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NHNE News Brief 65
Friday, June 13, 1997

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

Millennium Countdown:
932 days until January 1, 2000

Total Paid Subscribers: 137
Total Online Update Mailing List: 812

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CONTENTS:
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QUOTABLES:
Misguided Men

NEWS WATCH:
EU's Sign of Satan?
Deepak on CD
Artificial Skin Improves the Odds

THE LIGHTER SIDE
Is It Real, or Is It CNN?
After the Fall
False Alarm in Mexico

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR:
Seeing Through the Smokescreen
A Model All Should Emulate
Just What We Have Been Looking For
The Paradox of a Virtual Universe

NHNE WATCH:
Otto Searches & Finds Sedona... Unsettling

MEDIA WATCH:
The Watchdog Network

EARTH WATCH:
Rain Washes Away Texas Drought
Methan Hydrate -- Fuel of the Future?

FAITH WATCH:
All Paths Lead to God

HEALTH WATCH:
Organic Farming Finishes First
Shark Cartilage Fails the Test
The Heart of the Matter

TECH WATCH:
Too Much News
The Web on a Pay Phone

SPACE WATCH:
X-38 Begins Flight Tests
The Birthplace of Comets

WEB WATCH:
Fedstats
Kelly Blue Book

NHNE STAFF
ABOUT NHNE & HOW TO JOIN US

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QUOTABLES:
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MISGUIDED MEN

"The means by which we live have outdistanced the ends for which we live. Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

---Martin Luther King Jr., thanks to Mary Anne Buchowski

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NEWS WATCH:
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EU'S SIGN OF SATAN?
(Source: USA TODAY, 6/11/97)

In Athens, Greece, a thousand nuns and clergy of the Greek Orthodox faith protested outside the parliament building this week, while politicians inside debated whether to join a European Union initiative to remove border controls. Religious groups say that they are concerned that EU identity cards will carry the number 666, a sign on Satan, in their bar codes. (JG)

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DEEPAK ON CD
(Source: NEWSWEEK, 6/16/97)

Deepak Chopra has just released an interactive workshop called "The Wisdom Within" on CD-ROM ($39.95). This painless introduction to Chopra's philosophy culls material from his books, seminars and audiotapes. Users can fill out a mind-body questionnaire to personalize affirmations and recommended activities that the program offers. For more information call (800) 788-8815. (JG)

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ARTIFICIAL SKIN IMPROVES THE ODDS
(Source: Anita Manning, USA TODAY, 6/11/97)

Betty Shabazz, Malcom X's widow who was badly burned recently, stands a better chance of survival thanks to a decision a year ago by the FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION (FDA) to approve artificial skin. The burnt skin, which covers 80 percent of her body, is being removed piece by piece and replaced by Integra, an artificial skin that enables her tissues to regenerate. Integra, made of purified collagen and shark cartilage, forms a lattice structure similar to the thick underlayer of skin, or dermis, which is destroyed in second and third degree burns. The artificial skin protects the body from loss of fluids and exposure to infection. After two or three weeks, the artificial structure is replaced by the body's own cellular structure. Tradtional therapy has been to graft skin from unburned areas on the patient's own body, but in the case of someone with burns over 80 percent of her body, there is not enough healthy skin to draw from. With Integra, the amount of skin is no longer an issue. The three main factors for burn victims are burn size, age and smoke inhalation. In Shabazz's case -- a 61 year old with burns over 80 percent of her body and suffering from smoke inhalation -- chances of survival were typically only 13 percent, but it is expected that with aggressive treatment, family support and the use of artificial skin, her odds of survival are now much better. (JG)

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THE LIGHTER SIDE:
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IS IT REAL, OR IS IT CNN?
(Source: DRUDGE REPORT, 6/5/97)

