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Archives Employee Charged With Selling Stolen Artifacts

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

It began when an astute federal worker was shopping on eBay and came across a treasure that should not have been for sale anywhere, much less in an Internet auction house: a pardon signed by an American president.

It ended Monday when a veteran employee of the National Archives was charged with stealing priceless historical treasures and selling them on the open market, including a pardon signed by Abraham Lincoln and an autographed photograph of Neil Armstrong on the moon.

Shawn P. Aubitz, 45, had worked at the archives’ downtown Philadelphia branch for 14 years, and part of his job was to sift through some of its 120 million pieces of history for display in rotating exhibits, authorities said.

But prosecutors allege that he spent three years pilfering as many as 100 American artifacts and selling them for an estimated $100,000, in what is believed to be the first case of employee theft in the archives’ 68-year history.

The precise number of documents taken is not known and some of the items that were sold have not been recovered, said Patrick L. Meehan, U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania.

“This is not just value measured in dollars -- these were authentic documents, the actual records of events that ware part of our American history, and when they are removed from the collection the value is incalculable,” Meehan said. “This wasn’t just a crime against the National Archives. This was a crime against future generations and their access to American history.”

New Visual System Discovered

THE WASHINGTON POST

Scientists have discovered another circuit that the eye uses to communicate with the brain.

Previously, the only cells known capable of translating light into electrical impulses were the well-known rods and cones in the retina.

But two teams of researchers at Brown and Johns Hopkins universities, studying rats and mice, showed that so-called retinal ganglion cells are sensitive to light and connect with the superchiasmatic nucleus, a part of the brain that acts as a 24-hour body clock, the researchers reported in the Feb. 8 Science.

Researchers assume the cells are also present in human retinas, and could help explain how blind people still have their biological clocks reset by being exposed to light.

“It is a visual system that runs parallel to the one we have been thinking about all these years,” Brown neuroscientist David M. Berson, one of the researchers, said in a statement released last week.