the mouth of one of the museum’s unidentified mummies.

DNA analysis bore out Hawass’s suspicion that the mummy was indeed Hatshepsut, perhaps the greatest discovery since that of King Tutankhamen in 1922. While King Tut had his name all over his tomb, Hatshepsut had been removed from hers and put into an unmarked crypt, stowed safely away from raiders, says Angelique Corthals, a biomedical Egyptologist at the University of Manchester in England. Corthals took preliminary DNA samples that confirmed Hatshepsut’s identity by matching the mummy’s mitochondrial DNA with that of her supposed great-grandmother, Ahmose Nefertari.

Hatshepsut, who often dressed like a man to affirm her kinglike status, ruled 3,500 years ago during Egypt’s 18th dynasty, at a time when female rulers were almost unheard of, says Hawass.
The obese queen is believed to have suffered from diabetes, and CT scans show she had bone cancer and died when she was about 50. Still, Corthals believes, at a time when tooth infections could be fatal, it was a tooth abscess that did her in, piercing the legend that her stepson, Thutmose III, killed her.

Although the immune system is constantly patrolling for foreign invaders, it attacks neither the bacteria in the gut nor those intestinal cells exposed to the bacteria. Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute this year announced that a previously unrecognized population of cells in the lymph nodes signals the immune system to tolerate conditions that would normally prompt an attack.

Immunologists already knew that a population of cells called dendritic cells can teach T lymphocytes, also called T cells—key instigators of an immune response—how to react to a particular protein. When the dendritic cells are in a calm environment, they communicate tolerance to T cells. If the dendritic cells are in an environment with microbes or tissue inflammation, they tell the T cells to start an immune system attack. That paradigm left no explanation for how T cells learn to tolerate the conditions in the gut, where cells are constantly in the presence of bacteria.

The surprising finding, reports immunologist Shannon Turley in the January 2007 issue of Nature Immunology, is that dendritic cells share this job with another group of cells far removed from the intestine. Stromal cells that reside in the lymph nodes throughout the body manufacture proteins identical to those made by gut cells and use them to train T cells to ignore certain proteins. “No one would have thought that this sort of system would exist,” Turley says. “We had trained ourselves to think that dendritic cells could do it all, both tolerize and induce immunity to everything. That is probably not true. We probably need backup mechanisms.”

Last May, a Siberian reindeer herder named Yuri Khudi chanced upon the world’s most intact mammoth remains, unearthed by erosion of a riverbank, and promptly turned them over to the natural history museum in the Russian town of Salekhard. The frozen woolly mammoth, named Lyuba in honor of Khudi’s wife, had died at the age of about 4 months. She is estimated to have lived between 40 thousand and 30 thousand years ago.

“What makes it so special is that it is more complete and better preserved than any comparable mammoth specimens that have ever been found,” says University of Michigan paleontologist Daniel Fisher. “This is a chance to look at mammoth anatomy in its entirety.”
The carcass is scheduled to visit Japan for a full-body CT scan before being moved to St. Petersburg for a detailed autopsy.

Paleontologists will focus especially on the chemical and isotopic composition of Lyuba’s baby tusks. Because tusks grow in layers, like tree rings, they hold a record of the animal’s diet and health, as well as the range of temperatures and humidity through which she lived. Such data are key to understanding the environment leading up to the mass extinction that ended the mammoth’s reign. “Good specimens like Lyuba help us to understand these broad issues much more clearly,” Fisher says.

When staffers from the New York State Museum dug out two massive fossils from a Catskills quarry, they solved a 130-year-old mystery. The fossils—a frond-encircled treetop and a long, slender trunk—have also forced scientists to redraw their mid-Devonian (about 385 million years ago) landscapes to include tall trees.

The mystery was the identity of the Gilboa stumps—swollen tree-stump fossils discovered in the 1870s in the same New York county and named for the nearby town. Distinctive ridges at the base of the latest trunk fossil matched those on the old Gilboa stumps. Named Wattieza, the tree resembles modern-day palms and has usurped the conifer-like Archaeopteris as Earth’s oldest tree by some 25 million years, as reported last April in the journal Nature.

Given their abundance, the Gilboa stumps have long been thought to represent some kind of forest, an evolutionary first. Scientists imagined they were big, but not that big, says William Stein, paleobotanist at Binghamton University in upstate New York. At 26 feet, the fossilized trunk was three times taller than any known plant from the period. “We all have to be amazed with the scale of these things,” Stein says.

Size has not been the only surprise. The type of plant it was—more tree fern than conifer—forces a major rethinking of “how modern-scale forests actually came into being,” says Stein. “Here we have a plant that’s big and it’s producing a ton of [leaf] litter.” Dominant plants like Wattieza set the tone for an ecosystem during the Devonian period, which is when Earth’s modern ecology was formed, Stein says.
“Wherever the plants go, the animals follow.”

The temples of Angkor are architectural marvels and international tourist attractions. But in an August paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, archaeologists from Australia, Cambodia, and France reported using a combination of ground surveys and aerial scans to create a broader, more comprehensive map of the ancient Cambodian ruin, confirming that it was once the center of an incredibly vast city with an elaborate water network.

Lead researcher Damian Evans, an archaeologist at the University of Sydney, says the true extent of the city is apparent only from above. Between A.D. 800 and 1500, Angkor’s complex canals, roads, irrigated fields, and dense settlements sprawled across more than 1,160 square miles, almost the size of Rhode Island—and far beyond the area protected within the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s zone today. The city was the preindustrial world’s largest urban complex, made possible by some of the most complicated hydraulic works the world had ever seen.

American technology played a critical role in the analysis. NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory flew a 747 specially equipped with ground-scanning radar over the site, teasing out subtle differences in elevation and soil content. Added to conventional aerial photography and confirmed through ground surveys, the radar images showed that Angkor was unsustainable. Stripping off the area’s natural forest cover exposed the complex irrigation systems to unexpected erosion and flooding. “They very intensively reengineered the landscape wherever they went,” Evans says. “When you start creating these incredibly elaborate engineering works, it’s inevitable that you create problems. Angkor engineered itself out of existence.”

Korean researcher Woo Suk Hwang claimed in 2004 to have created a human embryonic stem cell line using a technique called somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT). Over the following two years, his results were discredited. This year, however, a report from researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston and the Harvard Stem Cell Institute revealed that Hwang was indeed a pioneer—albeit by unwittingly exploiting an altogether different approach to creating embryonic stem cells.

To create an embryonic stem cell line using SCNT, a biologist sucks out the nucleus of an egg cell and replaces it with the nucleus of another cell—ideally one taken from the patient in need—creating a patient-specific stem cell line. Ongoing attempts to create human stem cell lines using SCNT have yet to achieve success.

Another process, called parthenogenesis, could yield stem cell lines that are genetically matched to a patient—in this case, the egg donor.
In parthenogenesis, an egg is prodded to develop into an embryo without fertilization. Human parthenogenetic embryos are not viable—they run into developmental snags and cannot give rise to a person—but the stem cells derived from these embryos could still have research or therapeutic value.
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Hwang claimed his stem cells did not result from parthenogenesis, but George Daley, head of the study, showed that the genome of Hwang’s cell line has a genetic signature that indicates it sprang from a parthenogenetic embryo.

Since 2004, several groups have reported creating stem cell lines through parthenogenesis. But Daley says his study shows “with very, very high certainty that the first Hwang line was in fact also the world’s first parthenogenetic line.”

To escape prying predators, fragile fauna often become masters of the art of disguise. Take the leaf insects of Southeast Asia: They so strongly resemble leaves that they blend in with the surrounding foliage. Because the 37 species of leaf insect now live in one corner of the planet, entomologists had assumed that their camouflage was a relatively recent adaptation.

In January 2007, however, researchers announced the discovery of the first fossil leaf insect: a well-preserved, 47-million-year-old specimen from Messel, Germany. Named Eophyllium messelensis, the insect looks almost identical to its modern relatives, indicating the group is ancient, was once widespread, and has hardly changed in millions of years.

Biologist Sonja Wedmann, then at the Institute of Paleontology at the University of Bonn, analyzed the fossil after it was dug up from oil shale deposits in what was once a small lake formed by volcanic activity. The period when the insect lived, the Eocene, was one of the warmest in history, and lush tropical or subtropical rain forest surrounded the lake; the two-and-a-half-inch-long adult male most likely sat and snacked upon the leaves of plants from the laurel or the pea family.

So complete is the fossil—its head, antennae, thorax, wings, legs, and leaf-shaped abdomen intact—that it provides key clues on how it hid from predatory birds and primates: Its curved forelegs form a notch into which the insect could tuck its head. “We can infer that the fossil leaf insect showed the same behavior as extant leaf insects do,” Wedmann says.
“It is hiding its head between the legs and sitting still on the leaf during the day, and when it is disturbed, it rocks from side to side like a leaf.”

Delivering more than just pretty pictures, the Cassini spacecraft returned an impressive collection of photographic firsts of Saturn and its environs this year. They include views of an improbable hexagonal feature, containing a huge system of swirling clouds, at the planet’s north pole, as well as never-before-seen views of the top and bottom of Saturn’s rings.

Voyager provided the first glimpses of the hexagonal cloud structure some 27 Earth years (about one Saturn year) ago. This time, Cassini, which entered orbit around Saturn in June 2004, was able to capture the entire object. The origin of the hexagon—so large that two Earths could be lined up across its diameter—is a mystery. “Clouds circulate around the feature like cars on a racetrack,” says Kevin Baines, a planetary scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. Studying this formation may give us a better idea of how fast Saturn rotates on its axis, Baines says, a measurement that is difficult to make because of the planet’s fast

The latest images of Saturn’s rings, which show propeller-shaped clumps and moonlets shattered by an ancient impact, are also giving astronomers a lot to think about. Carolyn Porco, leader of the Cassini imaging team, says the ring pictures may even help us figure out how Earth formed: “If we understand how icy particles in the outer solar system behave, then we can refine our understanding of how the early solar system formed from that same material.”

Unlike other cells in mammals, eggs lack centrosomes—crucial stabilizing structures that organize strandlike proteins called spindles, which pull chromosomes apart during cell division. How eggs form without centrosomes—a long-standing mystery—was solved in August by biologists at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) in Heidelberg, Germany.

To create an egg, a progenitor cell called an oocyte divides into two daughter cells: a hulking egg cell and a wimpy polar body. The oocyte’s chromosomes must be carefully sorted so that a representative half goes to each daughter cell.
If not, the egg can end up with too many or too few chromosomes, leading to infertility or developmental disorders like Down syndrome.

“Why is the division of egg cells—which is so important at the start of animal life—why is that not very reliable?” asks Jan Ellenberg, unit coordinator and senior scientist at EMBL.