For the fourth time this summer, the CNN news network has agreed to recreate events for a Hollywood film. The upcoming DREAMWORKS movie, "The Peacemaker" (release date: Sept. 26), features several dramatic moments involving "CNN Breaking News." Plot: A rogue Russian general kidnaps nine nuclear weapons after he stages a train wreck; one nuke ends up in NYC. CNN is featured in nearly a half a dozen pivotal scenes. Real-life CNN employees are now expressing concern over the repeated use of their network's logo and credibility. One concerned staffer wonders if the Hollywoodization of CNN is tied to the recent merger between TURNER and TIME WARNER. "Jurassic Park: The Lost World" already prominently features CNN news reports, as will SONY's upcoming "Air Force One," and Jodie Foster's "Contact." CNN reporting on the return of dinosaurs, Air Force One plunging into the ocean, a nuclear explosion claiming untold casualties and intelligent life detected in the cosmos -- it's going to be a busy summer! (JG)

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AFTER THE FALL
(Source: Carla Koehl & Lucy Howard, NEWSWEEK, 6/16/97)

You can't admire teetering rock monuments of the western U.S. without wondering how little pressure would send the whole thing tumbling into rubble. It seems that someone took that thought one step further near Ft. Benton, Montana where vandals toppled a sandstone arch called "Eye of the Needle." The landmark overlooking the Missouri River was considered one of the state's crown jewels and appeared in many print and TV ads promoting the state to visitors. The locals are hopping mad and the BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT has offered an $8,150 reward for anyone helping to catch the culprits responsible. Local authorities are debating whether to restore the monument. (JG)

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FALSE ALARM IN MEXICO
(Source: Dr. Hugo Delgado Granados, INSTITUTO DE GEOFISICA, Mexico, thanks to Mary Koch)

Residents of a rural community near Zacatecas in central Mexico became concerned about an immanent volcanic eruption recently when a flat section of field cracked open and blue smoke started to pour out. Inside the cracks, the earth looked reddish and hot and wood placed in the holes burst into flames. The area was cordoned off, and a policemen posted to prevent children from falling into the hot cracks. Experts from the UNIVERSITY OF ZACATECAS and the MINISTRY OF THE ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES & FISHERY visited the area. According to their report, there was no deformation of the ground, nor were ashes or sulfuric odors detected. Their conclusion: microbes acting on concentrated organic material underground were producing methane which had caught fire when the local people burned off the dry grass (a common practice in Mexico to fertilize the land before the rainy season). It seems the volcano rumor was triggered by a retired scientist visiting the region who happened to mention in passing that the smoke and gas looked like the birth of a volcano, alarming the inhabitants. The problem was categorized as environmental, rather than volcanic. (JG)

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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
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SEEING THROUGH THE SMOKESCREEN

"I will not partake in your 'Guess Our Faces' competition, as I would be cheating. Why? Because I already saw your faces on Dutch television! It was very strange to actually see the people I get email from, and whose News Briefs I regularly read. Quite a magnificent place you have there, very different from the Dutch lowlands. It was disappointing to see that the presenter of the program, Otto, had to put in some evangelist preaching in the end, which was an insult to your hospitality. I would like to reassure you that this is not the way of all Dutch people. And for those who could see through the smokescreen of skepticism put up by the presenters, the program gave quite a good picture of what is happening over there. Keep on doing what you are doing. Your News Briefs are great and well received down here!"

---Ralph Mens, The Netherlands

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A MODEL ALL SHOULD EMULATE

"Great little contest! Enclosed please find my submission. This is the best grass-roots, get-to-know-us, modest-budget, easy-to-do introduction to the use of digital photographs that I have seen. You deserve some kind of award for this. This is a model that all friendly groups on the Net should emulate. Your Web site has accomplished an achievement that we all should reproduce! May every signature block include a URL to a Web site having portrait photographs of a friendly group of people! "

---Jim A. Massey, Venice, California

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JUST WHAT WE HAVE BEEN LOOKING FOR

"A sample of your News Brief has been mailed to us and we are really inspired. The editorial content, quality and balance of the News Briefs is just what we have been looking for. We are committed to the same goals. Please sign us up for a one-year subscription. Congratulations! May your publication go from strength to strength."

