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News Briefs II

Missing Records May Document Soldiers' Exposure to Nerve Gas


Defense officials say there is a mysterious gap in official Desert Storm records covering the two days at the end of the 1991 gulf war when thousands of American soldiers may have been exposed to clouds of sarin nerve gas.

Some military officials said the missing documents were destroyed during routine housekeeping, but others said only selected pages were removed from the logs. "There's something wrong here," said one senior Army officer who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The records, kept at Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf's Central Command headquarters in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, could be crucial for veterans who believe an array of symptoms dubbed the gulf war syndrome may be the result of Iraqi army chemical munitions that included sarin, mustard gas and biological agents.

"It's becoming as big as the 18-minute gap on the Nixon Watergate tapes," said a senior military officer. The records might have also shed light on the Pentagon's contention that there was no hint of sarin exposures until U.N. investigators uncovered new evidence in Iraq last spring.

Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon said he could not explain the missing logs. "But any suggestion that we are trying to cover up what happened at Khamisiyah is ludicrous," he said.

But the missing records may explain the lack of official Pentagon evidence. Defense Secretary William Perry conceded that some important records had disappeared.

NASA Finds Important Internet Transmission in Space Faulty

Los Angeles Times

In a significant setback for the satellite industry, NASA scientists have discovered that a key transmission standard that is the foundation of communications over the Internet and corporate computer networks does not work well in space.

The discovery could delay the satellite industry's ambitious efforts to offer high-speed Internet access to companies with remote plants or offices, as well as to Pacific Islanders and millions of others without high-speed access to the content-rich portions of the Internet such as the World Wide Web.

"Allowing satellites to be a part of the Internet would provide huge benefits to companies and individuals - if we could make it work," said Daniel R. Glover, a National Aeronautics Space Administration project engineer in Cleveland who has been spearheading the investigation into the problem. "But (the Internet) and satellites really weren't designed to go together."

Officials who oversee the Internet say they will oppose any solutions to the problem that involve modifications of TCP that might adversely affect its performance over land links.

"It would not be an acceptable solution to degrade the current performance of TCP in order to improve it for satellite use," said Fred Baker, a software executive at Cisco Systems Inc. "An improvement of TCP is a good thing, but we don't want to break it just so somebody in New Caledonia can have better Internet access."

Many Species at Risk of Extinction

The Washington Post

Fully one-fourth of the world's species of mammals are threatened with extinction, and about half of those may be gone in as little as a decade, according to the most complete global analysis of endangered animal species ever compiled.

The report, which several conservationists described as surprising and frightening, was released Thursday by the IUCN-World Conservation Union, the recently renamed international body that has collected endangered species data for more than 35 years.

In a statement released Thursday, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit called the report "probably the most thorough scientific assessment of the state of the world's wildlife ever undertaken. It clearly indicates that, unless people of all nations make extraordinary efforts, we face a looming natural catastrophe of almost Biblical proportions."

This year's list is the first to evaluate all 4,600 known species of mammals, the class of animal that includes all warmblooded, milk-producing animals. It finds 1,096 at risk. And it concludes that about a third of 275 primate species examined are also at risk, nearly three times the percentage previously believed.

Indian Tribe Postpones Casino Effort

Los Angeles Times

An impoverished American Indian tribe says it has postponed efforts to develop a casino, given the death of a Senate bill Thursday that would have allowed the tribe to expand its reservation beyond the shores of California's Salton Sea.

The legislation would have endorsed a government settlement awarding the Torres-Martinez Indians $14 million, with which to buy up to 11,800 acres in desert resort areas northwest of their existing reservation.

That new reservation land would replace trust land that was flooded - and became the Salton Sea - after the turn of the century.

But because of opposition to the bill from both Nevada senators, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., was unable to bypass normal committee hearings and take it directly to a Senate floor vote before its adjournment Thursday.

"We're frustrated, but optimistic that this will still be resolved in the next Congress," said Mary Bellardo, Torres-Martinez tribal chair. "We're a patient people."

The sticking point was the Torres-Martinez tribe's request to build a casino on new reservation land. A handful of senators initially opposed the bill, following lobbying efforts by a neighboring Indian tribe and the Marriott resort hotel chain, which both opposed Torres-Martinez' gambling plans.

An 11th-hour compromise by the tribe - promising to build a casino only on land immediately adjacent to existing reservation property - was rejected by both Nevada senators.