Friday, December 21, 2001 to  Monday, December 31, 2001
T u e s d a y ,  J a n u a r y  1,  2 0 0 2
M o n d a y ,  J a n u a r y  7,  2 0 0 2
Tuesday, January 8, 2002 to Tuesday, January 15, 2002

2001: Historical Turning Point?
Tuesday, January 1, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the impact of the events of 9-11-01 on the future of America and the world:

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The assertion has been made many times since 11 September - the attacks on America have changed the world. The sight of the twin towers of the World Trade Center crashing down stunned a global television audience.

Watching those images in disbelief, millions must have had the same thoughts. What does this mean for the world, for my country, and for my family?

In the space of a few minutes we seemed to have entered a new age of uncertainty. We instinctively knew things were different, even if we were not sure why or where we were heading. The extent to which the world really has changed depends on where you are in the world and your perspective on global politics.

Nation traumatised - Clearly, feelings are strongest in the United States. The nation was traumatised by an act of calculated mass murder. The fact that the attack took place on its own soil also had a profound effect on the nation's psyche.

It was an event so momentous that it seemed to shake many of the old certainties about life in America.

... Military strategists at the Pentagon are now talking about "asymmetrical warfare" and the new tactics needed to take on enemies who play by different rules. Is this the model for global conflict in the 21st Century?

... The rise of religious fundamentalism is one of the greatest challenges facing the world in the 21st Century. It a threat faced not just by Western democracies but by governments of many nations in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.

The United States and its allies have to find a way of combating the fanatics who plot terror, while avoiding any perception that this is a conflict between cultures and religions. The world may well have been changing before the attacks on the United States but the issues now appear in sharper focus.

So can we add 11 September 2001, to the list of dates that changed the world? It is a judgment that will have to be left to the historians.

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Animal Transplants: A Step Closer?
Thursday, January 3, 2002

Excerpts from articles describing the cloning of pigs which may some day lead to widespread use of animal organs and tissues in human transplants / treatments for diseases:

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Scientists have produced genetically engineered pig clones with organs designed for human transplants.

What is special about the pigs?

The pigs have been genetically engineered in a way that should make their organs more suitable for transplant into humans. A gene that would normally lead pig organs to be rejected by the human body has been switched off.

In theory this makes the pig tissue a closer match for human transplant operations.

However, the human immune system is extremely complex and further work will be needed to find out if this really is the case. The fact that the genetically engineered pigs are clones would potentially allow a ready supply of organs to be produced. However, the cloning process must be made more efficient if this is ever to become a reality.

Five cloned pigs

Why pigs?

Many experts regard pigs as the most suitable animals for breeding for organs for a number of reasons.

... What are the future applications of xenotransplantation?

The pig clones ... are the first steps towards providing animal organs and tissues for human transplants (xenotransplantation).

If xenotransplantation becomes a reality, it will be a multi-billion dollar business. This is one reason why the companies involved are keen to report any progress as soon as possible. However, there are still major problems to be overcome. ... Human clinical trials are not likely to take place for several years.

... Dr David Ayares, Vice-President of Research at PPL's US division, said the birth of the pigs was a "critical milestone" in the company's xenograft programme. "This advance provides a near-term solution for overcoming the shortage of human organs for transplants as well as insulin-producing cells to cure diabetes," Dr Ayares said in a statement.

... 'Near term' solution - A specific gene, which makes the human body reject pig organs, has been "knocked out". PPL says that it intends to use the pigs as part of its programme to seek a cure for humans suffering from diabetes. ...

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NASA Explores Electromagnetic Space Launches
Thursday, January 3, 2002

Excerpts from article describing research into the use of magnetic levitation to launch spacecraft and Navy aircraft:

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Researchers at NASA are looking into whether electromagnets can be used to send rockets into space, a technological leap that could dramatically cut launch costs.