---Kevin Redpath, GATEWAY BOOKS, Bath, England

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THE PARADOX OF A VIRTUAL UNIVERSE

"My imagination can't let the article 'Supercomputer to Probe Cosmos' in News Brief 62 go by without a comment. Assume that this project goes ahead as planned. When the system initializes and begins to model the universe, one could call that moment the 'Virtual Big Bang.' In that moment in the computer's memory, the entire architecture of a virtual universe would be constructed. The virtual manifestations of matter and energy would be organized and communicated at high speed throughout the 'universe' via the processor busses and data lines, emulating a massive outrush of energy -- very similar, in fact, to the current theory concerning the origin of the universe we inhabit. If this project is a success, would virtual life eventually result? Would this 'life' be sentient? I wonder how the virtual inhabitants of this new universe would feel about God, creation, and their ultimate purpose?"

---Chris Czech, Moose Meadow, Alberta

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NHNE WATCH:
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OTTO SEARCHES & FINDS SEDONA... UNSETTLING
By Mark Nijenhuis, SwiftWing Reporter

[The following is a first-hand report about the "Otto Searches" TV Show which recently aired on TV in Europe, by two people who watched the show. NHNE plans to publish a more in-depth commentary in a future News Brief.]

On Saturday, June 7, a TV Special on Sedona, Arizona aired on Dutch television. As mentioned in News Brief 50, Otto de Bruijne, a Dutch evangelist and his TV crew travelled to Sedona in February to interview people about the new millennium, global earth changes and the New Age. Ted Daniels, MILLENNIUM WATCH INSTITUTE, first alerted Otto to the fact that Sedona is one of the major New Age centers in the world and then suggested he contact NHNE, which is physically located there.

The TV show started off with a beautiful trip in a hot-air balloon, arranged by the NHNE team. While floating over the stunning red rock landscape, Otto interviewed David Sunfellow, NHNE founder, about the particular place which Sedona takes in the New Age community, and what kind of organizations are to be found there.

After the trip (which was sometimes a little frightening for Otto, because he felt the balloon came too close to the rocks), the TV crew paid a visit to THE CENTER OF NEW AGE. Otto spoke to the owner, Anita Dalton, and asked about what kinds of people visit Sedona and why. Dalton estimated that she sees about 100 new visitors a day in her shop -- twice a many on weekends -- most of them looking for something spiritual. Her definition of the New Age movement: "It's not a religion but an 'open mind' consciousness that all things are possible and everything has value."

After this, Otto paid a visit to STARPORT SEDONA, a shop specializing in UFO paraphernalia and ET information. He was amazed that aliens were displayed as "fun stuff" and he could not get over the fact that people believe these creatures actually exist. Otto talked to the owner of the shop, Marian Wahosi, about the different kinds of ETs and abductions. He showed his greatest amazement during a night-time jaunt with a professional UFO hunter, Christine Montes. He was obviously very skeptical about this subject, and gave no credibility to anything she said.

His next goal was the NHNE-headquarters, which to his surprise, was not a huge building, but rather a modest mobile home by the side of a dusty road. There he spoke again with David Sunfellow, this time about the work of NHNE. Sunfellow shared with him his vision to track the unfolding of a new consciousness around the planet, to understand the true nature of these changes, and to report on what's valid and what's a bunch of baloney. Sunfellow showed him one of the popular earth changes maps with the new global layout, the result of profound upheavals expected to happen in the near future according to psychics like Michael-Gordon Scallion and others. Otto was dismayed to discover that half of Europe was slated to disappear, including all of Holland.

Then James Gregory, Editor of the NHNE News Brief, took the TV crew to visit some sacred native sites where they talked about the tendency to look to the past in order to learn about the future.