Using a powerful microscope to observe mouse oocytes as they split, Ellenberg’s group found that the spindles assembled into two coherent structures, one for the future egg and one for the future polar body.At first, spindles appeared throughout the cell in a sort of mesh. Next, they began to attract each other, forming around 80 different organizing centers. After gathering into a big blob around the chromosomes, the many microtubule organizing centers then began to repel each other. The tug-of-war as the spindles attracted and repelled one another eventually gave rise—over several hours (compared with the 10 to 15 minutes it takes other body cells to divide)—to two distinct structures, yanking the chromosomes to opposite poles.

The team also noticed that during fertilization, the many organizing centers disassembled, re-creating the mesh throughout. This flexibility might help explain why eggs use such an unusual mechanism: Microtubule organizing centers are also critical for bringing together the egg and sperm nuclei after fertilization.

In September, a team of surgeons and immunologists at Duke University proposed a reason for the appendix, declaring it a “safe house” for beneficial bacteria. Attached like a little wiggly worm at the beginning of the large intestine, the 2- to 4-inch-long blind-ended tube seems to have no effect on digestion, so biologists have long been stumped about its purpose. That is, until biochemist and immunologist William Parker became interested in biofilms, closely bound communities of bacteria.
In the gut, biofilms aid digestion, make vital nutrients, and crowd out harmful invaders. Upon investigation, Parker and his colleagues found that in humans, the greatest concentration of biofilms was in the appendix; in rats and baboons, biofilms are concentrated in the cecum, a pouch that sits at the same location.

The shape of the appendix is perfectly suited as a sanctuary for bacteria: Its narrow opening prevents an influx of the intestinal contents, and it’s situated inaccessibly outside the main flow of the fecal stream. Parker suspects that it acts as a reservoir of healthy, protective bacteria that can replenish the intestine after a bacteria-depleting diarrheal illness like cholera. Where such diseases are rampant, Parker says, “if you don’t have something like the appendix to harbor safe bacteria, you have less of a survival advantage.”

The world’s biggest flower—which weighs 15 pounds and smells of rotting flesh—evolved from one of the world’s smallest, say the scientists who have finally figured out to which plants Rafflesia is most closely related.

It has been hard to place Rafflesia in a family tree because it is a parasite and lacks many of the characteristics typically used to classify plants. “Its stems, leaves, and roots are dwarfed,” says Charles Davis, the Harvard University evolutionary biologist who collected the flowers in the jungles of Borneo. “It basically has a little threadlike body that winds its way through the host, and you wouldn’t otherwise know it was there except that every now and again it will produce this great big flower.”

Since even the DNA for photosynthesis is missing, Davis and his colleagues turned to mitochondrial and other slowly evolving genes. They pinpointed Rafflesia’s ancestors as flowers with blooms less than one-tenth of an inch across, while Rafflesia blossoms reach three feet in diameter. “It would be like magnifying me to the size of the Great Pyramid of Giza,” Davis says.

Chihuahuas, Boston terriers, and Pomeranians have this much in common: They’re tiny. Part of what makes them that way is the mutation of a single gene called insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF1), according to a group of researchers from the University of Utah, Cornell University, and the National Human Genome Research Institute.

The researchers began their study by looking at dogs of one breed, the Portuguese water dog, and found that those with one type of mutation of IGF1 were 15 to 20 percent smaller. The researchers ultimately studied 3,000 dogs from 143 different breeds to determine how that gene mutation was distributed across the species. They discovered that the smallest breeds, like Chihuahuas, all had the same gene variant that would make them small. Similarly, 100 percent of the largest dogs, like Great Danes, had a variant that would make them big.

The group was surprised that so many small-dog breeds shared the same mutation. “It didn’t need to be that a gene that determines size within breeds would determine size across breeds, but that is how it turned out,” says Carlos Bustamante, an assistant professor of biological statistics and computational biology at Cornell, who crunched the numbers for the project. “Below a few kilograms, it’s staggering.
More than 85 percent had the gene variant, about as ‘smoking gun’ of a correlation as we’ve seen.”

Domestic dogs are descended from gray wolves, which have only the big version of the IGF1 gene. Bustamante imagines that the small –mutation probably arose around the start of –domestication. “You had junky dogs living on the outside of –settlements,” he says, “so a small mutation might be advantageous—you could get closer to a village without scaring everyone.” The researchers believe the mutation became fixed within different breeds during 300-odd years of artificial selection—that is, dog breeding.

However it arose, the switch is not limited to the Canidae family. Mice who’ve had that section of their genes knocked out wind up 40 percent smaller. And, scientists say, humans who share 90 percent of the amino acids found in small-dog IGF1 tend to be the more diminutive specimens of our species.

Astronomers got a new perspective on the sun in April, when NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Relations Observatory (STEREO) probes began sending back the first three-dimensional images of our nearest star. NASA built the twin spacecraft to learn more about coronal mass ejections, or CMEs—billion-ton spitballs of electrically charged particles that sporadically fire off from the sun. When CMEs slam into Earth, their electric fields can blow out the circuits of communications satellites or overload regional power grids. “Anything that’s electromagnetic can be affected by their charged particles,” says NASA astrophysicist Madhulika Guhathakurta, a program scientist for STEREO.

Despite their destructive power, CMEs are so wispy that they are hard to observe without blotting out the sun’s light, and seeing them from only one vantage point, such as the Earth, makes it difficult to determine their 3-D structure. “All you’re seeing is stuff that’s moving across the plane of the sky, like the shadow of a smoke ring,” Guhathakurta says.
“If you want to model it—if you want to know its mass, if you want to know its velocity—you need a three-dimensional view.”

In addition to providing 3-D images of solar eruptions and the sun’s surface, STEREO will help space-weather forecasters figure out which CMEs are likely to make earthfall; this may extend the warning time for space squalls—now only hours—to several days.

The new spacecraft are also clarifying the broader relationship between the sun and the rest of the solar system. “We literally live in the outer atmosphere of the sun,” Guhathakurta says.

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.”

In 2003, breast cancer rates dropped rapidly, and several studies in 2007 cited decreased use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) as the likely cause. The drop in hormone use dates back to July 2002, when the Women’s Health Initiative, a 15-year study tracking the health of more than 160,000 women, abruptly ended its long-term study of estrogen-progestin hormone replacement therapy because women taking the drugs faced an elevated risk of invasive breast cancer and heart disease.

As a result, doctors wrote 20 million fewer prescriptions for HRT in 2003. Then, when researchers measured the incidence of breast cancer between 2001 and 2004, they found it had dropped by almost 9 percent, according to a report in April in the New England Journal of Medicine.
“That big a drop actually reduced the risk levels to those of about 20 years ago,” says Peter Ravdin of the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, the first author on that study. During the 1990s, he adds, “the levels had been gradually increasing” by about 1 percent per year in the United States.

The research doesn’t conclusively show that the drop in HRT use lowered the incidence of breast cancer, Ravdin says. Another factor in the lower numbers could be that 3 percent fewer women had mammograms in 2003 than in 2000, reducing the likelihood of a cancer’s being detected. Yet, according to two studies published in August, breast cancer rates also dipped among smaller groups of women who had been screened regularly, making reduced detection an unlikely cause. Other data supporting a link to HRT: The rates fell only among women 50 and older, and estrogen-receptor-positive cancers—whose growth is stimulated by estrogen—decreased by nearly 15 percent.

The research doesn’t change the national guidelines for women considering hormone replacement therapy, says Ravdin, adding, “[HRT] confers a small amount of additional risk, which, as long as you’re going to be taking it for a short period, for most people, is an acceptable level.” Longer exposure, he says, would make the risk of developing cancer much higher.

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.

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.

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.

Wednesday, 19 March 2008 17:24
People in Chiredzi and Zaka are without meal or grain, despite
supplies being available at nearby depots, The Zimbabwean has learnt.
Reports from the area say that people are now suffering because of the
lack of the staple grains and some have resorted to sleeping outside the
Grain Marketing Board depots in the hope of food.
"It is being described as the worst that it has ever been," said one
source. "There is however a large stack of grain at the Grain Marketing
Board depot 10km out of Chiredzi. This is controlled by Zanu (PF), and there
is also grain at PG Timbers in Chiredzi, which is supposedly controlled by
one of the NGOs. What are they waiting for; why are they not distributing
this grain now?"

In Zaka, opposition candidates have said the army and police, aware of
how hungry the people are, are now backing them.
"[They] say that they must work hard and win the elections before
everybody dies of hunger and sickness," said the source.

"Going negative" usually happens in politics, not the bond market. But one corner of the bond world has gone alarmingly negative lately.

The real yield on five-year Treasury Inflation Protected Securities, TIPS, has turned negative for the first time since the Treasury Department started issuing the securities in 1997.

Late yesterday, they yielded -0.026%, meaning the return investors get on these securities is a little less than the inflation rate.

The principal investors get back on TIPS bonds are adjusted to account for inflation. At first blush, a negative TIPS yield seems to suggest investors are so worried about inflation that they're willing to lose a little money to avoid getting hit by an even worse bout of inflation down the road.

Inflation expectations are certainly rising. One way to tell is by measuring the gap between the TIPS yield and the yield on the five-year Treasury note. That has spread to more than 2.6% from less than 2% on Jan. 22, when the Fed made its emergency rate cut. This means the market expects the consumer-price index to grow on average by 2.6% over the next five years, higher than the Fed's comfort zone.

But it's too early to say the Fed is losing its inflation-fighting credibility. At 2.6%, inflation expectations are still within the range they've been in the past two years. That's one reason the Fed can argue with a straight face that inflation expectations are well-anchored.

Other factors are buffeting TIPS. The credit-market seizure has driven investors to only the safest assets, and TIPS eliminate just about any risk an investor can imagine, besides the government going broke.

If fear weren't running rampant about the broader economic outlook, says Joe Shatz, senior government-bond strategist at Merrill Lynch, TIPS wouldn't be so out of whack.

Investors Punish Immelt With P/E Discount

In a letter to General Electric shareholders in the firm's annual report, to be released today, Chief Executive Jeffrey Immelt says, "We don't believe in excuses, and you won't hear any from us."

But he could have a lot of explaining to do when he follows up the letter with a 30-minute Webcast aimed at individual-investor shareholders tomorrow.

GE shares are roughly 15% below their level when Mr. Immelt took over in September 2001.

The share price isn't the only thing that's down. Investors have also reduced the premium they're willing to pay for GE shares. They are trading at 13 times this year's expected earnings, according to Goldman Sachs.
That's a slight discount to the Standard & Poor's 500. In the summer of 2001, just before Mr. Immelt's predecessor, Jack Welch, retired, GE traded at a 35-40% premium to the market, Goldman notes.

Tomorrow's talk is partly aimed at quelling concerns over GE's financial-services business and highlighting the company's strong industrial businesses.

