Kunjin/West Nile Virus ­ First Time in Western Hemisphere

October 12, 1999  New York City, N. Y. ­ Starting back around July 1999, residents in Queens, New York began calling their city's wildlife office to report various types of birds on the ground shaking, wobbling and disoriented. Then crows at the Bronx Zoo and surrounding areas kept dying. Dozens of them. Pathology tests showed mysterious lesions in the brains and hearts.

By August, doctors in New York's Flushing Hospital were seeing an increasing number of people with fever, mental confusion and severe weakness. The combination of symptoms was confusing because usually in cases of encephalitis, which is an inflammation of brain tissue, patients hallucinate, are out of control and sometimes have seizures. These new patients were disoriented, but were so weak they could not move.

 

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Could Ancient Microbes in Polar Ice Cause Epidemics?

September 26, 1999  Syracuse, New York ­ The recent encephalitis outbreak in New York City that has killed three people and made fifteen others very ill has now been traced to a microbe called the West Nile-like virus, a bird virus never seen in the United States or the entire Western Hemisphere before, according to the Center for Disease Control. Until now, it's a virus that was only known in eastern and northern Africa and western Asia. Now CDC officials fear the dangerous virus could spread to Central and South America as birds migrate for the winter season and fly south.

How exactly this African and Asian bird virus got to the United States is not known. It might have come in an illegal import of a bird from the other side of the world. But this encephalitis outbreak and the associated human deaths show that when microbes are released into an environment where they have not been before, the microbes can be especially dangerous because what they infect has no immunity against them.

 

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New Photos from NASA’s Chandra X-Ray Observatory

September 24 and 28, 1999 Marshall Space Flight Center, Huntsville, Alabama ­ This week NASA released new photographs from its Chandra X-Ray Observatory launched in July 1999. One surprising image is in the Small Magellanic Cloud, a galaxy 190,000 light years from earth. It's the aftermath of a supernova, a sun that blew itself apart, which looks like a wheel with spokes. The "wheel" is forty light years in diameter.

Chandra X-Ray Observatory photograph of supernova remnant in the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy 190,000 light years from earth, released by NASA on September 20, 1999.
Chandra X-Ray Observatory photograph of supernova remnant in the Small Magellanic Cloud galaxy 190,000 light years from earth, released by NASA on September 20, 1999.


 

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Solar Eclipse In Reims, France

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

August 11, 1999  Reims, France ­ More than half a million people drove into Reims yesterday and this morning to try to see the last total solar eclipse in Europe until the end of the next century in 2079. Satellite weather reports had focused on northern France as having the best chance of clearer viewing compared to England and other locales in the path of total moon shadow. Reims was once the territory of the long-haired Celtic clan of Gaul. By 817, a Carolingian cathedral was begun and added to over the centuries to become the now famous Notre Dame Cathedrale of Reims. A Reims high school was also where the Treaty ending World War II was signed.

 

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30th Anniversary of Apollo 11 Moon Landing, July 20, 1969

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

July, 18, 1999 Titusville, Florida ­ Associated Press reports from Moscow, Russia that locust swarms have been eating crops across Russia's southern border at the speed of about 31 miles a day. The insects moved into Russia from Kazakstan where government authorities usually have teams to kill locust swarms. But this year, Kazakstan claims it did not have enough money to handle the infestations. Farmers are appealing to the Russian government for insecticides and financial aid. The Russian Emergency Situations Ministry says it needs at least $12 million to battle the locusts.

 

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Microbes Two Miles Below Earth Surface in South Africa

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

June 27, 1999  Princeton, New Jersey ­ A persistent question in the 20th Century has been: Is there life of any kind on Mars? Back on August 8, 1996, the media was full of headlines about signs of life on Mars in a chunk of meteorite discovered in Antarctica. When the meteorite was examined microscopically, scientists found rice-shaped "globules" in tiny cracks on the rock which resembled bacteria. The carbon in those fossilized globules dated back to about three and a half billion years ago when Mars probably had water on its surface and was warmer.

 

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The Cloth of Oviedo

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

June 21, 1999  Richmond, Virginia ­ Over the June 18-20 weekend in 1999, I attended the International Conference on the Shroud of Turin in Richmond, Virginia. The Shroud is a piece of linen cloth about 14 feet long that has the front and back images of a crucified man thought by many of the medical and scientific people at the Richmond Conference to be extraordinary photographic images of the crucified Jesus Christ.

 

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Current Brightest Binocular Comet and Upcoming Solar Eclipse

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

June 15, 1999 Cambridge, Massachusetts ­ A comet discovered on April 16th in the Southern Hemisphere is now moving further north towards the Constellation of Cancer. It's not visible to the naked eye, but it is the brightest comet for binocular viewing out of nearly sixty now being tracked by Harvard University's Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. The icy ball is called "Comet C/1999 H1-Lee" after its accidental discovery by astronomer Steven Lee who works at the Anglo Australian Observatory in New South Wales.

Photograph © 1999 by Gordon Garradd @ www.ozemail.com.au/~loomberah.
Photograph © 1999 by Gordon Garradd @ www.ozemail.com.au/~loomberah.

 

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Eta Carainae – A Puzzling Star On Its Way To Hypernova

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

June 11, 1999  Minneapolis, Minnesota ­ Over the past year, a star in the Caraina Constellation of the Southern Hemisphere has doubled in brightness. How a star that is 7,500 light years away from earth could brighten so dramatically baffles astronomers. In fact, of all the stars that can be seen with the naked eye from earth - none are as mysterious and confusing as Eta Carinae. If you live in southern Texas, southern Florida or Hawaii, you can barely see the star peeking up a little above the horizon straight south in June. It has a reddish-orange color and was completely invisible to the naked eye only a few years ago.

Photo Credit: Jon Morse, Ph.D., Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy and NASA, University of Colorado, Boulder.
Photo Credit: Jon Morse, Ph.D., Center for Astrophysics and Space Astronomy and NASA, University of Colorado, Boulder.

 

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Blowing Up Dangerous Germs with Oily “Nano Bombs”

© 1999 by Linda Moulton Howe

May 30, 1999  Ann Arbor, Michigan ­ A few weeks ago I reported on Dreamland that the U. S. government is very concerned about biological warfare and bioterrorists. What would happen if anthrax spores, small pox or other dangerous infectious diseases were sprayed into the air above one or more American cities?

One new possible answer seems surprisingly simple and miraculously effective: drops of oil ­ droplets so small they can adhere to the surface of deadly anthrax and small pox pathogens and literally explode the germs. That's why these oil drops are called "nano bombs." Nano means "one billionth." Smaller than viruses and bacteria.

 

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