Otto also spoke to Dr. Chet Snow ("Mass Dreams of the Future") about what people see when they are "progressed" to the future. Dr. Snow talked about the three scenarios that commonly pop up:

-- A New Age Society which is creative and close to nature,

-- A Techno Society which is separated from nature,

-- A Rustic Society in which people are living like natives.

Snow also mentioned that when people are progressed beyond the year 2350, they usually see themselves not on the Planet Earth, but somewhere else in the galaxy.

What was Otto's own reaction to all this? We'll let him speak for himself:

"It's quite confusing, and all these words start to twist inside your skull. One thing is clear -- something connects all these people. They say that the universe changes and molds itself into what you think it should be like. That can be anything, and that causes quite some confusion."

(Next scene: Otto climbing up a Dutch dike, hands and feet in the thick clay.)

"Nice people, but too nice -- exhaustively nice. They throw everything into a big pot, and everything becomes murky. What's important to me is that I can have a personal relationship with a living God who loves me, who gives me strength and responsibility. We Dutch have labored to build dikes out of cold, wet clay for our children and grandchildren and grand-grandchildren. That's a labour for the future, not staring at your belly-button and trying to look into the future with horoscopes, crystal balls and hypnosis.

"What I want to warn about is the danger of thinking you know more than God. We have the responsibility to build the future... but to play God, using magic and the occult, ends with 39 people taking their lives because they want to get away in a UFO. I'm grateful that I can leave my life up to my Creator while I do my work here on Earth as best I can."

Ad van Bever added these comments in the guestbook on the NHNE Web site and in subsequent correspondence:

"I have just seen the documentary on Dutch television about NewHeavenNewEarth. For the most part it was fair; the presenter of the program, Otto de Bruijne, was carried away by the things he experienced in Sedona. No bias showed until the closing moments, when Otto, his feet rooted firmly in Dutch clay, made fun of New Age types, stating that he disliked the 'heavenlike, too-nice people of Sedona.' He blamed people in Sedona for putting everything into a great pot, yet seconds later he was doing the same, by stating that New Age beliefs led people into mass suicide. He concluded by telling the Dutch viewing audience that there was only one God, a statement based on his dogmatic beliefs. That was very cheap and I was appalled. Apparently he did not learn anything from his experience in Sedona. Anyway, I will be travelling to Sedona in mid-September where I will get a chance to form my own opinion." (JG)

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MEDIA WATCH:
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THE WATCHDOG NETWORK
(Source: Matthew Nisbet, CSICOP Press Release)

The COUNCIL FOR MEDIA INTEGRITY (CMI) was launched last summer to monitor the media and raise the level of scientific literacy and understanding of the general public (News Brief 46). In order to effectively monitor and turn the heat up on the entertainment industry and media, the Council is seeking dedicated and committed volunteers who can regularly apply their critical and skeptical eye to upcoming TV programs, films and articles.

Their responsibilities would include:

-- Clipping and sending in news articles.

-- Writing letters to editors, studios and producers.

-- Taping and writing synopses of a television programs.

-- Recruiting fellow media activists into the WATCHDOG NETWORK.

-- Staging media events and press conferences.

In order to make monitoring easier, CMI sends out regular updates alerting Council activists to upcoming television shows, and recounting what happened the previous week. Included are sample letters, opinion editorials, sample press releases and media events that Council activists can use with their local media.

For more information, contact: "sinisbet@aol.com". (JG)

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EARTH WATCH:
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RAIN WASHES AWAY TEXAS DROUGHT
(Sources: NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE via USA TODAY, 6/6/97 & 6/11/97)

Heavy rain has all but ended the worst drought in 40 years that parched northern Mexico, Texas and surrounding states from 1986 through much of last year (News Brief 19). Aquifers are almost fully recharged. Some examples of rainfall levels recorded in Texas from January to May are 27 inches in New Braunfels (near Austin) compared to 16 inches normally, and 38 inches in Victoria (near San Antonio) compared to 13 inches normally. Scientists believe the unusual behavior of the El Nino caused a shift in the jetstream and produced the dry weather in south central U.S.