In his shareholder letter, Mr. Immelt touts sales of aircraft engines and power turbines, among other products, in global markets. GE sales to emerging markets could hit $40 billion this year, up from $19 billion in 2004. If only he could get the share price to rise like that, investor calls would be a lot easier.

On March 16, 1968 the angry and frustrated men of Charlie Company, 11th Brigade, Americal Division entered the Vietnamese village of My Lai. "This is what you've been waiting for -- search and destroy -- and you've got it," said their superior officers. A short time later the killing began. When news of the atrocities surfaced, it sent shockwaves through the U.S. political establishment, the military's chain of command, and an already divided American public.

My Lai lay in the South Vietnamese district of Son My, a heavily mined area where the Vietcong were deeply entrenched. Numerous members of Charlie Company had been maimed or killed in the area during the preceding weeks. The agitated troops, under the command of Lt. William Calley, entered the village poised for engagement with their elusive enemy.

As the "search and destroy" mission unfolded, it soon degenerated into the massacre of over 300 apparently unarmed civilians including women, children, and the elderly. Calley ordered his men to enter the village firing, though there had been no report of opposing fire. According to eyewitness reports offered after the event, several old men were bayoneted, praying women and children were shot in the back of the head, and at least one girl was raped and then killed.
For his part, Calley was said to have rounded up a group of the villagers, ordered them into a ditch, and mowed them down in a fury of machine gun fire.

William Calley Word of the atrocities did not reach the American public until November 1969, when journalist Seymour Hersh published a story detailing his conversations with a Vietnam veteran, Ron Ridenhour. Ridenhour learned of the events at My Lai from members of Charlie Company who had been there. Before speaking with Hersh, he had appealed to Congress, the White House, and the Pentagon to investigate the matter. The military investigation resulted in Calley's being charged with murder in September 1969 -- a full two months before the Hersh story hit the streets.

As the gruesome details of My Lai reached the American public, serious questions arose concerning the conduct of American soldiers in Vietnam. A military commission investigating the massacre found widespread failures of leadership, discipline, and morale among the Army's fighting units. As the war progressed, many "career" soldiers had either been rotated out or retired. Many more had died. In their place were scores of draftees whose fitness for leadership in the field of battle was questionable at best. Military officials blamed inequities in the draft policy for the often slim talent pool from which they were forced to choose leaders. Many maintained that if the educated middle class ("the Harvards," as they were called) had joined in the fight, a man of Lt. William Calley's emotional and intellectual stature would never have been issuing orders.

Calley, an unemployed college dropout, had managed to graduate from Officer's Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia, in 1967. At his trial, Calley testified that he was ordered by Captain Ernest Medina to kill everyone in the village of My Lai. Still, there was only enough photographic and recorded evidence to convict Calley, alone, of murder.
He was sentenced to life in prison, but was released in 1974, following many appeals. After being issued a dishonorable discharge, Calley entered the insurance business.

Two tragedies took place in 1968 in Viet Nam. One was the massacre by United States soldiers of as many as 500 unarmed civilians-- old men, women, children-- in My Lai on the morning of March 16. The other was the cover-up of that massacre.

U. S. military officials suspected Quang Ngai Province, more than any other province in South Viet Nam, as being a Viet Cong stronghold. The U. S. targeted the province for the first major U.S. combat operation of the war. Military officials declared the province a "free-fire zone" and subjected it to frequent bombing missions and artillery attacks. By the end of 1967, most of the dwellings in the province had been destroyed and nearly 140,000 civilians left homeless. Not surprisingly, the native population of Quang Ngai Province distrusted Americans. Children hissed at soldiers. Adults kept quiet.

Two hours of instruction on the rights of prisoners and a wallet-sized card "The Enemy is in Your Hands" seemed to have little impact on American soldiers fighting in Quang Ngai. Military leaders encouraged and rewarded kills in an effort to produce impressive body counts that could be reported to Saigon as an indication of progress. GIs joked that "anything that's dead and isn't white is a VC" for body count purposes. Angered by a local population that said nothing about the VC's whereabouts, soldiers took to calling natives "gooks."

Charlie Company came to Viet Nam in December, 1967. It located in Quang Ngai Province in January, 1968, as one of the three companies in Task Force Barker, an ad hoc unit headed by Lt. Col. Frank Barker, Jr. Its mission was to pressure the VC in an area of the province known as "Pinkville." Charlie Company's commanding officer was Ernest Medina, a thirty-three-year-old Mexican-American from New Mexico who was popular with his soldiers. One of his platoon leaders was twenty-four-year-old William Calley. Charlie Company soldiers expressed amazement that Calley was thought by anyone to be officer material. One described Calley as"a kid trying to play war." [LINK TO CHAIN OF COMMAND DIAGRAM] Calley's utter lack of respect for the indigenous population was apparent to all in the company. According to one soldier, "if they wanted to do something wrong, it was alright with Calley." The soldiers of Charlie Company, like most combat soldiers in Viet Nam, scored low on military exams. Few combat soldiers had education beyond high school.

Seymour Hersh wrote that by March of 1968 "many in the company had given in to an easy pattern of violence." Soldiers systematically beat unarmed civilians. Some civilians were murdered. Whole villages were burned.
Wells were poisoned. Rapes were common.

On March 14, a small squad from "C" Company ran into a booby trap, killing a popular sergeant, blinding one GI and wounding several others. The following evening, when a funeral service was held for the killed sergeant, soldiers had revenge on their mind. After the service, Captain Medina rose to give the soldiers a pep talk and discuss the next morning's mission. Medina told them that the VC's crack 48th Battalion was in the vicinity of a hamlet known as My Lai 4, which would be the target of a large-scale assault by the company. The soldiers' mission would be to engage the 48th Battalion and to destroy the village of My Lai. By 7 a.m., Medina said, the women and children would be out of the hamlet and all they could expect to encounter would be the enemy. The soldiers were to explode brick homes, set fire to thatch homes, shoot livestock, poison wells, and destroy the enemy. The seventy-five or so American soldiers would be supported in their assault by gunship pilots.

Medina later said that his objective that night was to "fire them up and get them ready to go in there; I did not give any instructions as to what to do with women and children in the village." Although some soldiers agreed with that recollection of Medina's, others clearly thought that he had ordered them to kill every person in My Lai 4. Perhaps his orders were intentionally vague. What seems likely is that Medina intentionally gave the impression that everyone in My Lai would be their enemy.

At 7:22 a.m. on March 16, nine helicopters lifted off for the flight to My Lai 4. By the time the helicopters carrying members of Charlie Company landed in a rice paddy about 140 yards south of My Lai, the area had been peppered with small arms fire from assault helicopters. Whatever VC might have been in the vicinity of My Lai had most likely left by the time the first soldiers climbed out of their helicopters. The assault plan called for Lt. Calley's first platoon and Lt. Stephen Brooks' second platoon to sweep into the village, while a third platoon, Medina, and the headquarters unit would be held in reserve and follow the first two platoons in after the area was more-or-less secured. Above the ground, the action would be monitored at the 1,000-foot level by Lt. Col. Barker and at the 2,500-foot level by Oran Henderson, commander of the 11th Brigade, both flying counterclockwise around the battle scene in helicopters.

My Lai village had about 700 residents. They lived in either red-brick homes or thatch-covered huts. A deep drainage ditch marked the eastern boundary of the village. Directly south of the residential area was an open plaza area used for holding village meetings.
To the north and west of the village was dense foliage.

By 8 a.m., Calley's platoon had crossed the plaza on the town's southern edge and entered the village. They encountered families cooking rice in front of their homes. The men began their usual search-and-destroy task of pulling people from homes, interrogating them, and searching for VC. Soon the killing began. The first victim was a man stabbed in the back with a bayonet. Then a middle-aged man was picked up, thrown down a well, and a grenade lobbed in after him. A group of fifteen to twenty mostly older women were gathered around a temple, kneeling and praying. They were all executed with shots to the back of their heads. Eighty or so villagers were taken from their homes and herded to the plaza area. As many cried "No VC! No VC!", Calley told soldier Paul Meadlo, "You know what I want you to do with them". When Calley returned ten minutes later and found the Vietnamese still gathered in the plaza he reportedly said to Meadlo, "Haven't you got rid of them yet? I want them dead. Waste them." Meadlo and Calley began firing into the group from a distance of ten to fifteen feet. The few that survived did so because they were covered by the bodies of those less fortunate.

What Captain Medina knew of these war crimes is not certain. It was a chaotic operation. Gary Garfolo said, "I could hear shooting all the time. Medina was running back and forth everywhere. This wasn't no organized deal." Medina would later testify that he didn't enter the village until 10 a.m., after most of the shooting had stopped, and did not personally witness a single civilian being killed. Others put Medina in the village closer to 9 a.m., and close to the scene of many of the murders as they were happening.

As the third platoon moved into My Lai, it was followed by army photographer Ronald Haeberle, there to document what was supposed to be a significant encounter with a crack enemy battalion. Haeberle took many pictures. He said he saw about thirty different GIs kill about 100 civilians. Once Haeberle focused his camera on a young child about five feet away, but before he could get his picture the kid was blown away. He angered some GIs as he tried to photograph them as they fondled the breasts of a fifteen-year-old Vietnamese girl.

An army helicopter piloted by Chief Warrant Officer Hugh Thompson arrived in the My Lai vicinity about 9 a.m. Thompson noticed dead and dying civilians all over the village. Thompson repeatedly saw young boys and girls being shot at point-blank range. Thompson, furious at what he saw, reported the wanton killings to brigade headquarters.

Meanwhile, the rampage below continued. Calley was at the drainage ditch on the eastern edge of the village, where about seventy to eighty old men, women, and children not killed on the spot had been brought. Calley ordered the dozen or so platoon members there to push the people into the ditch, and three or four GIs did. Calley ordered his men to shoot into the ditch. Some refused, others obeyed.
One who followed Calley's order was Paul Meadlo, who estimated that he killed about twenty-five civilians. (Later Meadlo was seen, head in hands, crying.) Calley joined in the massacre. At one point, a two-year-old child who somehow survived the gunfire began running towards the hamlet. Calley grabbed the child, threw him back in the ditch, then shot him.

Hugh Thompson, by now almost frantic, saw bodies in the ditch, including a few people who were still alive. He landed his helicopter and told Calley to hold his men there while he evacuated the civilians. Thompson told his helicopter crew chief to "open up on the Americans" if they fired at the civilians. He put himself between Calley's men and the Vietnamese. When a rescue helicopter landed, Thompson had the nine civilians, including five children, flown to the nearest army hospital. Later, Thompson was to land again and rescue a baby still clinging to her dead mother.