Spacecraft burn hundreds of thousands of gallons of fuel to reach orbit. But rocket engineers at the Marshall Space Flight Center are investigating whether electromagnetic power can do the job.

An artist's concept of a magnetic
levitation system for space launch

It would be a much cleaner and safer method of launching vehicles, and much cheaper. NASA hopes to drive down the cost of rocket departures from $10,000 per pound to $1,000 per pound.

... Magnetic levitation, or maglev for short, works by using opposing magnetic polarities to lift a metal sled carrying a plane off the tracks. For propulsion, the magnetic fields in the sled and in the rails repel each other, pushing the vehicle forward.

... The U.S. Navy is conducting maglev research. It plans to make its fleet largely electric, catapulting fighters from its carriers with magnetic propulsion instead of steam. ...

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My Islam
Thursday, January 3, 2002

Muhammad mosque in Medina

Excerpts from article by a Muslim follower who laments the events of 9-11-01 and seeks to shift the focus of her faith to a more progressive and pro-human plain:

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I am a Muslim. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 shook my faith to its foundation. I am angry and ashamed that Muslims will forever be remembered for such horror.

But being angry and ashamed is not enough. Muslims must ask ourselves, how did we get here? We are long overdue for a healthy dose of introspection. We've heard many times how the U.S. government must reexamine its foreign policy and about the list of corrupt dictators it calls friends. It is just as important for Muslims to do our own soul-searching.

For starters, liberal, moderate and progressive Muslims must speak out. We've been quiet too long, and I blame us for the sad state of affairs of the Muslim Umma (community) as much as I blame the clerics, whom, I must admit, I gave up on long ago.

It is no longer enough for the clerics to issue tired platitudes on how Islam means peace and surrender. Where were they when Osama bin Laden and his coalition of terrorists vowed to target every American man, woman and child?

We have to look inward and ask ourselves what in Islam, what in the way it is practiced today, allowed bin Laden to promote his murderous message?

... I am fed up with the self-pity and self-denial that for too long have paralyzed Muslim thinking. By constantly blaming Western conspiracies for our ills we fuel our own helplessness. Strength is the essence of introspection. We must make that introspection public. ...

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Innocent Man Released After 17 Years on Death Row
Sunday, January 6, 2002

Complete article detailing the experience of a man unjustly imprisoned for a murder for 17 years:

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A man who spent more than 17 years on death row in Florida for the murder of a beauty school proprietor has been freed after a chance discovery in a lawyer's filing cabinet showed that someone else had repeatedly confessed to the crime.

Juan Roberto Melendez, 50, was convicted in 1984 of the murder of Delbert Baker, who was shot in the head after locking up for the night at Mr Del's Beauty School in Auburndale, Florida, on September13, 1983.

But a judge has ruled that the prosecution withheld crucial evidence at the trial which revealed that another man, Vernon James, had admitted his responsibility for the murder to lawyers, investigators and acquaintances.

"They can give me a billion dollars and they cannot pay for what they did," Mr Melendez said yesterday after his release from the Union correctional institution in Rainford, Florida.

Despite nearly 18 years of imprisonment on a conviction based on no physical evidence, the former migrant worker, born in Brooklyn but raised in Puerto Rico, told reporters: "If I would get bitter, all I would do is torment myself ... I tell you, I feel great."

His conviction rested on the testimony of a convicted criminal, David Luna Falcon, who said Mr Melendez had confessed while the two were taking cocaine. The Supreme Court upheld the sentence on appeal.

But in 2000 Mr Melendez's lawyer, Roger Alcott, was appointed a county judge, and while moving boxes of files in his office he discovered the transcript of a conversation a month before the trial in which an early suspect, Vernon James, told investigators that he had killed Baker and Mr Melendez was not present.

James died two years after Mr Melendez was convicted. Last month a Florida judge overturned the death sentence, ruling that the prosecutor had failed to disclose the confession to the defence at the trial.