This fortunate state of affairs may not last long. Already, another El Nino is brewing (News Brief 64), and while it is expected to bring above-average rainfall to the Northeast, it will probably mean that drier weather is on its way for south central U.S. and northern Mexico as early as next winter. (JG)

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METHANE HYDRATE -- FUEL OF THE FUTURE?
(Source: R. Monastersky, SCIENCE NEWS, 6/7/97)

A team of American, Norwegian and Russian scientists has found an unusual snowlike layer draped across the slopes of an undersea volcano in 4,000 feet of water off the coast of Norway. The half-mile wide circular feature, which was discovered in 1995 during a sonar study, spews out a slurry of seafloor sediments mixed with water, unlike the rock, lava and ash, ejected by more common volcanoes.

In 1996, an oceanographic team returned to the site with underwater cameras to probe the seafloor visually. To their surprise, pictures came back showing methane hydrate covering the seafloor like freshly fallen snow. Methane hydrate is a solid that forms when high pressure and low temperatures combine to squeeze water molecules into a crystalline cage around a methane molecule. Cores drilled into the sediments revealed radish-sized lumps of hydrates, which fizzled and evaporated when brought onboard.

Methane hydrates are capturing increasing attention these days because they represent the largest untapped source of fossil fuels left on Earth. Ocenographers suspect that methane hydrates hide in vast sub-seafloor deposits around the continents, but it was extremely rare to find the icy substance sitting exposed on the ocean floor. Methane seeping up from the mud volcano supports a rich community of organisms, including a new species of tube worms. Tube worms have neither mouths nor digestive tracts, and get their energy from symbiotic bacteria which live inside the worms and oxidize the methane.

As ocean temperatures warm in the next century, shallow deposits of methane hydrates could melt. This would cause havoc to an atmosphere already loaded with hydrocarbons, and might also destabilize sediments on continental shelves triggering massive submarine landslides and tidal waves. The team of researchers plans to return to the site in 1998 and dive to the volcano in two Russian submersibles to learn as much as they can about this mysterious but important compound. (JG)

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FAITH WATCH:
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ALL PATHS LEAD TO GOD
(Source: SUNDAY INDEPENDENT (UK) via SHARE INTERNATIONAL, May/97 thanks to Rev. Ann Tognetti)

A Church of England bishop has caused an uproar in some Christian and Moslem circles by "giving up" the Bible during Lent and reading the Koran instead. For the six weeks leading up to this past Easter, the Bishop of Jarrow, Alan Smithson, read to his congregation selections from the Koran. The "prayerful" reading of Islam's holy book has been a spiritual experience he says: "It is a great act of faith to find God's truth in more places than one." The Bishop received a negative reaction from sections of his own church and from Moslems abroad.

Replying to the criticism, he responded, "What more important time is there to get into the heart of religion? What hope is there for the Middle East without tolerance between faiths? I cannot see a reason why God would want his different believers to be enemies."

Bishop Smithson has no regrets for his actions, explaining that he finds himself at a spiritual crossroads where all religious paths lead to God. He thinks that even unbelievers may find salvation as "God may be in all sorts of places where religion has yet to find him." (JG)

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HEALTH WATCH:
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ORGANIC FARMING FINISHES FIRST
(Source: ORGANIC FARMING via SPECTRUM, May-June/97)