By 11 a.m., when Medina called for a lunch break, the killing was nearly over. By noon, "My Lai was no more": its buildings were destroyed and its people dead or dying. Soldiers later said they didn't remember seeing "one military-age male in the entire place". By night, the VC had returned to bury the dead. What few villagers survived and weren't already communists, became communists. Twenty months later army investigators would discover three mass graves containing the bodies of about 500 villagers.

The cover-up of the My Lai massacre began almost as soon as the killing ended. Official army reports of the operation proclaimed a great victory: 128 enemy dead, only one American casualty (one soldier intentionally shot himself in the foot). The army knew better. Hugh Thompson had filed a complaint, alleging numerous war crimes involving murders of civilians. According to one of Thompson's crew members, "Thompson was so pissed he wanted to turn in his wings".
An order issued by Major Calhoun to Captain Medina to return to My Lai to do a body count was countermanded by Major General Samuel Koster, who asked Medina how many civilians has been killed. "Twenty to twenty-eight," was his answer. The next day Colonel Henderson informed Medina that an informal investigation of the My Lai incident was underway-- and most likely gave the Captain "a good ass-chewing" as well. Henderson interviewed a number of GIs, then pronounced himself "satisfied" by their answers. No attempt was made to interview surviving Vietnamese. In late April, Henderson submitted a written report indicating that about twenty civilians had been inadvertently killed in My Lai. Meanwhile, Michael Bernhart, a Charlie Company GI severely troubled by what he witnessed at My Lai discussed with other GIs his plan to write a letter about the incident to his congressman. Medina, after learning of Bernhart's intentions, confronted him and told him how unwise such an action, in his opinion, would be.

If not for the determined efforts of a twenty-two-year-old ex-GI from Phoenix, Ronald Ridenhour, what happened on March 16, 1968 at My Lai 4 may never have come to the attention of the American people. Ridenhour served in a reconnaissance unit in Duc Pho, where he heard five eyewitness accounts of the My Lai massacre. He began his own investigation, traveling to Americal headquarters to confirm that Charlie Company had in fact been in My Lai on the date reported by his witnesses. Ridenhour was shocked by what he learned. When he was discharged in December, 1968, Ridenhour said "I wanted to get those people. I wanted to reveal what they did. My God, when I first came home, I would tell my friends about this and cry-literally cry." In March, 1969, Ridenhour composed a letter detailing what he had heard about the My Lai massacre[LINK TO LETTER]and sent it to President Nixon, the Pentagon, the State Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and numerous members of Congress. Most recipients simply ignored the letter, but a few, most notably Representative Morris Udall, aggressively pushed for a full investigation of Ridenhour's allegations.

By late April, General Westmoreland, Army Chief of Staff, had turned the case over to the Inspector General for investigation. Over the next few months, dozens of witnesses were interviewed. It became apparent to all connected with the investigation that war crimes had been committed. In June, 1969, William Calley was flown back from Viet Nam to appear in a line-up for identification by Hugh Thompson. By August, the matter was in the hands of the army's Criminal Investigation Division for a determination as to whether criminal charges should be filed against Calley and other massacre participants. On September 5, formal charges, included six specifications of premeditated murder, were filed against Calley.

Calley hired as his attorney George Latimer, a Salt Lake City lawyer with considerable military experience, having served on the Military Court of Appeals. Latimer pronounced himself impressed with Calley.
"You couldn't find a nicer boy," he said, adding that if Calley was guilty of anything it was only following orders "a bit too diligently."

Meanwhile, the issue of the My Lai massacre had gotten the attention of President Nixon. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird briefed Nixon at his San Clemente retreat. The White House proceeded with caution, sensing the potential of the incident to embarrass the military and undermine the war effort. The President characterized what happened at My Lai as an unfortunate aberration, as "an isolated incident."

In November, 1969, the American public began to learn the details of what happened at My Lai 4. The massacre was the cover story in both Time and Newsweek. CBS ran a Mike Wallace interview with Paul Meadlo. Seymour Hersh published in depth accounts based on his own extensive interviews. Life magazine published Haeberle's graphic photographs.

Reaction to the reports of the massacre varied. Some politicians, such as House Armed Services Subcommittee Chair L. Mendel Rivers maintained that there was no massacre and that reports to the contrary were merely attempts to build opposition to the Viet Nam war. Others called for an open, independent inquiry. The Administration took a middle course, deciding on a closed-door investigation by the Pentagon, headed by William Peers, a blunt three-star general.

For four months the Peers Panel interviewed 398 witnesses, ranging from General Koster to the GIs of Charlie Company. Over 20,000 pages of testimony were taken. The Peers Report criticized the actions of both officers and enlisted men. The report recommended action against dozens of men for rape, murder, or participation in the cover-up.

The Army's Criminal Investigation Division continued its separate investigation. Most of the enlisted men who committed war crimes were no longer members of the military, and thus immune from prosecution by court-martial. A 1955 Supreme Court decision, Toth vs Quarles, held that military courts cannot try former members of the armed services "no matter how intimate the connection between the offense and the concerns of military discipline." Decisions were made to prosecute a total of twenty-five officers and enlisted men, including General Koster, Colonel Oran Henderson, Captain Medina. In the end, however, only few would be tried and only one, William Calley, would be found guilty. The top officer charged, General Samuel Koster, who failed to report known civilian casualties and conducted a clearly inadequate investigation was, according to General Peers, the beneficiary of a whitewash, having charges against him dropped and receiving only a letter of censure and reduction in rank. Colonel Henderson was found not guilty on all charges after a trial by court martial. Peers again expressed his disapproval, writing "I cannot agree with the verdict. If his actions are judged as acceptable standards for an officer in his position, the Army is indeed in deep trouble."

Captain Ernest Medina faced charges of murdering 102 Vienamese civilians. The charges were based on the prosecution's theory of command responsibility: Medina, as the officer in charge of Charlie Company should be accountable for the actions of his men. If Medina knew that a massacre was taking place and did nothing to stop it, he should be found guilty of murder. (Medina was originally charged also with dereliction of duty for participating in the coverup, but the offense was dropped because the statute of limitations had run.) Medina was subjected to a lie-detector test which tended to show he responded truthfully when he said that he did not intentionally suggest to his men that they kill unarmed civilians. The same test, however, tended to to show that his contention that he first heard of the killing of unarmed civilians about 10 to 10:30 A.M. was not truthful, and that he in fact knew non-combattants were being killed sometime between 8 A.M. and 9 A.M., when there would still have been time to prevent many civilian deaths. The prosecution, led by Major William Eckhardt, was unable, however, to get the damaging lie-detector evidence admitted. Medina's lawyer, flamboyant defense attorney F. Lee Bailey, conducted a highly successful defense, forcing the prosecution to drop key witnesses and keeping damaging evidence, such as Ronald Haeberle's photographs, from the jury. After fifty-seven minutes of deliberation, the jury acquitted Medina on all charges. (Months later, when a perjury prosecution was no longer possible, Medina admitted that he had suppressed evidence and lied to the brigade commander about the number of civilians killed.)

The strongest government case was that against Lt. William Calley. On November 12, 1970, in a small courthouse in Fort Benning, Georgia, young Prosecutor Aubrey Daniel stood to deliver his opening statement: "I want you to know My Lai 4. I will try to put you there." Captain Daniel told the jury of six military officers the shocking story of Calley's role in My Lai's tragedy: his machine-gunning of people in the plaza area south of the hamlet; his orders to men to execute men, women, and children in the eastern drainage ditch; his butt-stroking with his rifle of an old man; his grabbing of a small child and his throwing of the child into the ditch, then shooting him at point-blank range. Daniel told the jury that at the close of evidence he would ask them to "in the name of justice" convict the accused of all charges.

Daniel built the prosecution's case methodically. For days, the grisly evidence accumulated without a single witness directly placing Calley at the scene of a shooting. One of the early witnesses was Ronald Haeberle, the army photographer whose pictures brought home the horror of My Lai Another was Hugh Thompson, My Lai's hero.
Defense attorney Latimer's handling on cross of Haeberle, Thompson, and other witnesses led many courtroom observers to conclude that his glowing reputation was undeserved. His questioning of Haeberle, whose credibility was largely irrelevant, was pointless. His attempt to question Thompson's heroism "failed utterly," according to Richard Hammer, author of The Court-Martial of Lt. Calley.

In the second week of the trial Daniel began to call his more incriminating witnesses. Robert Maples, a machine gunner in the first platoon, testified that he saw Calley near the eastern drainage ditch, firing at the people below. Maples said that Calley asked him to use his machine gun on the Vietnamese in the ditch, but that he refused [TESTIMONY OF MAPLES]. Dennis Conti provided equally damning evidence. Conti testified that he was ordered to round up people, mostly women and children, and bring them back to Calley on the trail south of the hamlet. Calley, Conti said, told us to make them "squat down and bunch up so they couldn't get up and run." Minutes later Calley and Paul Meadlo "fired directly into the people. There were burst and shots for two minutes. The people screamed and yelled and fell." Conti said that Meadlo "broke down" and began crying.

The prosecution's final witness was its most anticipated witness. Paul Meadlo had been promised immunity from military prosecution in return for his testimony in the Calley case, but when he was called earlier in the trial, Meadlo had refused to answer questions about March 16, 1968, claiming his fifth amendment right not to incriminate himself. Daniel called Meadlo to the stand for a second time, and the ex-GI, who had lost a foot to a mine shortly after the massacre, limped to the stand in his green short-sleeve shirt and green pants. Judge Kennedy warned Meadlo that if he refused to answer questions, two U. S. marshals would take him into custody. Meadlo said he would testify. He told the jury that Calley had left him with a large group of mostly women and children south of the hamlet saying, "You know what to do with them, Meadlo." Meadlo thought Calley meant he should guard the people, which he did. Meadlo told the jury what happened when Calley returned a few minutes later:

He said, "How come they're not dead?" I said, I didn't know we were supposed to kill them." He said, I want them
dead." He backed off twenty or thirty feet and started shooting into the people -- the Viet Cong -- shooting automatic. He was
beside me. He burned four or five magazines. I burned off a few, about three. I helped shoot ‘em.
Q: What were the people doing after you shot them?
A: They were lying down.
Q: Why were they lying down?
A: They was mortally wounded.
Q: How were you feeling at that time?
A: I was mortally upset, scared, because of the briefing we had the day before.
Q: Were you crying?
A: I imagine I was....

Daniel then asked Meadlo about the massacre at the eastern drainage ditch, and in the same almost emotionless voice, Meadlo recounted the story, telling the jury that Calley fired from 250 to 300 bullets into the ditch. One exchange was remarkable:

Q: What were the children in the ditch doing?
A: I don't know.
Q: Were the babies in their mother's arms?
A: I guess so.
Q: And the babies moved to attack?
A: I expected at any moment they were about to make a counterbalance.
Q: Had they made any move to attack?
A: No.

