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One City of Maya Empire Prospered After Collapse, Archeologists Say

Los Angeles Times

UCLA archeologists called in by the government of Belize to investigate a major Maya ruin have discovered an intriguing and unexpected mystery. The city of 10,000 inhabitants, called Xunantunich, survived and even prospered for 150 to 200 years after major cities all around it were flung into chaos in the collapse of the Maya empire around A.D. 800.

Although he as yet has no idea why the city remained stable while others around it were in turmoil, archeologist Richard M. Leventhal of the University of California, Los Angeles, hopes that further excavations over the next few summers will help to explain not only how Xunantunich (pronounced Shoo-NAN-too-NEECH) survived, but also why the other cities fell. This has long been an issue of contention and puzzlement among Central American specialists.

Among the evidence supporting the city's continuing stability and prosperity is a spectacular 30-by-9-foot frieze discovered on the side of the 130-foot-tall pyramid-like Castillo at Xunantunich and dating from A.D. 900 to A.D. 1000. This frieze, called "magnificent" by several other researchers, was constructed by the city's ruling elite after the leaders of other nearby cities had fallen. The researchers also found ceramics from the same period that could only have been produced in a prosperous urban area.

Leventhal has also found a major problem at the Castillo, which, despite its age, is the second-tallest building in Belize: Huge cracks in its sides caused by earthquakes or settling threaten to bring the archeological landmark tumbling to the ground if it cannot be stabilized by specialists from the Getty Conservation Institute in Los Angeles.

Leventhal's finds "are reinforcing the emerging idea that the collapse (of the Maya empire) wasn't quite as dramatic as we had thought, not as all-inclusive and widespread," said archaeologist Peter S. Dunham of Cleveland State University, who recently reported the discovery of four new Mayan cities in southern Belize.

Clinton Proposes Teamwork Program for Fuel Efficiency


Steering for the middle of the road in the controversy over fuel-efficiency standards, President Clinton Wednesday announced a joint government-industry research program aimed at developing cars that are three times as efficient as current models.

"We intend to do nothing less than to define the world car of the next century," said Clinton, who was joined on the White House lawn by the chief executives of the Big Three domestic automakers. Under the deal, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors agreed to a goal of producing a high-efficiency prototype car within a decade.

The agreement does not call for extra federal spending, nor does it require automakers to market the prototypes. Instead, it calls for government and corporate engineers to coordinate their fuel-efficiency research in a way that emulates similar partnerships in Japan.

Despite its vagueness, the plan could have important political benefits for Clinton, who critics say has vacillated on the hot-button environmental issue of raising the federal Corporate Average Fuel Efficiency standards.

"This allows them to do something on fuel economy without having to do the CAFE standards, at least in the short term," said Christopher Flavin, vice president of the Worldwatch Institute, a Washington-based non-profit group that studies energy issues. "Clearly there is an element of being caught between the environmental community and the auto industry, and wanting to find a middle ground."

Clinton's announcement came on the same day that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency released its 1994 fuel-efficiency statistics, which showed that fleet averages for U.S. automakers essentially remained stagnant for the eighth consecutive year, at about 28 miles per gallon. The current CAFE standard requires automakers to have a fleet average of at least 27.5 mpg or face financial penalties.

Files Show CIA Considered Nuclear Attack on China

Los Angeles Times


U.S. intelligence agencies weighed seriously the possible impact of using nuclear weapons against China during the Korean War and after the French defeat in Indochina, according to newly declassified CIA files.

"If atomic weapons were used, the Communists would recognize the employment of these weapons as indicative of Western determination to carry the Korean war to a successful conclusion," the CIA and other intelligence agencies concluded in June 1953.

This dispassionate analysis of a possible U.S. nuclear attack is contained in a series of files the CIA made public Thursday. The release was the initial step in the agency's effort to open up to historians and the American public a few of its archives from the early days of the Cold War.

Overall, the documents clearly demonstrate that, in that time of high Cold War tension, the late 1940s and early 1950s, American intelligence was sometimes prescient and sometimes wildly inaccurate.

The CIA was able to predict accurately Soviet behavior in the Middle East during the Suez Canal crisis of 1956. Soviet officials had suggested Moscow might intervene militarily in response to the invasion of Egypt by Israel, France and Britain. A hurriedly U.S. intelligence estimate concluded, correctly as it turned out, that the Soviet Union would not attack Britain or France and would not send its forces to the Middle East.

Agency officials also suggested the possibility of a Sino-Soviet split several years before it occurred. "Over the long run, Sino-Soviet solidarity might be weakened as a result of efforts by the USSR to intensify and extend its control over Communist China [and] disputes over Soviet economic and military assistance to Communist China," American intelligence agencies wrote in 1952. The study warned, however, that the Soviet Union and China would stick together through the period of the early 1950s -- as in fact they did.

But American intelligence also had notable failures, the files show.

It failed to predict the outbreak of war in North Korea in a study completed just before the conflict began. The CIA said only that North Korean forces "have a capability for attaining limited objectives in short-term military operations against southern Korea." The Pyongyang regime launched its devastatingly successful invasion of the south six days later, and the war lasted until 1953.

In the wildest miscalculation of all, the CIA gazed into its crystal ball in 1953 and hazarded a guess on the future course of the Cold War: In many ways, U.S. intelligence officials concluded, "time must be said to be on the Soviet side."

"We believe that the Soviet Bloc under present policies and programs will over the next 10-15 years decrease the proportion by which its economic and technological capabilities are inferior to those of the West ..." said the CIA.

^(Optional add end)

As was often the case, that same intelligence report contained a qualifier. The Cold War study went on to caution, with greater accuracy, that "internal rigidity may deprive the U.S.S.R. of that flexibility and vitality which contribute to a political system's survival and growth."

Many of the newly declassified files are so-called "national intelligence estimates" in which U.S. intelligence agencies tried in the 1950s to reach a consensus on the intentions and capabilities of the Soviet Union and its allies in China and Eastern Europe.

The new materials, which will be opened to the public at the National Archives in Washington next Monday, include only the the CIA's analytic studies and not its records of clandestine or covert operations.