One of the commonly-heard arguments in defense of chemical farming is that it is more productive than organic agriculture, thereby justifying the use of toxic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, but one study indicates that this may not be the case. The longest-running experiment in the U.S. comparing chemical and organic farming is the RODALE INSTITUTE's Farming Systems Trial. For over 15 years, it has compared three farming systems side by side at the RODALE INSTITUTE EXPERIMENTAL FARM in Pennsylvania. One field uses chemical fertilizers and herbicides; the other two fields use mechanical weed controls -- one using legumes for fertilizer, the other manure. In normal years, the organic fields produce the same amount as the chemical field. However, in years with low rainfall, the soil of organic fields, being of higher quality, holds more water and air, thus enabling the organic fields to out-produce the chemical one. In the relatively dry year of 1995, for example, the organic legume-based system produced 148 bushels of corn per acre, compared to 115 bushels with the chemical system. (JG)

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SHARK CARTILAGE FAILS THE TEST
(Source: TOWNSEND LETTER FOR DOCTORS via SPECTRUM, May-June/97)

Shark cartilage has been heavily promoted as a cancer remedy, and its popularity has been so great that shark populations in certain areas of Mexico are being threatened from over-fishing (News Brief 21). The anti-cancer effects of shark cartilage are alleged to result from its ability to inhibit formation of the blood vessels that feed tumors, although there is no solid evidence that cartilage proteins can be absorbed intact through the gut when taken orally or that they have any effect on humans.

Recently, the manufacturer of a leading brand of shark cartilage sponsored an FDA-supervised clinical trial that was designed to assess cartilage's viability as a cancer treatment. In the trial, shark cartilage was administered to patients with advanced cancer. Things did not go well and the manufacturer discontinued the sponsorship, saying that it was "unable to find meaningful scientific data to support further investment in pursuing drug status for shark cartilage." (JG)

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THE HEART OF THE MATTER
(Sources: Marilyn Elias, USA TODAY, 2/19/97; Geoffrey Cowley & Anne Underwood, NEWSWEEK, 3/3/97; Tim Friend, USA TODAY, 2/12/97; REUTERS, 5/21/97)

The following are four dramatic developments in the treatment of heart disease:

Most heart transplant recipients fall in the age range 50 to 64, but until recently, if you needed a new heart and were over 65, you were out of luck. In most jurisdictions, 64 was the cut-off age for transplants, because conventional wisdom maintained that for patients beyond that age, heart transplants were a waste of a good heart and a lot of money (the cost of a transplant operation runs $150,000 to $250,000). That view is changing with the UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, Los Angeles (UCLA) now making use of "retreads" -- hearts 50 years or older still in good working condition. The pioneering program, started five years ago, is gathering impressive survival data on patients over 65 who have been given hearts that would have been consigned to the "reject" bin elsewhere. UCLA only performs transplants on patients who have no other serious organ damage or disease. Other centers, such as the NORTHERN INDIANA HEART INSTITUTE in Fort Wayne, are starting to follow UCLA's lead, betting on a worsening shortage of hearts as baby boomers move into the age bracket when the transplant need is the greatest. As a group, boomers are not likely to "go quietly into the night" without a fight.

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In a standard coronary-bypass operation, surgeons saw open the patient's breastbone, pry open the rib cage with a steel retractor, and then stop the heart cold while they reconfigure its supporting blood vessels. Dr. William Mayfield, an Atlanta surgeon, has developed a gentler way. Instead of radical surgery, he cuts a series of small instrument ports and keyhole incisions between the ribs and works on the heart while it is still pumping. Typically, "keyhole" patients are able to leave the hospital within three days of the operation. "This is the biggest advance in heart surgery in 20 years," claims Dr. Greg Fontana of CEDARS-SINAI MEDICAL CENTER in Los Angeles. "It is turning the whole field upside down." Keyhole heart surgery may also replace many of the 300,000 angioplasties performed in the U.S. each year. While angioplasty, with its little balloon-tipped catheter, is a simple outpatient procedure, its effects rarely last more than six months. Most bypass grafts are good for 10 years. The new keyhole technique will not eliminate open-heart surgery, but it's estimated that 75 percent of heart surgeries in the future could be handled this way, saving a lot of heartache, blood and money.