At the end of Meadlo's testimony, Aubrey Daniel rested the for the prosecution.

The defense strategy had two main thrusts. One was to suggest that the stress of combat, the fear of being in an area thought to be thick with the enemy, sufficiently impaired Calley's thinking that he should not be found guilty of premeditated murder for his killing of civilians. Latimer relied on New York psychiatrist Albert LaVerne to advance this defense argument.
The second argument of the defense was that Calley was merely following orders: that Captain Ernest Medina had ordered that civilians found in My Lai 4 be killed and was the real villain in the tragedy.

On February 23, 1971, William Calley took the stand. He told the jury he couldn't remember a single army class on the Geneva Convention, but that he did know he could be court-martialed for refusing to obey an order. He testified that Medina had said the night before that there would be no civilians in My Lai, only the enemy. He said that while he was in the village, Medina called and asked why he hadn't "wasted" the civilians yet. He admitted to firing into a ditch full of Vietnamese, but claimed that others were already firing into the ditch when he arrived. Calley said, "I felt then--and I still do-- that I acted as directed, I carried out my orders, and I did not feel wrong in doing so".

Ernest Medina was called as a witness of the court. Medina directly contradicted Calley's testimony. Medina said he was asked at the briefing on March 15 whether "we kill women and children," and-- looking straight at Calley behind the defense table--he said to the GIs "No, you do not kill women and children...Use common sense." At the close of his testimony, Medina saluted Judge Kennedy, then marched past Calley's table without glancing at him.

It was time for summations. George Latimer for the defense argued that Medina was lying about not giving the order to kill civilians, that Medina knew perfectly well what was going on in the village, and now he and the army were trying to make Calley a scapegoat[ Aubrey Daniel for the prosecution asked the jury who will speak for the children of My Lai. He pointed out that Calley as a U. S. officer took an oath not to kill innocent women and children, and told the jury it is "the conscience of the United States Army".

After thirteen days of deliberations, the longest in U. S. court-martial history, the jury returned its verdict: guilty of premeditated murder on all specifications. After hearing pleas on the issue of punishment, jury head Colonel Clifford Ford pronounced Calley's sentence: "To be confined at hard labor for the length of your natural life; to be dismissed from the service; to forfeit all pay and allowances."

Opinion polls showed that the public overwhelmingly disapproved of the verdict in the Calley case. President Nixon ordered Calley removed from the stockade (after spending a single weekend there) and placed under house arrest. He announced that he would review the whole decision. Nixon's action prompted Aubrey Daniel to write a long and angry letter in which he told the President that "the greatest tragedy of all will be if political expediency dictates the compromise of such a fundamental moral principle as the inherent unlawfulness of the murder of innocent persons". On November 9, 1974, the Secretary of the Army announced that William Calley would be paroled. In 1976, Calley married. He now works in the jewelry store of his father-in-law in Columbus, Georgia.

My Lai mattered. Two weeks after the Calley verdict was announced, the Harris Poll reported for the first time that a majority of Americans opposed the war in Viet Nam. The My Lai episode caused the military to re-evaluate its training with respect to the handling of noncombatants. Commanders sent troops in the Desert Storm operation into battle with the words, "No My Lais-- you hear?"

The Rendell administration's quest to lease the Pennsylvania Turnpike to a private manager hasn't generated any money for Pennsylvania roads or mass transit agencies.

But it has been lucrative for Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll, the Philadelphia-based law firm that once employed Gov. Ed Rendell.
Some of the firm's employees are friends and allies of Rendell.

Over the last year, state Department of Treasury records state the administration has paid more than $1.8 million in legal fees to the firm to serve as special counsel for turnpike negotiations.

The firm has done work related to the possible lease of the turnpike and plans to add tolls on Interstate 80.

The documents -- showing hourly rates of up to $637 -- were publicized this week by midstate writer Bill Keisling, who posted them on his Web site They raised new concerns from administration critics over its hiring of close associates.

"It would appear they look to any reason possible to sole-source a contract to somebody they know," said Steve Miskin, spokesman for House Minority Leader Sam Smith.

Miskin cited recent revelations in The Patriot-News about multiple consulting contracts for Deloitte Consulting, another firm with close ties to several senior administration officials. Deloitte has been paid more than $400 million over the last five years.

Rendell administration officials defended the Ballard Spahr hiring, and their overall use of outside legal assistance, which totaled $174.6 million during Rendell's first term. That's up $19.7 million, from the last four years of the Tom Ridge/Mark Schweiker administrations.

"Ballard Spahr was contracted to help with two very complex and complicated multibillion dollar transactions because it is a large firm with expertise, including in corporate and public finance, in which Pennsylvania Department of Transportation attorneys do not have the same level of expertise," said Chuck Ardo, Rendell's press secretary.

Ardo said suggestions that personal ties between Rendell and the law firm influenced the hiring are unfair, and released a report stating Ballard has received less than 8 percent of all state expenditures for outside legal help since Rendell took office.

"None of the critics claim that Ballard is not uniquely qualified to fulfill this contract," he said. "They simply seem to believe that by having an association with this administration, the firm should be punished."

Ballard was one of two firms hired as special counsel beginning March 1, 2007, shortly after Rendell first sought expressions of interest in privatizing the turnpike.

The other, Mayer Brown of Chicago, was paid $430,028 from April to November 2007.

Rendell, at the time, was trying to win quick legislative authorization of a turnpike lease as a linchpin to increase state highway and mass transit funding.
After that approach stalled with the Legislature, Ballard worked on plans to convert Interstate 80 into a toll road, the documents stated.

Rendell is still considering seeking bids for the turnpike.

Rendell joined Ballard from 1999 to 2002, in the interlude between his time as mayor of Philadelphia and his 2003 inauguration as governor. During part of that time, he was chairman of the Democratic National Committee, and he has stated that he never did much work for the firm.

The law firm has yielded two of the governor's senior staffers: former chief of staff John Estey and former deputy chief of staff Adrian King. Both have since left state government to rejoin Ballard.

King has been among the lead attorneys on the turnpike project, billing for $199,170 over the past year, treasury documents state.

Among other Ballard attorneys listed in the billing documents are the "relationship partner" Kenneth Jarin, a longtime Rendell confidante, top Democratic Party fundraiser and husband of state Treasurer Robin Wiessmann; and Arthur Makadon, another longtime Rendell friend.

Barry Kauffman, executive director of Common Cause Pennsylvania, said the administration could address such questions by increasing the amount of time employees leaving state service are barred from doing business with the government, or requiring that contracts for professional services be put to competitive bid.

Joseph Conrad once claimed that the history of humanity could be written on a cigarette paper: "They were born, they suffered, they died." His own books were rather longer. Often he would start writing a short story, promising his publisher a quick turnaround, only to take years and then come back with a good-sized novel, densely packed with adventure, atmosphere and moral quandary. "Lord Jim," "Nostromo" and "Heart of Darkness" (which was inflated only into a novella) are masterpieces of English literature. They are all the more notable for having been written in the author's third language, after Polish and French.

Conrad was born in 1857 (as Jozef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski) in a Polish enclave of Ukraine. By 11 he was an orphan. At 16 he went to sea, spending much of the next two decades sailing through the Far East and upriver in the Congo. In his 20s he learned English. In his late 30s he settled in England and began to produce, over the next 15 years, a stream of superb novels and stories ("Youth," "The Lagoon" and "The Secret Sharer," among them) and, as time went on, some less-than-superb ones.

Conrad's adventurous early life and redoubtable literary corpus have attracted several diligent biographers over the years, including Jeffrey Meyers and Frederick Karl. Now John Stape, a scholar who has edited Conrad's correspondence, offers "The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad." Mr. Stape draws on newly discovered letters and other documents to sketch a rather pedestrian portrait of a writer best known for his sonorous sentences, exotic locales and bleak moral verdicts.

"Conrad," Mr. Stape writes, "spoke of himself as having three lives -- as Pole, as seaman and as writer -- but that is to neglect unduly other, more intimate, sides of him, other 'lives', as husband, father, and friend, roles that undoubtedly enriched and variously influenced his fiction."
In Mr. Stape's account we see Conrad toiling away at his writing, spending more money than he takes in (he shivers in his study because he can't pay the coal bill), worrying about his own poor health (he seems to complain about gout on every other page), and fretting over his even less healthy wife and his ne'er-do-well children. "A sort of horrible disillusion with everything has mastered me or all but," Conrad once confided to a friend. "I am still struggling feebly but I feel the net is over me, and the spear is not very far."

Perhaps Conrad found escape from his cares and cold English cottage by transmuting the adventures of his youth into fiction; the reader of Mr. Stape's biography, however, will be denied such escapism. The author tells us about the birthing pains of Conrad's books but gives us little insight into what makes them so powerful and enduring. Instead, he crams "The Several Lives of Joseph Conrad" with facts. A long chapter of appendices offers everything from a map of Conrad's London neighborhood to a name-pronunciation guide.

Yet mere factuality misses the point of Conrad, who stared into the abyss more than most of us and, in his writing, captured its resonant emptiness. "We live, as we dream -- alone," Conrad once said.

For the book's epigraph, Mr. Stape has chosen a passage from "Lord Jim," the story of a sailor who pays for one early act of cowardice with a lifetime of self-reproach: "It is when we try to grapple with another man's intimate need that we perceive how incomprehensible, wavering, and misty are the beings that share with us the sight of the stars and the warmth of the sun. It is as if loneliness were a hard and absolute condition of existence." Concentrating on the quotidian life of Conrad is to miss the depths he sounded.

To grasp the details of a land, sea and air conflict engulfing half the globe more than a half-century ago requires the erudition of a historian. To make the entire tableau come alive -- including the lives of soldiers remembering the throes of combat -- requires the sharp eyes and ears of an exceptional journalist. Max Hastings, a former foreign correspondent and the author of several respected military histories, draws on both talents for "Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45."

There naturally is little suspense to Mr. Hastings's narrative, since by 1944 Japan already was on the defensive, its empire shrinking from its 1942 zenith and its military-industrial power dwarfed by America's. But there is plenty of drama.
Mr. Hastings transports readers from the jungles of Burma to the sands of Iwo Jima, from hand-to-hand fighting in the streets of Manila to amphibious landings on the rocks of Okinawa, from battleship broadsides in the Leyte Gulf to B-29 firebombing raids on Tokyo, and then, in the final chapters, from the Soviet blitzkrieg in Manchuria to the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

All of this makes "Retribution" a compelling read, even for readers who know the outlines of the war in the Pacific. To the broad sweep of military events Mr. Hastings adds myriad human stories culled from interviews, letters, diaries and memoirs, and he does not hesitate to offer his own keen analysis along the way.

