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Harvard Feuds With R.I. Tribes On Identity of Ancient Remains


A year after initiating the largest-ever single return of American Indian remains to their native site in New Mexico, Harvard University is embroiled in an emotional and protracted feud with two Rhode Island-based tribes over the possession of ancestral bones and sacred tribal items housed in one of its museums.

At stake are human remains and about two dozen objects -- including glass beads, brass kettles and wampum -- primarily used for research and scholarship at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the oldest museum of its kind in the United States. Museum officials determined most of the cultural remains belong to a confederation of Wampanoag tribes, but Narragansett Indians insist they are wrong.

Their tribal historic preservation officer, in a scathing letter sent last month to the museum’s assistant director, accused Harvard of subverting the repatriation process and desecrating their heritage by failing to consult them and dismissing their claims.

Scientists Disagree on Planet Status of New Discovery


Scientists have always favored diversity and tolerance when it comes to defining a planet. Gassy monsters like Jupiter qualify, and so do icy little spitwads like Pluto.

Now a team of Spanish, American and German researchers is straining that inclusiveness to the limit by claiming that it has detected 18 “planet-like objects” in a setting considered impossible even under the current loose definition. If the observations are confirmed, some scientists say, they could scramble theories of planet formation.

The 18 dim, reddish objects were detected in the familiar constellation Orion (The Hunter), drifting free of any central star. Perhaps the chief defining characteristic of a planet, however, is that it formed in a condensing swirl of gas and dust around a star.

The objects appear to have formed within the past 5 million years. Planets are generally thought to require tens of millions of years to develop.

“The formation of young, free-floating planetary-mass objects like these are difficult to explain by our current models of how planets form,” said Maria Rosa Zapatero Osorio, of the Instituto de Astrofisica de Canarias, in Tenerife, Spain.

She is lead author of a paper describing the team’s observations in today’s issue of Science.

Panel Finds Shuster Engaged In ‘Serious Official Misconduct’


In an unusually stinging rebuke, the House ethics committee Thursday accused Transportation Committee Chairman Bud Shuster, R-Pa., of bringing “discredit to the House of Representatives” by maintaining close ties to a lobbyist, accepting improper gifts and potentially misusing campaign funds.

But as part of a deal in which Shuster admitted to five violations of ethics rules, the panel stopped short of calling for a full House vote on what it termed his “serious official misconduct.”

The powerful congressman remained defiant, going to the House floor to defend his actions and, in his formal response to the panel, accusing the ethics committee of “overkill for the charge of causing misguided public perceptions.” The ethics panel took Shuster to task for “blame-shifting about and trivializing of conduct to which you have admitted.”

The sharp contrast between the committee’s strongly worded “letter of reproval” and Shuster’s public statements highlighted the ambiguous nature of the ruling, in which the panel took pains to chastise the lawmaker but issued one of the lightest available penalties.

The committee’s 147-page report on Shuster caps a four-year-long controversy over Shuster’s dealings with his former chief of staff, Ann Eppard, who left her job in November 1994 to open a transportation lobbying firm. It provides new details of how Eppard used her close relationship with Shuster to obtain access for her clients.

Poll Shows Old Media Grabbing Gold at ‘Internet Olympics’


It’s official most popular Internet events in history. The official site of the Sydney games,, received 11.3 billion visits during the events, compared with 643 million for the 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan, and 370,000 for the 1996 Games in Atlanta.But according to a poll by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, old media still beat out new media.

During the Games, 58 percent of Americans got their information on the sporting event from television, 12 percent from newspapers and 7 percent from radio. That compares with fewer than 4 percent of adults who got their results from the Internet.

Even people who described themselves as Internet users relied more heavily on traditional media. This group was 20 times more likely to get information from television than the Internet.

“While these Olympics were touted in some quarters as the first ’Internet Olympics,’ the Web only played a supplementary role in the Olympic experience,” researcher Tom Spooner wrote.

The Pew study was based on telephone interviews with 1,032 adults across the continental United States. The margin of error for the total sample is plus or minus 3 percentage points. For the questions posed to a subset of 690 Internet users, the sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.