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Heart patients who follow the strict diet of physician Dean Ornish can avoid bypass surgery altogether and save themselves an average of $10,000 in medical costs a year. A study of 507 patients in eight U.S. hospitals has shown that after one year on the Ornish program, 65 percent no longer had chest pain, and artery blockage was stopped or reversed in 65 percent of the cases. The program calls for a radical low-fat diet (no meat, no fish, no chicken, no nuts) and comprehensive lifestyle changes, such as stress management and exercise. A separate analysis of heart disease patients found that annual medical costs for those on the Ornish program were $3,826 vs. $13,927 for nonparticipants. The MUTUAL OF OMAHA insurance company funded the studies in 1993, and, based on the results, has decided to provide the program as a benefit to its health plan members. (JG)

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And if you needed more encouragement to take care of your heart, a report just released indicates that aggressive treatment of heart problems doesn't seem to extend life expectancy. A team, led by Dr. Jack Tu of the INSTITUTE FOR CLINICAL EVALUATIVE SCIENCES in Ontario, compared the treatments and death rates for nearly 234,000 elderly people in Canada and the U.S., all of whom had a heart attack in 1991. They found that the Americans were eight times more likely to have angioplasty surgery and eight times more likely to have heart bypass surgery. At the end of one year, the death rates of the heart patients in the two countries were virtually identical. "The strikingly higher rates of the use of cardiac procedures in the U.S., as compared with Canada, do not appear to result in better long-term survival rates for elderly U.S. patients" with heart attacks, the researchers conclude. (JG)

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TECH WATCH:
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TOO MUCH NEWS
(Source: Bill Savadove, REUTERS, 6/6/97)

A joint Internet venture in China, 80 percent owned by PRODIGY and 20 percent held by the CHINA NORTH INDUSTRIES CORP (NORINCO) GROUP, should be on-line by the end of June, predicts Bruce Franson, PRODIGY INTERNATIONAL Vice President for the Asia Pacific region. This new venture has rung alarm bells among Chinese regulators who were trying to ensure tight controls on Internet service providers. China has banned foreign companies from directly providing Internet services in China, but foreign firms are permitted to supply equipment, technology and expertise to a Chinese partner, who would in turn provide the Internet services to its subscribers. The joint venture is registered in Singapore, and uses PRODIGY's technology, software and content. Clients will pay $32.53 for 30 hours of on-line time. PRODIGY is pitting itself against the telecommunications ministry (MPT), whose subsidiary, CHINANET, is currently the country's main Internet provider. As well as acting as service provider, MPT is also responsible for making sure mainland users can't access sites deemed subversive. Access is routinely blocked to overseas news sources, pornographic sites and discussion groups. "Some addresses are being screened, so you are not allowed to enter," the Chinese Internet official said. "They have too much news and [could] have an influence on things in China." (JG)

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THE WEB ON A PAY PHONE
(Source: Russell Blinch, REUTERS, 5/21/97)

KING PRODUCTS has received a $2.2 million order to supply multimedia and Internet-ready pay phones to INFA TELECOM ASIA of Hong Kong. Called "PowerPhones," the units will be installed in the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in time for the July 1 handover ceremony marking the transfer of the former British colony to China. PowerPhones will also be installed in railway stations and other tourist spots in Hong Kong and throughout China. "The PowerPhone is a major advance from the pay phones of the past," said King President Peter Richards. The wall-mounted unit is a combination pay phone and network computer that allows the display of advertising, telephone directories, hotel and restaurant reservations and other information. The phone can be used to find a restaurant, make a reservation or call up a map for directions. The phones will also allow users to send and receive email and surf the Internet, though these features will not be immediately available. The phone comes with a handset, a color touch screen and a slot for smart cards and credit cards. It is powered by an INTEL CORP. Pentium processor and uses various Internet protocols and accessories to run videos. King, best known for its line of electronic kiosks in malls and other public places, will make the units in Canada for INFA TELECOM, which has operations in 70 Chinese cities. Company officials said they also have plans to introduce the PowerPhone in North America. (JG)