Mr. Hastings is no romantic. Although he movingly portrays the fortitude of men in combat -- on both sides of the fighting -- he is critical of military leaders and of military decisions that unnecessarily cost so many lives. As it happens, the Burma campaign -- months of grim jungle combat aimed at opening an overland route, the Burma Road, to resupply Chiang Kai-shek's armies in China -- was led by an exceptionally competent British general, Bill Slim. But the campaign itself, in Mr. Hastings's unsentimental view, was essentially a superfluous sideshow. The British pressed it simply "to restore imperial prestige and to indulge American fantasies about China." Of course, the whole bloody Pacific war, at least until 1945, was something of a sideshow to the even larger events in Europe.

Mr. Hastings is also skeptical of the motives behind Gen. Douglas MacArthur's campaign to retake the Philippines -- the "I shall return" campaign of October 1944. (With MacArthur it was never "we" and always "I.") As Mr. Hastings tells us, MacArthur destroyed much of the city of Manila in his reconquest, causing massive civilian casualties largely to satisfy his own ego and wounded vanity. Mr. Hastings recounts horrific acts of Japanese barbarism toward Filipinos, including torturing priests, machine-gunning prisoners and burning innocent civilians alive. But he also notes that it was MacArthur's obsession with returning to a Manila from which he had earlier had to flee -- as opposed to bypassing the Philippines en route to islands nearer Japan -- that created the circumstances for "Manila's martyrdom."

Read an excerpt2 from Max Hastings new military history, "Retribution: The Battle for Japan, 1944-45."

Mr. Hastings is similarly derisive of almost everything in the chaotic Chinese theater. Millions of Chinese, he notes, suffered not only from the depredations of the conquering Japanese but also from the armies of Chiang and Mao Zedong, both of whom were more interested in jockeying for postwar power than in engaging the Japanese or preserving the lives of their countrymen. China, Mr. Hastings writes, "resembled a vast wounded animal, bleeding in a thousand places, prostrate in the dust, twitching and lashing out in its agony, inflicting more pain on itself than upon its foes." This is Mr. Hastings at his lyrical best.

Of the Americans who undertook the amphibious assaults on Iwo Jima and Okinawa, Mr. Hastings is of course fully admiring, though he admits that, with the benefit of hindsight, we now know that these islands and others might have been bypassed, saving thousands of lives. America, he observes, possessed overwhelming naval and air superiority and did not need to conquer Japan island by island.

Given his descriptive powers, Mr. Hastings's account of this island combat is especially moving. We read, for instance, of the Marine who tears off his own damaged arm to continue an attack. Or of a band of blinded Marines holding hands as they together sing "Three Blind Mice." Or of the Marine who finds himself, on Okinawa, staring at a dead Japanese machine gunner who is still sitting at his post, "lacking the top of his head; overnight rain had collected in the open skull."
But it was the naval and air campaigns, far more than the ground combat on atolls and islands, that actually won the war. Aircraft-carrier flyboys, along with submariners, were among the bravest and hardest hit: Fully one-third of carrier airmen died in the Pacific theater and nearly a quarter of submariners.

The aircraft carrier Langley, followed by the USS Ticonderoga, leads a Navy task group in the western Pacific Ocean on Dec. 12, 1944.

Mr. Hastings's chapter on Leyte Gulf, perhaps the last great naval battle in history, is among his best. The engagement pitted 216 American warships against 64 Japanese, each side firing broadsides at the other in a manner that Lord Nelson might have recognized. The Japanese effort was largely suicidal and the battle's outcome never in doubt. Nevertheless, there were many twists and turns. Adm. William "Bull" Halsey, chasing glory, famously left the Seventh Fleet unprotected, though it was saved by Japan's inept naval tactics. Leyte Gulf was also notable for a new element of Japanese warfare -- the kamikazes, or suicide pilots.

From fall 1944 to summer 1945 some 4,000 Japanese kamikaze pilots died on their missions; one in seven managed to hit an American ship. Kamikaze pilots, in fact, caused substantially greater losses to America than did the warships of the Japanese navy. Mr. Hastings neatly explains the Japanese warrior spirit, with its emphasis on the ultimate sacrifice. He outlines as well the essential difference between a Western concept of heroism, which venerates bold individual action even in the face of probable death, and the Japanese "institutionalization of a tactic that makes [death] inevitable." The suicide bombers of al Qaeda or Hamas clearly follow role models half a century and half a world away.

It was Japan's tenacious, often suicidal, tactics -- whether defending to the death doomed island outposts or frontally attacking vastly superior American fleets or, at the extreme, launching kamikaze missions -- that kept the Pacific war going as long as it did. By the late stages of the war, Mr. Hastings calculates, America had a 10-to-1 superiority in military-industrial might. Japan's unwillingness to accept the logic of surrender, he says, was perhaps its "most potent weapon."

In early 1945, the U.S. Navy tightened its noose around Japan, shutting off the shipping so essential to both the home islands and the empire's outposts. And then in March the massive B-29 firebombing raids began, devastating Tokyo and other Japanese cities. The attack on Tokyo on March 9 alone killed some 100,000 civilians, left a million homeless and destroyed at least a quarter of the city. Gen. Curtis LeMay is quoted saying: "We scorched and boiled and baked to death more people on that night of March 9-10 than went up in vapor at Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined."

Adm. William 'Bull' Halsey on the battleship New Jersey as it heads for the Philippines in 1944.

Mr. Hastings does not spare us the survivor accounts of such devastation, and they make for painful reading. He rightly notes that, at this point in the war, the Allies had few moral qualms about attacking Japan with full ferocity: "American moral sensibility was numbed by kamikaze attacks, revelations of savagery toward POW's and subject peoples and general war weariness." Japan's systematic cruelty toward its military prisoners, toward the Chinese and toward other victims of its conquest -- described by Mr. Hastings in equally painful detail -- offers powerful support to his analysis. In the end, as in the beginning, the war in the Pacific was total war.

The end came, of course, with the atomic bombs. Again Mr. Hastings writes with genuine compassion for Japan's civilians, but he brings no revisionist moral equivalency to his account. The Japanese had started the war, he reminds us; they had prosecuted it cruelly and had refused to concede defeat when all rational hope was lost. Even after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the war party in Japan opposed surrender. Emperor Hirohito dithered until finally, in a radio address, he acknowledged that the war had evolved "not necessarily to Japan's advantage."

The revisionists who argue that Japan was ready to surrender before Hiroshima, Mr. Hastings writes, "are peddlers of fantasies." Their essential thesis, he says, is that America should have spared its enemies from the consequences of their rulers' folly, that Washington should have displayed a concern for the Japanese people "more enlightened than that of the Japanese government."

That the atomic bombs were dropped not only to compel Japan's surrender but also, secondarily, to pre-empt Joseph Stalin's last-minute invasion of Manchuria and his plans for the conquest of larger swaths of Asia, says Mr. Hastings, changes no part of the moral calculus.
President Truman and those around him "understood, as some people in the West did not yet understand, the depth of evil which Stalin's Soviet Union represented." Some in the West, of course, failed to understand Soviet evil well into the l980s.

There were many legacies of the Pacific war. Among them: the end to Asia's European colonial empires; the fall of China to communism in l949; the outbreak of the Korean War a year later; and, not least, the re-emergence of Japan as a peaceful, prosperous and U.S.-allied power. The military legacy is more barren. "Only total war," Mr. Hastings writes, "enabled a liberal democracy to exploit weapons of mass destruction." As we have repeatedly discovered in the decades since World War II -- in Korea, Vietnam and now Iraq -- limited war is much more likely to favor belligerents of limited means. The comprehensive triumph over Japan in a total war was, in Mr. Hastings's view, "a freak of history."

Stony Brook is a hamlet (unincorporated community) (and census-designated place) located in the Town of Brookhaven in Suffolk County, New York. The population was 13,727 at the 2000 census.

Located on the picturesque North Shore of Long Island, the area is home to, among other things, the State University of New York at Stony Brook, The Stony Brook School, and "Stony Brook Village." The history of the town has been closely linked to that of Ward Melville, a local businessman who at one point owned most of what is now sometimes called the "Three Villages" (consisting of Stony Brook, the hamlet of Setauket, and the incorporated village of Old Field). The Three Village Central School District serves all three communities.

Beginning in 1939 with the creation of the Community Fund (currently the Ward Melville Heritage Organization), Ward Melville began the transformation of the area into his idea of an idyllic New England village, with white clapboard and quaint stores. This effect has been largely achieved in the population center, which consists of a green and a crescent of stores. In further pursuit of this goal, Melville donated the land and funds for the creation of the State University of New York at Stony Brook to the state of New York, as well as for the local school district.

The area has virtually no industrial or commercial base due to current zoning, and the rapid growth of residential development in the past decade has begun to place serious strain on schools trying to accommodate the increasing class size. However, the schools are generally considered to be above average.

Visitors to the area with children should plan to see Sand Street Beach, a duck pond, a historic grist mill (c. 1751), as well as the newly created Avalon Park, which has a fabulous boardwalk, trails, landscaping, and a year-round groundskeeper. Additionally, the Carriage Museum is billed as one of the largest of its type in America.

Stony Brook is located at [show location on an interactive map] 40°54′23″N, 73°7′42″W (40.906399, -73.128443)[1].

According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 6.2 square miles (16.0 km²), of which, 5.7 square miles (14.9 km²) of it is land and 0.4 square miles (1.1 km²) of it (6.97%) is water.

As of the census of 2000, there were 13,727 people, 4,758 households, and 3,787 families residing in the CDP.
The population density was 2,390.5 per square mile (923.3/km²). There were 4,970 housing units at an average density of 865.5/sq mi (334.3/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 91.82% White, 1.23% African American, 0.04% Native American, 5.70% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.25% from other races, and 0.94% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.43% of the population.

There were 4,758 households out of which 39.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 71.3% were married couples living together, 6.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.4% were non-families. 16.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.88 and the average family size was 3.22.

In the CDP the population was spread out with 26.9% under the age of 18, 5.8% from 18 to 24, 28.1% from 25 to 44, 26.5% from 45 to 64, and 12.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 95.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.

The median income for a household in the CDP was $90,009, and the median income for a family was $95,567. Males had a median income of $68,400 versus $41,770 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $35,247. About 1.9% of families and 2.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 1.9% of those under age 18 and 2.9% of those age 65 or over.

Less than one day after replacing disgraced Gov. Eliot Spitzer over allegations he solicited a prostitute, new Gov. David Paterson admitted that he had extramarital affairs with several women years ago, including one still on the state payroll in the governor's office.

As his wife, Michelle, stood at his side, Paterson made an admission in a scene that resembled Spitzer's apology for "private failings" after he allegedly hired a prostitute on a trip last month to Washington D.C.

