Friday, February 15, 2002 to Monday, February 18, 2002
T u e s d a y ,  F e b r u a r y  1 9,  2 0 0 2
S u n d a y ,  F e b r u a r y  2 4,  2 0 0 2

Hopes Grow for Anti-Aging Drug
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Excerpts from article describing animal experiments which may some day lead to development of potent anti-aging supplements for humans:

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Scientists have rejuvenated aging rats by giving them a cocktail of dietary supplements.
The breakthrough raises hopes that it might one day be possible to develop an anti-aging drug for humans.

The researchers gave a combination of two natural chemicals available in health food stores to the animals - which were in the rat equivalent of their seventies.

Lead researcher Dr Bruce Ames, of the University of California at Berkeley, said the results were astonishing. He said: "With the two supplements together, these old rats got up and did the Macarena. "The brain looks better, they are full of energy - everything we looked at looks more like a young animal." The animals' memories were also significantly improved.

The researchers estimate that the effect on the rats was the equivalent making a 75 to 80-year-old person act middle-aged.

Found in the body - The chemicals used in the experiment were acetyl-L-carnitine and alpha-lipoic acid, both of which are normally found in the body's cells.

Acetyl-L-carnitine is sold as an energy-booster and alpha-lipoic acid as an antioxidant with anti-aging effects.

The combination of the two chemicals has now been patented by the University of California. A company set up to exploit the patent, Juvenon, is already conducting human clinical trials. ...

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They May Know We're Here
Tuesday, February 19, 2002

Click for details on NASA's
Terrestrial Planet Finder mission

Complete article describing the way in which advanced civilizations can detect life on distant planets, a method which humans will begin to use to search for life up to 100 light years away, over ten years from now:

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Evolved space civilisations will be eyeing Earth. Alien cultures more advanced than our own will have spotted us by now, say astronomers. Tell-tale rainbows from any inhabited planets will soon show us where to gaze back.

Within 15 years, next-generation telescopes will be scouring the skies for light from other Earth-like planets. A slight technological edge would mean that any life-forms on those planets could already be peering at us.

"Our own Earth has been putting out a signal for a billion years," says astronomer Roger Angel of the University of Arizona in Tucson. "Any civilization slightly more advanced than our own would know there was life on this planet," he told the meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Boston.

For lack of anything else to go on, astronomers expect planets harbouring life to resemble Earth. "We have to look for what we understand," says molecular biologist Norman Pace of the University of Colorado in Boulder.

Within a blob of light sent from a distant planet, the spectrum of wavelengths should reveal signs of life. Bright blue suggests an Earth-like atmosphere of gases, and green plants reflect red light. Life-supporting gases such as oxygen and nitrogen absorb certain infrared wavelengths.

The overall hue might be purplish, suggests Wesley Traub of the Harvard Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts. With these indicators, "we'd feel fairly convinced there's something going on there", says Traub.

No telescopes are currently able to pick up the giveaway beams, as faint light reflected by the planet is blasted out by its bright parent star. But powerful future devices that can scan stars within 100 light years are already being planned.

Huge arrays of telescopes called interferometers, for example, act as points on a giant mirror. By focusing faint light, they should have the resolution to distinguish planet light from its adjacent parent star.

Both NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) are planning planet-hunting interferometers. NASA's four-telescope Terrestrial Planet Finder is scheduled for launch by 2013, ESA's six-telescope Darwin interferometer should follow in 2015.

Even if it were found, such a planet could never be reached: we'll just have to watch and wait. But fluctuations in the spot's brightness might tell us about its oceans, land and weather, says Traub.

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'Dig Deep to Find Alien Life'
Thursday, February 21, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the ability of life to survive under tremendous pressures, opening up the possibility that life may be thriving far below the hostile surfaces of many planets and moons in our solar system:

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Humble E. coli can survive
enormous pressures

A study in the US suggests far more of our Solar System may be capable of sustaining basic life than previously thought.

Scientists have known for a while about extremophiles, the specially adapted organisms that can survive around volcanic vents deep in the ocean or in the ice sheets of the Antarctic.

But now it seems that even humble E. coli of stomach bug fame is capable of amazing feats of survival, withstanding up to 16,000 times the pressure it normally faces at sea level.

"The take home lesson is that we should be looking beneath the surface of planets, under the polar caps of Mars or beneath the surface of the Jovian moons," James Scott of the Carnegie Institution in Washington told BBC News Online. ...

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Land of Nod is a Learning Experience
Friday, February 22, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the way in which sleep is critical to the learned behavior of humans and other animals:

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Cramming all night might help you to scrape through exams, but it won't make you clever in the long run. Human and animal experiments are lending new support to a common parental adage: that a good night's sleep is essential to learning.

Many pianists find that sleeping on a tune can help their performance. Similarly, in the lab, volunteers' skill at key-tapping and speed-spotting tasks improved by 20 per cent with one nights' sleep after training. Extra nights of slumber enhanced skills even more.

If robbed of the first night's kip, however, subjects went back to being novices - even two days later after catching up on their shut-eye. "How well you do at some things depends not on where you went to school or what your parents do, just on how well you slept last night," said Stickgold.

... "I think sleep is involved in rehearsing, restructuring and reclassifying our existing world view to allow us to function better," Stickgold said.

Events of the day
are rehearsed in sleep

... As pet owners have long suspected, the same may apply to animals. ... young birds rehearse their new songs while sleeping. The brain cells that fire when birds make their first faltering efforts at singing show similar activity when they nap.

... Rats, meanwhile, rehearse running in their sleep. After navigating a spiral maze all day, the rodents' brains replay electrical signals that are characteristic of the motion throughout the night. ...