Judge Barbara Fleischer said the prosecutor had also misled the jury about Falcon's testimony by arguing that he had "nothing to gain" from testifying against Mr Melendez.

In fact Falcon had agreed with prosecutors that his own prison time would be reduced if he did so, she said. Falcon has since died.

'Not bitter' . . . Juan Melendez smiles as he talks with reporters after being released from Union Correctional Institution, 17 years after he was sent to Florida's Death Row for a murder

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Space Rock Hurtles Past Earth
Monday, January 7, 2002

Excerpts from article describing a nearby asteroid with the potential to wipe out a country the size of France:

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An asteroid discovered just a month ago is making a close approach to the Earth.

Although there is no danger of collision with it, astronomers say that its proximity reminds us just how many objects there are in space that could strike our planet with devastating consequences.

Moving closer to the Sun, the asteroid is passing by at less than three times the Moon's distance from us - just 830,000 kilometres (510,000 miles) away on 7 January, which is close in cosmic terms.

It is thought to be 300 metres in size - large enough to wipe out an entire country if it struck the Earth.

'Potentially hazardous'

2001 YB5 was discovered in early December by the Neat (Near Earth Asteroid Tracking) survey telescope observing from Mount Palomar in California, US.

Astronomers call it an Apollo object because it has a highly elliptical orbit that crosses the orbits of Mars, Earth, Venus and Mercury. It circles the Sun every 1,321 days.

Astronomers also add that it is "potentially hazardous", meaning there is a slim chance that it may strike the Earth sometime in the future.

... Such a "close encounter" is rare but not unprecedented. However, the only other known object that will come closer to the Earth is an asteroid called 1999 AN10, which will pass a shade closer on 7 August, 2027.

Widespread devastation

2001 YB5's brightness suggests it is a rocky body about 300 metres across.

If it struck the Earth a 300-metre object would not be a global killer: To wipe all life off the face of our planet an object would have to be about 1 km in size. But 300 metres is more than enough to cause widespread devastation. ...

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Our Future a Little Brighter as Sun Dies
Monday, January 7, 2002

Complete article describing a revised view of the earth's fate when the sun begins to expand over 7 billion years from now:

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With burning patience . . . solar
flares and storms

The end may not be as nigh as we thought after a team of scientists discovered that the Earth could escape being destroyed by a solar fireball when the sun runs out of fuel.

For decades, astronomy textbooks have said the Earth will be engulfed in an inferno billions of years from now as the dying sun swells into a gigantic red star.

But a team of astrophysicists at Sussex University in England has uncovered a flaw in this theory.

Previous scientific calculations suggested that the sun would balloon out and engulf the Earth about 7.5 billion years from now. But the team says these calculations missed out a crucial effect: the loss of mass of the dying sun as it expands and its gravity weakens.

They predict that the Earth will manage to dodge a fiery fate, its orbit expanding away from the swelling sun.

Robert Smith, one of the team, says the sun will make two attempts to destroy the Earth. In the first, about 7.7 billion years from now, it will expand to about 120 times its current size, engulfing Mercury and Venus.

Its weakened gravity will allow the Earth to escape a similar fate, however, with our planet settling down into an orbit that is 25 per cent bigger - well clear of the sun's outer atmosphere.

About 100 million years later the dying sun will have another go at the Earth, but will fail again, with our planet having moved out even farther away.

Dr Smith, who reports the findings in the current issue of the journal Astronomy and Geophysics, says the sun will then collapse into a harmless white dwarf star, 16,000 kilometres wide.

"They [the findings] differ from the standard conclusion by taking account of mass loss and including the latest data based on studies of real stars. To that extent, the textbooks will have to be rewritten."

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Take Eye of Frog, Then Add Science ...
Monday, January 7, 2002

Complete article describing the growing of eyes in frogs, a development which may one day lead to a cure for blindness in humans:

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Japanese scientists say they have succeeded in growing the world's first artificial eyeballs.