Unlike Spitzer's alleged trysts, which may lead to criminal charges, Paterson's infidelity sparked little criticism, and he gave more specifics about his errors in judgment. Paterson is expected to politically survive the disclosure, observers said. "I think Paterson goes into this with a reservoir of goodwill," said Iva Deutchman, political science professor at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in Geneva, N.Y.

Paterson, 53, who has been married for 15 years, said he wanted to fully disclose his prior affairs in order to be honest with the public and avoid any blackmail or speculation about his governorship.

He said he did not use public or campaign funds for his rendezvous, nor did the women have business before the state or receive special state privileges. His wife has also admitted to having an affair.

"I betrayed a commitment to my wife several years ago. I do not feel I betrayed my commitment to the citizens of New York state," Paterson said at a news conference.

"I haven't broken any laws. I don't think I violated my oath of office. I saw this as a private matter, but both of us have committed acts of infidelity."

The disclosure was an extraordinary turn in a roller-coaster week for state politics.

Just hours after taking the oath, Paterson and his wife admitted in Tuesday's New York Daily News that they both had affairs during a rocky period in their marriage between 1999 and 2001.

"Several years ago, there were a number of women when I became aware of something. I was pretty upset and just angry and for a period of time I was using poor judgment," he said, adding "I was jealous over Michelle."

He did not indicate how many women he had been with during his marriage.

One of the women has been on the state payroll and works in the executive branch, Paterson said. Paterson said the woman's future role in the administration has yet to be determined. During the affair, she did not report to Paterson, he said.

Paterson said the personal lives of politicians should generally be kept private. He said rumors were swirling around the state Capitol about his infidelities, so he wanted to go public.

Paterson said he and his wife attended counseling and have rescued their marriage.
The couple has two teenage children.

A former driver and aide to former New Jersey Gov. Jim McGreevey yesterday made the bombshell claim that Dina Matos McGreevey must have always known her husband was gay - because he was the other man in bed with them.

In an explosive interview with The Post, the McGreeveys' self-professed man in the middle, Teddy Pedersen, gave explicit details of three-way sex romps that he claimed to have had with the now-divorcing duo, starting during their courtship and continuing into the marriage.

Pedersen - who said he had already spilled the beans on the ménage a trois arrangement under oath in a deposition for the couple's divorce battle - hinted that he thinks his presence was required to get Jim's motor running for Dina.

Matos McGreevey's basic argument in her divorce war with the former gov is that he covered up his homosexuality and tricked her into a loveless marriage.

Pedersen - who is named in Matos McGreevey's court papers - agreed to talk about the alleged unconventional relationship after Dina sounded off to the media last week about Eliot Spitzer's sex scandal.

"It's frustrating to hear her call Gov. Spitzer a hypocrite while she's out there being as dishonest as anyone could be about her own life," said Pedersen, 29.

"She's framed herself as a victim - yet she was a willing participant. She had complete control over what happened in her relationship," he said. "She was there, she knew what was happening, she made the moves.
We all did. It's disgusting to watch her play the victim card."

The trio's trysts started after Pedersen was hired as a campaign driver when McGreevey was mayor of Woodbridge, NJ, the former chauffeur said.

"We called it the Friday Night Special," Pedersen said. The "intense" escapades, he said, usually began with a "couple of drinks" at a local T.G.I. Friday's and culminated in "a hard-core consensual sex orgy" between the three of them at McGreevey's Woodbridge condo.

He said the action also spilled over to out-of-town business trips, during which Pedersen, a handsome, clean-cut Rutgers grad, would share a single hotel suite with Jim and Dina - right under the noses of other McGreevey staffers.

The threesomes began in the late 1990s, while Dina and Jim were dating, continued after their October 2000 marriage, and had ended by the time McGreevey was elected governor in November 2001, Pedersen said. "He liked watching me, and she would watch me while she was [performing sex acts] with Jim," Pedersen said. "In my opinion, me being a part of their sexual relationship enhanced it for both of them."

Pedersen, who lives with his girlfriend of several years, said he revealed the sexual shenanigans during the couple's divorce proceedings only because Dina's camp subpoenaed him. The former driver said he believes that Dina subpoenaed him as an end-run around her estranged hubby, to see what he would say if he was called on by McGreevey's side. Pedersen said he believes that Dina never expected him to talk about their trysts.

"I would have kept my mouth shut about this forever, but she subpoenaed me, and now it's all going to come out at trial," Pedersen said. He added he expects to be called as one of the first witnesses at the trial.

Details of the lust triangle have been quashed once before, according to a source at now-disbanded Regan Books, which published McGreevey's 2006 memoir, "The Confession."

"There was a coy and gentle reference to a third person, but McGreevey took it out because he thought it was unnecessarily harmful," the insider said.

Pedersen said the threesome started as an "idea" he and McGreevey tossed around during the aide's long hours behind the wheel for the Woodbridge politician.

"We developed a good relationship - we were colleagues, but we were friends," Pedersen said, adding that once Dina and Jim's romance bloomed, she was often in the car with them headed to political events.

"There was a level of comfort that evolved into, eventually, hints of pushing it into this sexual realm," Pedersen said.

"Jim and I thought we could see if she would go for it - beyond just the hints in conversation.

"So one night, we came in. I went down to the basement bathroom, and when I came up, to my shock, she was basically undressed and on the loveseat with Jim. So I sat on the couch and watched and eventually joined in.

"And that's how it got going," he said. "We came up with this nice little formula for making it work."

Sometimes, the trio took their show on the road, he said. On business trips - including to the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City - they shared one room, leaving others in the entourage baffled, he said.

"It became almost laughable - I would never have my own hotel room," Pedersen said. "Everyone thought that this was weird, but we'd just brush it off."

Pedersen's presence wasn't always welcomed by Matos McGreevey.

In her 2007 memoir, "Silent Partner," she recounted her fury when he showed up, bags packed, to drive Jim and Dina to Montreal for the Valentine's Day weekend in 2000 during which McGreevey proposed to her. Matos McGreevey - who described Pedersen as "a handsome college student . . . one of a crowd of guys in their 20s who always seemed to be around" - said she wasn't happy when McGreevey told her the young buck was taking them to Canada.

"Was he kidding?" Dina wrote. "I'd really been looking forward to this weekend together.
The two of us, not the three of us.

"I dug my heels in," she continued, recounting that she told McGreevey, "If Teddy is going, I'm not."

Said Pedersen, who wound up not making the trip, "I think she knew he was gonna propose, and she knew if I went, there was going to be a threesome. She had the decency to say, 'Let's make this sort of special' and just the two of them."

But the strange relationship continued even after the McGreeveys wed in October 2000, Pedersen said. The Friday Night Special, he claimed, was replaced by a more subdued Saturday-morning routine.

"I'd go to the condo, and usually they'd still be in bed," Pedersen said. "I'd sometimes go up, sit on the edge of the bed, rub Dina's legs through the comforter and go from there. Saturdays were a lot more low-key. Things hit their peak before the marriage. Afterward, there was this sort of soft landing, and it eventually tapered off and ended."

Asked why it stopped, Pedersen said, "In my mind, I figured, 'Dina's married. She doesn't have to play into it anymore.'

"She sealed the deal, she got what she wanted, the nice life, the governor's mansion, and she would do everything in her power to keep it."

Neither Dina nor Jim McGreevey returned calls for comment. Lawyers for both said, "No comment."

In her memoirs, Dina insists she never knew McGreevey was gay.

"Not only would I not knowingly have married a gay man, but I would never have allowed a gay man to father my child," she said. The former couple has a 6-year-old daughter, Jacqueline.

A former Democratic Party official who knows the couple said he "always suspected something" was going on between Jim McGreevey and Pedersen. But as for the reputed threesome with Dina?

"That's a complete shock," the source said.
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
"To be honest, I don't believe it. She's not the smartest woman in the world, but I don't think she's that stupid."

Jim McGreevey resigned as governor in 2004 after admitting he was gay and being accused of hiring a boyfriend, Golan Cipel, as his homeland-security adviser. The adviser has said he was sexually harassment.

Jim McGreevey filed for divorce last year. He and Dina are due back in divorce court Thursday.

The term anesthesia originally meant "the state in which a patient is insensible to the trauma of surgery."
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
Although, the science of anesthesiology has advanced rapidly, defining, measuring, and understanding depth of anesthesia has moved ahead slowly. Indeed, we are yet to define properly the phenomenon that we use in our everyday practice to render patients insensitive to the trauma of surgery. Prys-Roberts defined anesthesia as the state in which, as a result of drug-induced unconsciousness, the patient neither perceives nor recalls noxious stimuli. He further stated that analgesia, muscle relaxation, and suppression of autonomic activity are not the components of anesthesia, but should be considered as desirable supplements to the state of anesthesia as a means to enable surgery to be performed. Although awareness during surgery was not unknown before the use of muscle relaxants, the use of small concentrations of anesthetic with muscle relaxants resulted in some patients being aware during surgery. The incidence of awareness during anesthesia and surgery is variable and depends on the type of surgery, the anesthetics used, and the timing of and technique for, evaluating awareness and recall. In two large series of patients, the incidence of awareness has been reported to be 0.2% and 0.16% and a more frequent incidence ranging from 1.1% to 1.5% during cardiac surgery.

Awareness during general anesthesia can be a horrifying experience and may cause acute psychological trauma. It may also have medico-legal implications. Therefore, Eich et al. believe that recall indicates a failure to anesthetize. A reliable indicator that would confirm that the level of anesthesia is adequate to ensure lack of awareness is obviously desirable. Initially, the hemodynamic response to laryngoscopy, endotracheal intubation and/or skin incision was used to assess the depth of anesthesia. Subsequently, electroencephalography (EEG) and processed EEG were used to relate drug concentration and clinical depth of anesthesia. However, application of these measures to assess clinical depth of anesthesia has not been very successful.

The Bispectral index (BIS) is a variable derived from mathematical analysis of the EEG signal that estimates phase difference. It measures the hypnotic component of the anesthetic and is a potentially useful adjunct for monitoring the depth of anesthesia. The BIS is a dimensionless number that varies from 0 to 100. The monitor assigns the BIS number based on a database of prior recordings and the expert opinion of the anesthesiologist during those recordings regarding the anesthetic depth of the patient. In the awake state the BIS is close to 100 and the number decreases with increasing sedation and hypnosis. A BIS value of <60 is often regarded as the criterion for adequate anesthesia, whereas a value of more than 70 is frequently seen during awakening. Its utility as a monitor having high probability of correctly predicting absence of consciousness during general anesthesia and degree of sedation in intensive care patients has been recognized. Therefore it has been proposed to be a useful monitor for anesthetic depth during cardiac surgery with cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) , when the usual clinical markers of anesthetic depth, such as hemodynamic responses and sweating, are less dependable.

