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World Briefs II

Portrait of a Planet: New Image Details The Face of Mars

Los Angeles Times

A new high-resolution portrait of the so-called "Face on Mars," released Monday by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, reveals the enigmatic feature in 10 times greater detail than previously available, showing the eroding features of what appears to be a natural geologic formation.

The more detailed image of the Cydonia region of Mars, where the surface feature was first photographed by the Viking space probe in July 1976, was taken over the weekend by the Mars Global Surveyor as it prepares to systematically map the planet.

The image, often dramatically enhanced to heighten its resemblance to a face, became a staple of supermarket tabloid covers. As the ominous visage of an ethereal space being, it achieved minor stardom as a character in an "X-Files" episode.

Aware of the intense interest in the site, JPL took unusual measures to make it clear that the space agency did not alter the data that went into the computer-generated image, by posting the raw data on the Internet as soon as it was received, officials said.

"There've been charges of conspiracy and manipulating the data and we want to make it very clear to everybody that no such activity goes on here," said Glenn E. Cunningham, Global Surveyor project manager. "We put the raw data out there so that anybody can process it any way they want."

Several planetary scientists and project engineers said Monday that for them, the new image contained no surprises and no evidence of artificial origin.

Head Wrap Not Allowed At Maryland Middle School

The Washington Post

Shermia Isaacs, an eighth-grader at Harper's Choice Middle School, has tried twice to wear her wrap to class, saying the white cloth with black and yellow designs celebrates her family's African-American heritage. But school officials said rules are rules, and they have barred the honor roll student from attending class with the wrap.

"They told me it was going to distract the kids," said Shermia, who has missed six school days in protest. "But it wasn't distracting. The kids and the teachers said they liked it and stuff."

Off-limits clothing determined by each school usually includes hats, coats with pockets or chains, spiked bracelets, halter tops, and other fashions favored by teen-agers. About 17 percent of the 40,000-student school district is African-American.

Shermia was first barred from school last week when she tried to wear her head wrap, which she wears on most weekends, to class. Her great-grandfather is from Jamaica, and Shermia grew up seeing family members dressed in colorful African-style headwraps.

But soon after she arrived on campus, the assistant principal, Madrainne Johnson, told Shermia to report to the main office. Johnson, who is African-American, called Shermia's mother to tell her the head wrap was disruptive. Shermia's mother, Stacey Isaacs, disagreed and pulled Shermia out of school.