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News Briefs

European Defense Firms to Merge


The leading defense companies of France and Germany said Thursday they would merge, creating the world’s third-largest defense contractor and one which would be a threat to America’s dominance of the international arms market.

The merger between DaimlerChrysler Aerospace AG of Germany and France’s Aerospatiale Matra SA was hailed by German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, both of whom were present at the signing of the deal in Strasbourg, France, near the Franco-German border.

It was another step into the private sector for the formerly state-controlled firms which, like many other businesses in Europe, have been shedding their government ties and becoming more competitive.

The deal follows the announced merger of British Aerospace Plc and the Marconi unit of England’s General Electric Co. At one time, British Aerospace and Dasa were near a merger but the firms could not pull it off.

The combined entity would have $22.7 billion in revenue and 89,000 employees, ranking third among world defense firms after Seattle-based Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp. of Bethesda.

Study Finds New Brain Cells in Adult Animals


Princeton researchers have found that the brain’s most advanced region, the cerebral cortex, which separates primates from the rest of the animal kingdom, may contain new brain cells in adult animals.

The finding, established by studying monkeys, expands on research published last year that found new cells, or neurons, in an area outside the cortex, called the hippocampus, that is associated with learning and short-term memory.

The endless stream of information that pours through the cerebral cortex every moment helps humans recognize and respond to the world, and it has long been thought that this system must be stable and unchangeable to achieve such mastery. This new finding, reported Friday in the journal Science, suggests that the adult brain replenishes itself with new cells that migrate to where they are needed.

“This is an absolutely novel result,” said William T. Greenough, director of the neuroscience program at the University of Illinois’ Beckman Institute. “These data scream for a re-analysis of human brain development.”

But many neuroscientists worry that the new findings are speculative, and call for replication.

“Extraordinary claims call for extraordinary proof,” said Richard Nowakowski, associate professor in the department of neuroscience and cell biology at the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

Ramsey Grand Jury Issues No Indictment for Killing


A grand jury in Boulder declined to return an indictment Wednesday in the murder of 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey as it finished its work after 13 months, apparently turning the focus of inquiry away from the child’s parents.

The case, in which the young beauty queen was found beaten and strangled in the basement of her home the day after Christmas in 1996, had riveted the nation and has been tabloid fodder for three years.

The announcement disappointed those who hoped for a resolution of the sensational case and served as vindication to defenders of JonBenet’s parents, John and Patsy Ramsey.