The use of words "awareness," "memory," or "recall" in an interchangeable fashion has caused considerable confusion, and there is a need to distinguish "awareness" and "memory." However, irrespective of the definitions of general anesthesia, conscious recall of events should not occur during general anesthesia. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, awareness with explicit recall of events with or without pain still occur, and are often reported by victims as the worst experience of their lives.

Advances in cardiac surgery, such as off-pump coronary artery bypass grafting, where the patient is generally expected to awaken at the end of surgery, and minimizing the extubation times in patients undergoing conventional on-pump coronary artery bypass grafting demand a high degree of precision and add to the pressure on the cardiac anesthesiologist. He/she is expected to provide a perfect anesthetic that causes the least hemodynamic disturbance and allows recovery as soon as possible. While these objectives are being accomplished the patient should not suffer from awareness. The cardiac anesthesiologist is thus expected to maintain a depth of anesthesia that is commensurate with the level of surgical stimulus (that may vary from time to time) and also ensure that the effect wears off as soon as possible after the surgery. The newer more potent and shorter-acting anesthetics (e.g., remifentanil, propofol, sevoflurane, desflurane) have certainly helped a great deal in achieving these goals. However, the precise concentration of the anesthetic required to guarantee lack of recall is unknown and reliance on clinical signs is certainly not enough, especially with the use of muscle relaxants that abolish two of the most valuable indicators of depth of anesthesia, respiration and movement in response to surgery.
Louis J. Sheehan Esquire
The last few years have seen a changing trend from large-dose opioid technique to a drastic reduction in the doses of the opioids and benzodiazepines or use of shorter-acting drugs in infusion forms with or without inhaled anesthetics. In general, the incidence of awareness is associated with smaller doses of anesthetics. So, is the incidence of awareness increasing with modern day cardiac anesthesia practice? Perhaps not; the incidence of awareness in a large series of patients undergoing fast-track cardiac anesthesia was as small as 0.3% (17). This may be attributed to the continuous use of either isoflurane or propofol infusions during the entire surgical procedure, as well as to monitoring of end-tidal anesthetic gas concentration.

Nevertheless, in the current scenario of cardiac anesthesia, the need for a reliable monitor that ensures unconsciousness is highly desirable. It may be more appropriate to call it an "awareness monitor," as it would be expected to track a patient’s arousal levels and warn of impending awareness. Can BIS be called a reliable monitor? Large-scale studies confirming the utility of BIS as an anesthetic depth monitor in patients undergoing cardiac surgery are not available. However, a few studies using BIS in patients undergoing cardiac surgery have revealed conflicting results. The BIS values also decrease almost linearly from a median value of 95.3 to 45.5 with end-tidal sevoflurane concentration increasing from 0.2 to 1.4% . The BIS and sevoflurane end-tidal concentration correlated closely with the clinical sedation scores of the patients. The case report in this issue of Anesthesia & Analgesia by Mychaskiw et al. demonstrates the failure of BIS as a monitor of depth of anesthesia, as the patient experienced explicit recall of intraoperative events at a BIS of 47 with nitrous oxide and sevoflurane anesthesia. BIS in the range of 50 to 60 appears to be the therapeutic window associated with a high probability of unconsciousness and such a small BIS number with inhaled anesthetic has not been previously associated with recall. We understand that monitoring of hypnosis by BIS is a probability function, and therefore it can be expected that recall may occur despite a relatively small displayed value. In this respect, it is not totally wrong to expect similar reports of awareness at BIS as low as 47 or even lower, albeit at a very small incidence.

One study has suggested that BIS is not an accurate measure of the depth of anesthesia when fentanyl and midazolam were used during coronary artery bypass grafting. In this study, implicit recall was absent in all the patients, but BIS varied widely and values that are usually related to excessively light anesthesia or wakefulness were occasionally observed. A few more studies have demonstrated that a small percentage of patients can respond to verbal command with BIS value as small as 55 during recovery from anesthesia when there was no or minimal surgical stimulus (indicating that BIS is not totally reliable when the patient is waking). Because depth of anesthesia is a balance between two antagonizing factors—the anesthetic and the surgical stimulus—is it possible that in the presence of surgical stimulus (as was present in the case) some patients can respond at BIS values smaller than 55? Perhaps yes, but the patients are usually amnesic as a result of the effects of anesthetics and, therefore, these events do not add to the instances of explicit awareness. In the present case, however, sevoflurane (end-tidal anesthetic gas concentration of 2%) administration along with 67% nitrous oxide was insufficient to provide requisite anesthesia as well as amnesia. It has also been suggested that an abrupt increase in BIS usually indicates that some form of change in awareness has just taken place.
It is not clear from the report of Mychaskiw et al. if such an abrupt increase in BIS occurred in their patient after sternotomy.

This case proves yet again that some patients are not fully unconscious, even when adequately anesthetized by accepted criteria, and also highlights the need for a monitor that is capable of assessing just such instances of awareness. It is also in agreement with the general experience that auditory stimuli in particular can be perceived intraoperatively and recalled postoperatively, suggesting that auditory modality is apparently the most receptive sensory channel for perception during general anesthesia . Preservation of early cortical potentials of midlatency auditory evoked potential during general anesthesia allows auditory information to be processed and remembered postoperatively (26) and it has been suggested that drugs that suppress midlatency auditory evoked potential (volatile anesthetics and propofol) should be included in the anesthetic technique. Although, changes in midlatency auditory evoked potential can reliably reflect the level of anesthesia, the AEP waves are not easy to analyze in the clinical situation and therefore the AEPIndex has been investigated as a means of assessment of depth of anesthesia. Recently it has been shown that AEPIndex and BIS appear to be capable of distinguishing the awake and the anesthetized state, but AEPIndex appeared to indicate more accurately the transition from the unconscious to conscious state.

It may not be easy to answer why BIS should fail to detect inadequate depth of anesthesia in this patient. Is it because of changes in neurotransmitter levels in the brain? Is it related to the peripheral vascular disease that might have interfered with cerebral blood flow? Is there an artifactual electromyographic interference produced by vibrations of the sternal saw? Artifacts induced by pacemaker and warming blanket in the BIS (BIS increasing) have been reported. Could it be merely the electrical interference of the sternal saw (if an electrical saw was used)? Or is it a result of the interaction between nitrous oxide and sevoflurane on BIS? The interaction between nitrous oxide and other anesthetics on BIS has not been well studied. Nitrous oxide alone does not alter BIS (32), but BIS values were larger when isoflurane was used in combination with nitrous oxide, as compared with when isoflurane was used alone, without nitrous oxide (33). Even if we accept the failure of BIS to detect the inadequate depth of anesthesia, the problem is not solved; what is more worrying is that the anesthetic (consisting essentially of nitrous oxide and volatile anesthetic at a total concentration of more than 1 minimum alveolar concentration that had been maintained for at least 30 min before recall occurred) was not sufficient to anesthetize the patient adequately. Some patients may be more resistant to the effects of anesthetics than others. Young age, tobacco smoking, and long-term use of certain drugs (alcohol, opiates, or amphetamines) may increase the anesthetic dose required to produce unconsciousness .
Can a young age and smoking (as other factors were eliminated) lead to an increased anesthetic requirement of this patient leading to awareness? The explanation is unlikely to be straightforward.

Use of intrathecal morphine in as small a dose as 5 µg/kg along with total elimination of preoperative and intraoperative IV opioids and benzodiazepines (as done in the present case), is debatable, with many of us inclined to use at least a little dose of these drugs. The theory put forth by Mychaskiw et al. (21) that cerebral edema resulting from CPB may decrease the postoperative analgesic requirement needs to be investigated further, and it is perhaps too early to draw any conclusions. These changing trends in our practice reflect the efforts to realize the combined benefits of early extubation of the trachea and satisfactory pain control. In any case, we have to accept (albeit reluctantly) that the issues regarding level of consciousness that occur during general anesthesia are complex and poorly understood and that there are no reliable means (having zero percent failure) to determine the state of consciousness in an anesthetized patient.
Louis J. Sheehan

It also means that intraoperative awareness during cardiac anesthesia may not be totally abolished and the cardiac anesthesiologist must accept that awareness is a distinct possibility in a handful of patients even after eliminating cases caused by failure of anesthesia equipment, the anesthetist’s insufficient knowledge, and lack of vigilance. This is because large doses of anesthetics cannot be administered in patients with poor cardiac reserve to avoid greater morbidity and mortality from deep levels of anesthesia. Some cardiac anesthesiologists have even gone to the extent of saying that neuromuscular blockers should be totally avoided during cardiac surgery so that movement response can warn the anesthesiologist of the awareness (34).

Finally, like any other clinician, the cardiac anesthesiologist should be concerned about offering the patient care of the highest order. If you ask an anesthesiologist "when would you like to awaken after cardiac surgery?" the usual answer is "don’t worry about when I wake up but give me enough medications to ensure that I am not awake during the surgery." It is therefore imperative to consider all instances of awareness with explicit recall as "inadequate anesthesia" and it is essential that our anesthetic practice safeguards the patient against such apparently escapable suffering. Many arguments supporting the use of depth of anesthesia monitoring are based on cost savings, by reducing either the level of anesthesia or length of stay in the recovery room. No doubt these are welcome and important aspects of our practice, but if by changing practice there is even a slight increase in the possibility of awareness, the purpose will be defeated. The primary aim should therefore be to improve patient care, and if other benefits such as cost savings are achieved in doing so, they should be welcome.

With this perspective, it seems that there is a need to redefine the role of BIS monitoring as well as laying threshold values for BIS at various stages of cardiac anesthesia, such as incision, intubation, and sternotomy. According to a report of 617 patients, incidence of awareness during fast-track cardiac anesthesia has been 0.3% without the use of monitors of depth of anesthesia (17). To prove that the use of monitors of depth of anesthesia (BIS or AEPIndex) can reduce the incidence of awareness, a randomized controlled study of a large magnitude is necessary; 50,000 patients would be needed to show a significant reduction in incidence from 0.2% to 0.1% (3). Such a trial is not impossible and could be completed in 1 yr if 50 cardiac centers doing 1000 cardiac operations per year participate. The differences in the anesthetic techniques should not be a matter of concern, as the ideal monitor of depth of anesthesia is supposed to provide a single yardstick for measuring the performance of all anesthetics.
Louis J. Sheehan, Esquire
Louis J Sheehan
Should we look for the reduction in the incidence of awareness that is statistically significant? Perhaps not, because the incidence of awareness should be reduced to as low a level as possible and any decrease should be considered clinically important because in the case of awareness there is always the risk of development of posttraumatic neurosis (6). What could be the acceptable financial repercussions of this philosophy? This can only be determined if we are able to define the acceptable price for patient comfort. Future work using BIS with various anesthetics and their combinations is necessary and we hope that a combined effort by a group of anesthesiologists, psychologists, and others will resolve some of the mysteries surrounding the subject.

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