A group of researchers led by Makoto Asashima, professor of biology at Tokyo University, succeeded in growing the eyeballs in tadpoles using cells from frog embryos, the Kyodo news agency said at the weekend.

"Since the basics of body-making is common to that of human beings, I think this might help enable people to regain vision in the future," Professor Asashima said.

The group, after soaking undifferentiated cells from the embryo of a Platanna frog in a special medium, transplanted the eyeball into a tadpole whose left eye had been removed before it was hatched, the agency reported.

A week after the transplant, Professor Asashima's group confirmed the tadpole's eyeball was connected to the optic nerves and there were no rejection symptoms.

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Bible Smuggler Faces Death Penalty in China
Monday, January 7, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the consequences of participating in unauthorized religious activity in China:

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A Hong Kong businessman will face criminal prosecution this week for having supplied 33,000 bibles to an evangelical Christian group China has outlawed as an "evil cult".
Li Guangqiang was arrested in May during a second trip into the southern Fujian province to deliver the Chinese-language bibles.

Li, 38, could face the death penalty under the indictment, due to be heard this week by a court in Fuqing, says the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy.

Also indicted are two leaders of the Shouters sect who requested the bibles, Yu Zhudi and Lin Xifu, both aged 42.

The Shouters evolved in China as an offshoot of the pre-1949 Protestant Church. So named for the practice of followers shouting their Christian beliefs to the world at large, the group was banned in 1983 and dubbed a "sect" in 1999.

Along with other Christian churches that refused to align themselves with the officially sanctioned Christian churches in China, the Shouters have since been forced to worship underground.

... The group has come under particular attention because of its contacts with overseas churches, in this case American ones. The Washington Post reported that the bibles being imported by Li were collected by US-based followers.

China has seen a number of unorthodox religious sects evolve, especially since the economic opening up of two decades ago. One of the more unusual is an apocalyptic group named Lightning from the East. One of its beliefs is that Jesus has returned as a 30-year-old Chinese woman who remains in hiding, but has written a third testament to the Bible.

Such rapidly spreading sects, which appear to flourish mostly among poorly educated peasants, are also seen by more orthodox Christian groups as aggressively competing for adherents. ...

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Earlobe Curious? Then Try Some Genes On For Size
Monday, January 7, 2002

Excerpts from article describing a genetics exhibit which includes a quirky aspect of genes quite evident in the human species:

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One result of the new genetics exhibit at Seattle's Pacific Science Center is that some of us might start noticing earlobes.

The world basically is divided into people with attached lobes and people with detached lobes, and none of us have any say on the matter. It all comes down to genetics.

... In case you're interested, 33 percent of the respondents have lobes that meld into the sides of their faces, while 67 percent have lobes that dangle like fleshy pendulums. ...

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Indian, Pakistan Leaders Shake Hands At End of Icy Summit
Monday, January 7, 2002

Excerpts from article describing a meeting of South Asian leaders, including friendly signals between the heads of Pakistan and India:

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Left: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf shakes hands with Indian
Prime Minister
Atal Behari Vajpayee
Right: Musharraf follows the handshake with a salute as he walks past Vajpayee at the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Summit

India's prime minister reciprocated a goodwill gesture from the president of rival Pakistan, stepping forward to shake his adversary's hand to end an icy two-day summit of South Asian heads of state on a warm note.

... It was not clear what prompted Vajpayee's change in attitude, but the gesture raised a glimmer of hope that the two nuclear-armed countries will be able to resolve their differences peacefully.

... Earlier, the Indian and Pakistani leaders joined other South Asian leaders in adopting a declaration on free trade and anti-terrorism, before heading home without holding separate talks, as their armies remained on war alert.

... "I am glad that General Musharraf extended a hand of friendship to me," Vajpayee said. "I have shaken his hand in your presence.

"Now, President Musharraf must follow the gesture by not permitting any activity in Pakistan or any territory in its control today which enables terrorists to perpetuate mindless violence in India." ...

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