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SPACE WATCH:
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BIRTHPLACE OF COMETS
(Source: R. Cowen, SCIENCE NEWS, 6/7/97)

Comets put on a dramatic show when they are near the Sun, but scientists still find it tricky determining where they are born. Simulations tracing the orbits of comets back in time suggest that the solar system harbours two reservoirs of these icy bodies: a disk-shaped storehouse, known as the Kuiper Belt, which lies just beyond the orbits of Pluto and Neptune, and a vast spherical region called the Oort Cloud 1,000 times further out than the Belt, but suspected of originating between the orbits of Uranus and Neptune.

Over the past five years, astronomers have imaged more than 30 residents of the Kuiper Belt, and this storehouse has been accepted as the source of most comets in the solar system. Up to recently, scientists had held little hope of detecting present-day members of the more remote Oort Cloud. But using the Extreme Ultraviolet Explorer satellite, Michael J. Mumma and Vladimir A. Kransopolsky of NASA's GODDARD SPACE FLIGHT CENTER in Greenbelt, Md. discovered the curious fact that there was little or no neon relative to oxygen in the spectra of Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake, making them suspect that the two comets originated in the Oort Cloud, rather than the Kuiper Belt.

Neon ice turns to vapor at a temperature of 25 degrees K (0 degrees K is considered Absolute Zero), readily escaping the nucleus of the comet. The absence of neon suggested that the grains of interstellar ice that built Hale-Bopp and Hyakutake must have done so in a part of the solar system relatively close to the Sun where temperatures were above 25 degrees K. The region between Uranus and Neptune meets this temperature criterion, without being hot enough to boil off the other ices found in the comets. This match in temperature adds to the evidence that the Oort Cloud did indeed assemble between these two planets and only later migrated to the fringes of the solar system. (JG)

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X-38 BEGINS FLIGHT TESTS
(Sources: NASA Press Release via AUFORA NEWS UPDATE, 6/5/97; DISCOVER, 7/97)

The first X-38 atmospheric test vehicle has been shipped from the JOHNSON SPACE CENTER, Houston to the DRYDEN FLIGHT RESEARCH CENTER in California to begin flight tests in July. The X-38 represents an innovative new spacecraft design and the first new piloted spacecraft to travel to and from orbit in more than 20 years. The primary application of the new spacecraft would be as an International Space Station "lifeboat." The X-38 would glide from orbit unpowered like the Space Shuttle and then use a steerable parafoil parachute for its final descent to landing. X-38 Project Manager John Muratore comments, "No one has ever done anything like this before -- deploying a parafoil from a lifting body and flying a lifting body with an all-electric flight control system." The project also aims to develop a design that could be modified easily for other uses, such as a possible joint U.S. and European human spacecraft that could be launched on the French Ariane 5 booster. (JG)

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WEB WATCH:
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FEDSTATS
<www.fedstats.gov>

Using a keyword, search for statistics, news releases, and contacts at 70 federal agencies. The service also includes an on-line version of the most frequently requested tables from the CENSUS BUREAU's "Statistical Abstract of the U.S." Sally Katzen, Administrator of the OFFICE OF INFORMATION AND REGULATORY AFFAIRS points out that, "Today, a high school student with a modem has better access to federal statistics than top officials had five years ago." (Source: WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/27/97, thanks to Steve Haag)

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KELLEY BLUE BOOK
<www.kbb.com>

The Kelly Blue Book is now on the Web, which means you can find out how much your clunker is worth, or what to pay for a car that you are thinking of buying. Once you select the year and make of the car, filling out the form is a snap. And for $12.50 and the vehicle identification number, the site will provide you with the title history of a specific vehicle. (Source: NEWSWEEK, 6/2/97)

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Chris Czech (CC)
Sandy Ezrine (SE)
Mark Nijenhuis (MN)

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