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Sex in space

Feb. 25, 2000

NASA astronauts have conducted top secret sex experiments in space, according to a new book by French science writer Pierre Kohler. The GUARDIAN (UK) reports Kohler’s contention that two married astronauts tested out ten different sexual positions during a space shuttle mission in 1996. The “experiment,” codenamed STS-XX, was supposedly designed to test the feasibility of zero-gravity sexual relations among the crew of the planned international space station. If Kohler is right about the experiment’s findings, randy space explorers will have at least four exciting freestyle options for love. The six other configurations tested are possible, but require “mechanical assistance.” In a blow to the unadventurous astronaut, the missionary position was deemed impossible. NASA denies that any such experiment ever took place.

Reports that William Shatner has volunteered to serve as a civilian envoy to the future station remain unconfirmed.

Read the GUARDIAN story here.


Naval worship

Feb. 24, 2000

Be all that you can be — even though you’re a sinner in the eyes of God. That’s what the crew of the USS Carl Vinson, moored at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, was told Wednesday. According to the SEATTLE TIMES, a mandatory seminar for 2,600 personnel descended into a proselytizing sermon. “I had to listen to a man tell me that he was putting salt in my oats to make me thirsty for God’s word. If that’s not a sermon, I don’t know what is,” said one unhappy petty officer.

Commanders had planned the seminar for the Middle East-bound crew to promote spiritual health and respect for other religions and cultures. They invited Muslim, Jewish, Catholic, and Protestant leaders to speak. While the rabbi and Muslim cleric gave a straightforward explanation of their faiths, the priest and pastor, “quoted Scripture, urged sailors not to get tattoos and talked about sin,” the Times reports.

There was no way out of the makeshift chapel for the non-sermon inclined. Crew members say that the military police guarded all doors and even monitored bathroom breaks.

Read the SEATTLE TIMES story here.


Mutant malaria

Feb. 23, 2000

Malaria is one of the Third World’s most effective killers — and it’s only getting worse.

According to an ASSOCIATED PRESS report, scientists have shown that a mutated gene in the deadliest strain of the disease can prevent antimalarial drugs from accumulating, rendering the drugs ineffective. In the study, the strain showed resistance to five anti-malarial drugs. These drugs replace the traditional, low-cost anti-malarial choloroquine, which the parasite became resistant to early on. This is bad news in developing nations, where malaria not only takes a heavy human toll but is also a major economic drain.

Read the AP story here.


High-tech sweatshops

Feb. 22, 2000

Being a systems analyst in a technology-hungry job market, Kumar Rajesh should probably be making a six-figure salary. Instead, his life has lately resembled that of a “bonded slave.” Rajesh is one of about half a million high-tech foreign workers who have surged into the US over the past decade under a program created by Congress in 1990. The program has led to the creation of a mutimillion-dollar industry, in which visa-vending companies ship high-tech workers for a heavy fee from continent to continent.

Supporters of the program — mainly the computer industry and its lobbyists — defend their practice by claiming that it addresses a desperate shortage of high-tech workers in the US.

However, an investigation by the BALTIMORE SUN on how these “body shop” employees are treated has revealed some disturbing trends. The SUN found that visa holders often collect a small fraction of the salaries they’ve been promised. If they decide to quit, they are typically sued by their employers. In addition, workers who challenge their employers are often threatened with being sent back to their homelands.

Read the BALTIMORE SUN story here.


Recycling is ‘hot’ in Thailand

Feb. 21, 2000

Two metal recycling workers were overcome by exposure to radiation in Thailand’s Phra Pradaeng district over the weekend, according to the BANGKOK POST.

The two men, both under 25, were preparing the scrap metal for recycling when they quickly became ill. Their symptoms included “fatigue, low white-blood cell count, vomiting, loss of hair, swollen and burnt hands and lips.”

The substance to which they were exposed was identified as “cobalt 60, a radioactive isotope used in the production of gamma rays. It is mainly used in sterilisation processes by the food industry, especially fermented food, and in medical institutes for cancer treatment.” How it ended up in the recycling unit is unclear.

Read the BANGKOK POST story here.


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Clara Jeffery, Editor-in-Chief

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