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Swiss Scientists Announce Creation of ‘New State of Matter’


Scientists at Europe’s premier high-energy physics facility announced Thursday that they have created a “new state of matter” that has not existed since a few millionths of a second after the Big Bang that generated the cosmos.

The new state, which the scientists infer from different aspects of seven experiments over the past six years, is presumably one in which tiny sub-nuclear particles called quarks and gluons are squeezed and heated to such a stupendous extent that they can move freely.

This never happens under anything like ordinary conditions. In all but extreme circumstances, quarks are always tightly bound into groups of three in the form of neutrons and protons, or into short-lived pairs in particles called mesons. There is no such thing as a free quark.

Although theory indicates that quarks might become unbound in an ultra-high energy environment, free-moving quarks would last have been seen in the ferocious energy torrent just after the Big Bang, before the quark-and-gluon soup cooled and congealed into conventional protons and neutrons.

His Airness Comes Out for Bradley


Looking for one more spark from the sports world to energize his candidacy, Bill Bradley announced Thursday that basketball superstar Michael Jordan will appear in a new television spot on his behalf.

The campaign announced that it plans to begin running a 30-second television ad featuring Jordan in 25 big cities where Democratic primaries will be held on March 7.

The ad was filmed just before Christmas in a Chicago suburb. It will be the first time Jordan, whose product endorsements have brought him nearly as much airtime as his exploits on the hardwood, has endorsed a candidate for public office.

Jordan, seated as he gazes into the camera, says he wants his children to grow up in America where everyone has health care, guns are under control, children are being lifted out of poverty, and skin color doesn’t matter.

“That’s why I’m supporting Bill Bradley,” he says. “Shouldn’t you?”

At the same time, the Bradley camp orchestrated a double hit on rival Al Gore, portraying the vice president as a political chameleon on abortion and gun control, two hot-button issues that could figure prominently in upcoming Democratic primaries.

Senate Fails to Get Veto-Proof OK of Nuclear Waste Site Bill


The Senate passed legislation Thursday that would provide a permanent site for disposal of the nation’s nuclear waste, but the 64-34 vote fell short of the two-thirds majority that Republicans would need to override a veto, apparently continuing a six-year impasse.

The government already has proposed that the spent nuclear fuel be deposited in a new facility to be built at Yucca Mountain, Nev., but the White House and Republicans are at odds over how to go about it.

President Clinton opposes a GOP provision that would limit the role of the Environmental Protection Agency in setting standards for how much radiation the waste facility could emit and has threatened to veto the legislation if the House approves similar language.

The provision would require the EPA to consult with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission and National Academy of Sciences, which favor less stringent standards, if it wants to issue such regulations before June 1, 2001. After that, however, the EPA could act entirely on its own.

Proponents said that the legislation must be passed soon or the nation will face a crisis. Some 40,000 tons of highly radioactive spent nuclear fuel already have piled up in some 80 separate storage areas in 40 states. Some of the facilities are almost filled to capacity.

The government was supposed to have taken custody of the spent fuel by 1998, but Congress and the White House have been unable to agree on how to do it. Republicans have tried for six years to push their own plan through Congress but have been unsuccessful.

The bill now goes to the House, where its fate is uncertain. The House Commerce Committee approved slightly different legislation last year but the measure never reached the floor.

Senate Confirms Federal Judges


The Senate on Thursday brushed aside objections from conservatives and confirmed two judicial nominations after Majority Leader Trent Lott refused to go along with a move within his own caucus to block action on judgeships for the rest of the year.

With only conservative Sens. James M. Inhofe, R-Okla., and Robert C. Smith, R-N.H., dissenting, the Senate approved the nomination of Wilmington, Del., lawyer Thomas L. Ambro to the Third U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and Joel A. Pisano, a federal magistrate, to serve as a U.S. District Court judge in New Jersey.

Neither nomination was controversial. But 19 conservatives led by Inhofe, accusing President Clinton of breaking his word by bypassing the Senate and making temporary appointments to administration posts during Congress’s winter recess, vowed to block action on any further judicial nominations by Clinton.

Normally any senator can block action by imposing a “hold,” as Inhofe and his allies did. But Lott, as majority leader, can override the hold and move for a vote, and he did so Thursday.

Lott, R-Miss., said he doesn’t get “all weepy-eyed about having more federal judges of any kind anywhere” and praised Inhofe for pressuring Clinton to minimize the number of recess appointments. But Lott also said the White House had tried to work with him on the issue and that he didn’t want to set a precedent for filibustering judicial nominations.