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Studying Eruptions Using Volcanoes


Tucked away in a 4-foot-high, blue steel box in the American Museum of Natural History in Manhattan, a few steps from the tourists milling among the hot dog stands outside, is a 2,000-degree speck of magma -- molten rock, held under terrific pressure -- from the catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius in Roman times.

Yes, this is the stuff that exploded and rained down on Pompeii in A.D. 79. Dr. James Webster, geologist, and his associates gathered pumice from the slopes of Vesuvius, and now he is cooking and squeezing the material to the same temperatures and pressures it had in the seething belly of the volcano before the eruption.

And like some diabolical brewmaster, he has spiked the mixture with the one original ingredient the pumice was lacking: the volatile gases that had been dissolved in the Vesuvian magma, the gases whose explosive release threw ash into the stratosphere and sent deadly clouds called pyroclastic flows racing down the slopes of the volcano. Webster is, in effect, putting the fizz back into flat champagne.

This little chemistry experiment is part of a worldwide effort to understand what makes volcanoes -- darkly famous names like Mount St. Helens and Pinatubo and Krakatau and Vesuvius -- go bang.

Germany Extradites to U.S. Two Suspected of Aiding Al-Qaida


A prominent Yemeni cleric and his assistant, accused of funneling money to al-Qaida from Muslim supporters in New York and elsewhere, will face conspiracy charges in the United States, officials said Monday.

German authorities, who apprehended the two men earlier this year in a sting operation, agreed to turn the men over to the United States after they were assured that the defendants would not face a military tribunal or the death penalty, officials said.

The men, Mohammed Al Hasan al-Moayad and Mohammed Mohsen Yahya Zayed, were flown to the United States on Sunday. It was first time that Germany -- a major ally in the U.S. campaign against terrorism -- has extradited terrorism suspects to the United States since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, officials said.

Moayad and Zayed appeared in federal court Monday afternoon in Brooklyn, N.Y., where they said through Arabic-language interpreters that they understood the charges against them. A federal magistrate ordered them held without bail.

Moayad, a cleric at one of the biggest mosques in Yemen’s capital, Sana, is regarded as an important financier for al-Qaida, and American officials said he once boasted that he personally delivered $20 million to Osama bin Laden to support holy war causes.

Rumsfeld Offers South Koreans Assurances on Deterrence


Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld reassured South Korea on Monday that efforts to reorganize American forces in South Korea would not diminish either the capacity or commitment to deter aggression by the North.

Rumsfeld and his South Korean counterpart, Cho Yung-kil, issued a statement endorsing plans to relocate all American troops from their positions standing guard between Seoul and the demilitarized zone along the border with North Korea, first consolidating them in camps north of Seoul before basing them south of the capital. Seoul is 30 miles from the border.

Pentagon planners say that the relocation is not a retreat from American responsibilities, but that it will give U.S. forces an advantage in surviving and responding to a North Korean attack.

Certainly, Rumsfeld sought to reassure the Seoul government that the new language of transformation at his Pentagon would enhance rather than harm South Korea’s most important military alliance. He spoke of how new technologies and new strategies would increase the American military’s capacity to defend South Korea.

“We are making excellent progress,” Rumsfeld told President Roh Moo-hyun, who received his visitor in a room adorned with a painting of Yi Dynasty military maneuvers.

Rare Infection Threatens To Spread in Blood Supply


A parasitic infection common in Latin America is threatening the United States’ blood supply, public health experts say. They are especially concerned because there will be no test for it in donated blood until next year at the earliest.

The infection, Chagas disease, is still rare in the United States. Only nine cases are known to have been transmitted by transfusion or transplant in the United States and Canada in the last 20 years.

But hundreds of blood recipients may be silently infected, experts say, and there is no effective treatment for them. After a decade or more, 10 percent to 30 percent of them will die when their hearts or intestines, weakened by the disease, explode.

Chagas is still little known in the United States, but in Mexico, Central America and South America, 18 million people are infected, and 50,000 a year die of it.

Because the disease is most common in rural areas from southern Mexico to northern Chile, the threat is greatest in American cities with many immigrants from those areas.

Across the United States, said Dr. David A. Leiby, a Chagas expert at the American Red Cross, the risk of getting a transfusion of infected blood is only about 1 in 25,000.

But in 1998 in Miami it was found to be 1 in 9,000, he said, and in Los Angeles the same year, he measured it at 1 in 5,400, up from 1 in 9,850 only two years earlier.

No more recent study of the blood supply has been done.