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Whole Grain Wheat / Antioxidants / Disease Prevention
Saturday, February 23, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the way in which whole grain wheat, genetically enhanced with antioxidants, may become a staple in the diet of those interested in reducing the chances of getting a wide range of diseases:

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Wheat may be a vital weapon in the fight against cancer and other diseases, according to experts. Whole grain wheat contains powerful antioxidants which may help to prevent colon cancer and possibly diabetes and heart disease.

Biochemists at Kansas State University, who carried out the research, say the findings may enable them to create modified wheat strains with high levels of cancer-fighting chemicals. Dr Dolores Takemoto, who co-ordinated the study, said: "We hope we will be able to create a genetically modified plant.

... "We want to produce strains of wheat that are nutraceuticals, which are higher quality grains that have enhanced amounts of these antioxidants in them."

Genetically modified wheat
could prove effective

Antioxidants are important because they combat the body's free radicals - charged particles, produced by the body, which can damage cells.

Dr Takemoto said: "Throughout life you make a lot of free radicals. You want to keep them from forming because they contribute to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, cataracts, even wrinkling. High antioxidant levels mop up the free radicals."

... Cancer Research UK maintains that these antioxidants are best consumed from a variety of natural sources such as vegetables and fruit as well as whole wheat products.

Antioxidants can be found in several vitamins, including vitamins E and D, but research shows that eating whole grain products and wheat germ is critical for the antioxidants to be absorbed. ...

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Reeve Hopes for Stem Cell Cure
Sunday, February 24, 2002

Excerpts from article describing the efforts of Christopher Reeve to support stem cell research in the United Kingdom, as well as some of the key issues at play regarding stem cell research:

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Paralysed actor Christopher Reeve believes he will walk again, if stem cell research in the UK is allowed to continue. The star of the Superman films said he would be willing to travel to Britain for treatment to repair his spinal cord, which was damaged during a riding accident in 1995.

Mr Reeve told BBC Radio 5 Live that the House of Lords Select Committee must decide in favour of embryonic stem cell research and therapeutic cloning when it votes on the issue later this week.

He said: "I certainly hope that in revisiting the issues the Lords will really take the time to understand what the technology actually is and to recognise that it has nothing to do with destroying life." ...

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War to Overthrow Iraqi Leader - Plans and Preparation
Sunday, February 24, 2002

Excerpts from articles detailing the plans to launch military action to remove Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq and to destroy Iraq's weapons of mass destruction:

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Blair and Bush to plot war on Iraq

Tony Blair and the United States President George Bush are to hold a specially convened summit in April to finalise details of military action to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Blair will travel to Washington in six weeks' time in a clear signal that Downing Street fully backs Bush's plans to launch a war against Iraq if Saddam does not agree to deadlines to destroy his arsenal of weapons of mass destruction.

'The meeting will be to finalise Phase Two of the war against terrorism,' a senior Number 10 official said. 'Action against Iraq will be at the top of the agenda.'

... Western intelligence services also believe Saddam is developing biological and chemical devices which could kill and maim tens of thousands of people.

The Number 10 official said that, as with Osama bin Laden and the war in Afghanistan, it is necessary to maintain public and international support for military action against Saddam.

It was a 'public persuasion' issue and would be tackled in the same way as the unprecedented 'indictment' against bin Laden published by Downing Street last year with the agreement of the White House.

... In a series of long telephone conversation over the past two months, Bush has kept Blair aware of his plans for military action. Although there is no evidence of any link between Iraq and the attacks of 11 September, both leaders will make it clear that weapons of mass destruction are a legitimate target for military action.

'The alliance with the United States is strong, it will remain strong,' Blair said yesterday at a meeting of European leaders in Stockholm. 'We will deal with issues together. The Americans are absolutely right to emphasise the continuing importance of the war against terrorism and continuing the elimination of weapons of mass destruction.'

... Anti-Iraq Rhetoric Outpaces Reality
Military Not Primed For New War Soon

At Boeing Co.'s high-tech factory in St. Charles, Mo., three shifts are working 24 hours a day turning out smart bombs to replenish Air Force and Navy inventories that ran dangerously low during the Afghan war.

Pentagon planners say it will take six months to produce enough Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAMs), the precision systems that guided 1,000-pound bombs to Taliban and al Qaeda targets, to contemplate an attack on Saddam Hussein's Iraq.

Bush administration rhetoric has fueled speculation that a military move against Iraq could be imminent.

But the military reality is that it could take up to a year before the United States is ready to launch a coordinated assault likely to achieve the administration's goals of destroying Iraq's weapons of mass destruction capability and replacing Hussein's regime. ...

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Sex, Shame, and the Catholic Church
Newsweek March 4 Cover Story

Excerpts from article describing some sex crimes committed by priests, and reactions to the way in which Catholic leaders have dealt with them:

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For years, Boston’s cardinal kept on priests who had been accused of molesting children. Now Catholics across America are confronting similar scandals and questioning the secretive culture of the church.

... On the first Sunday of Lent, the season of repentance, Cardinal Law, the senior member of the U.S. Roman Catholic hierarchy, celebrated mass at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston and in his homily gave what seemed like his umpteenth apology for the scandal surrounding Geoghan.

... The crisis has been brewing for decades —long before Law arrived in Boston— but the floodgates opened on Jan. 6, when The Boston Globe published a page-one story alleging that the Archdiocese of Boston moved Geoghan, whom it knew to be a child molester, from parish to parish over 30 years.

... The soul-searching goes well beyond Boston, to an American Catholic hierarchy suddenly facing the same kind of recriminations over long-buried episodes of sexual abuse that in recent years have shaken other American institutions. ...

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