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News Briefs I

Gore's Remarks Enrage Malaysian Government

The Washington Post

Vice President Al Gore voiced sympathy Monday for Malaysia's pro-democracy forces, outraging the government here and sparking a disagreement at the Asia-Pacific economic summit.

In a speech at a banquet attended by much of the country's ruling elite, Gore hailed "the brave people of Malaysia" for seeking reformasi, the Malay word for reform that has become the rallying cry for opponents of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has ruled Malaysia for 17 years.

"Democracy confers a stamp of legitimacy that reforms must have in order to be effective," said Gore, who was speaking in President Clinton's place at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum here of 21 nations and economies. "And so, among nations suffering economic crises, we continue to hear calls for democracy, calls for democracy in many languages - people's power, doi moi, reformasi."

The comments provoked a furious response from allies of Mahathir, a champion of "Asian values" who has long bridled at what he views as Western sermonizing about human rights and free markets.

Meteor Shower Could Throw Satellites Off Track

The Washington Post

Before dawn Tuesday morning, in the basement of Intelsat headquarters in Northwest Washington, four people began sending messages to 25 satellites orbiting 22,000 miles above the equator.

One by one, they signaled the satellites that carry phone calls, transmit television programs, handle hotel and airline reservations, and transfer money from bank to bank: Warm up thrusters. Start gyros. Enable de-spin action nutation motors. Switch communications to high-power, wide-range. Set safety systems. Shut down all non-essential functions.

Prepare for meteor storm - the most intense barrage of meteorites hurtling toward Earth in 32 years.

In a two-day meteor storm that peaks Tuesday afternoon, thousands, perhaps tens of thousands, of tiny particles of space dust will rush past the planet, as the Earth and the meteorites slip by one another at 200 times the speed of sound. The space junk is refuse flung out from the tail of the comet Temple-Tuttle, which circled past the sun in February.

Because the Earth and its satellites spin around the sun in one direction - counterclockwise - and the meteorites are swooping in from the opposite direction, they could collide head-on at 44 miles per second.

Music Plays to Brain's Emotional Side

The Washington Post

Everyone who loves music knows that it can tap deep emotions, triggering many different kinds of strong memories and feelings. Now, neuroscientists have found a new clue to why that's the case.

Anne Blood of McGill University in Montreal and her colleagues studied 10 people while they listened to six versions of a piece of music specifically composed for the experiment. The first version was pleasant while the succeeding five were increasingly unpleasant.

An area of the brain on the right side known to be important to emotion - the parahippocampal gyrus - was more activated the more the music became unpleasant. When the music was pleasant, distinctly different areas involved in emotion became activated - the orbitofrontal cortex, frontal pole and subcallosal cingulate.