Advances In Science
JUST A SPOONFUL OF SUGAR The Merck Manual has long been an important physician's reference book. The 1899 manual, though, rereleased as a companion to its new centennial edition, makes one wonder what folks will think of our medical practices in 100 years. Some of the alarming advice: for alcoholism, slowly suck an orange. For an earache, pour "hot as it can be borne" water in the ear. Drink a cup of coffee to help combat insomnia, and administer electric shocks to cut short a hysteria attack. Bleeding from a jugular vein will help with acute bronchitis, and morphine suppositories can alleviate vomiting during pregnancy. And for acne? Arsenic, of course.
The FBI and Los Alamos' Mysterious Mrs. Lee
Just as FBI counterespionage agents were drawing a bead on Los Alamos nuclear-weapons scientist Wen Ho Lee, the files disgorged a curious fact: Lee's wife Sylvia had been an FBI "informational asset" at the very time Lee was suspected of passing classified warhead data to the People's Republic of China.
From 1985 to 1991, according to well-informed sources, Sylvia Lee, a native Chinese speaker who held a support-staff job at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, reported to FBI agents about visiting delegations of PRC scientists. She was not an "operational asset," jargon for paid informant, sources say, but a volunteer who passed along what she heard and saw at social confabs arranged for foreign visitors. Senior counterintelligence hands didn't consider her reports particularly useful. In 1991, after her agent contact retired and she moved to a job that provided little access to foreign visitors, the Albuquerque, N.M., field office dropped her as a source.
Mrs. Lee's modest relationship with the FBI complicates the already murky case of her husband, Wen Ho Lee, a Taiwanese-born computer scientist who worked on nuclear-warhead design programs at Los Alamos. In 1995 U.S. intelligence officers learned that China had somehow stolen classified information about the W-88 miniaturized nuclear-warhead program. The ensuing FBI investigation found Wen Ho Lee had violated a number of lab security rules, including failing to report contacts with PRC scientists--lapses for which Department of Energy Secretary Bill Richardson fired him last month.
So far, the FBI has not been able to find any evidence that Lee spied for China. But if he is ever charged, his lawyers (who aren't commenting for the record) could be expected to argue that the case has been undercut by his wife's part-time work on the FBI's behalf.
In the beginning was the word, but these days it doesn't seem to be enough. Hot on the news that Pat Robertson and pals are embarking on a three- year, $7 million advertising blitz for a modern translation of the Bible called The Book comes word that Johnny Cash recorded more than 400 scripture passages for a handheld electronic Bible. Makers of the Good Book have discovered niche marketing and it is good. There are Bibles for women, recovering addicts, children and Promise Keepers. There are Bibles with such names as The Rock and WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?). There are even Bibles for the hip: slim volumes of individual books with introductions by nonreligious figures like singer Nick Cave, writer Will Self and biologist Steven Rose, who explains helpfully in his introduction to Genesis that it pretty much sounds like hooey to him. Seek and ye shall find...
Rauchen Sie Nicht! Hitler's Smoke Screed
The people who brought you last week's blitzkrieg of antismoking billboards may have an unlikely forebear: ADOLF HITLER. In his forthcoming The Nazi War on Cancer (Princeton University Press), Penn State history professor ROBERT N. PROCTOR suggests that Nazi researchers were the first to recognize the connection between cancer and cigarettes. The prevailing view was that British and American scientists established the lung-cancer link during the early 1950s. In fact, says Proctor, "the Nazis conducted world-class studies in this field." But their findings, because of the abhorrent medical practices used by the regime, were ignored. Hitler, a teetotaling vegetarian, believed healthy living advanced the master race; Jews, Gypsies and smokers soiled the purity of the nation. The Fuhrer even boasted that his kicking the habit in 1919 helped bring about the "salvation of the German people." Hence the Allies saw the Third Reich's campaign against smoking as the product of fascism, not science. "It is still taboo to say anything positive about Nazi research," says Proctor, whose earlier work exposed the unspeakable acts of doctor-torturers like Josef Mengele. Meanwhile, the Nazis themselves continued to supply tobacco to their troops.
15 Number of people (14 students, one teacher) who died in Littleton, Colo., massacre
173 Number of violent deaths in U.S. schools between 1994 and 1998
50% Percentage of children ages 9 to 17 who are worried about dying young
31% Percentage of children ages 12 to 17 who know someone their age who carries a gun
22% Decrease in organizations granting $50,000 or more each year to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research
$30 million U.S. philanthropic support for HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and research, down from $37 million in 1996
33.4 million Number of people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS
15% Percentage of New Jersey's population that is black
27% Percentage of motorists stopped by New Jersey state police patrolling various regions of the state in 1997 and 1998 who were black
Sources: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Yankelovich Partners, Funders Concerned About AIDS, Statistical Abstract of the U.S., N.J. Dept. of Law & Public Policy
20 Years Ago In TIME
The carnage at Littleton this week had resonance for the San Carlos neighborhood of San Diego, Calif. Twenty years ago, Brenda Spencer was a teenager with a gun and a target: the elementary school across the road. Today she is serving the 20th year of a 25-years-to-life sentence and will be eligible for a parole hearing in 2001. TIME's Feb. 12, 1979, report:
The explanation was incredibly casual. "I don't like Mondays," Brenda Spencer, 16, told reporters by telephone as she held off San Diego police for six hours. But who was she trying to kill as she repeatedly fired a .22-cal. rifle at Cleveland Elementary School from her home across the street? "No one in particular. I kind of like the red and blue jackets." While Brenda chatted on the telephone, the terrified pupils and teachers huddled on the floor of the bullet-sprayed school. Principal Burton Wragg and Custodian Michael Suchar were both slain by the gunfire at the school's front yard. Eight children and one police officer were wounded. After hours of futile attempts to get Brenda to surrender, she finally decided it was time to end what she had called "fun." She calmly walked out of the house, put her gun [down], went back inside... "Why did she do it?" asked an eight-year-old boy. Unfortunately, no one in authority could answer that question.
Advances In Opera
NO FAT LADIES, EITHER Disney recently asked Elton John and Tim Rice to update Aida, the opera about an Egyptian's doomed love for an Ethiopian slave. They did more than just lighten the tone. While Verdi has Egyptians making garlands for soldiers, John and Rice have the Spice Girls singing about panties.
VERDI "Weave the lotus and the laurel/ into a crown for the victors! Let a soft cloud of flowers/ veil the steel of their arms."
JOHN "Overwear, underwear, anytime, anywhere... That in negligee or formal/ I am anything but normal That dress has always been my strongest suit."