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May 8, 2006


Leftovers From the Cold War
When Dogs Fly ...
A Modest Proposal
Judas, Minus the Betrayal
Could a Giant Fish Be the Missing Link?
Climbing the Walls

Leftovers From the Cold War
Workers inspecting New York's Brooklyn Bridge in March became accidental archaeologists when they discovered a relic of the Cold War: Deep inside the 123-year-old bridge's foundation was a fallout shelter stocked with water drums, medical kits, and 352,000 canisters of "survival crackers." The boxes of supplies were dated 1957, the year the Soviet Union launched the Sputnik satellite, and 1962, when the Cuban Missile Crisis heightened U.S.-Soviet tensions and the threat of nuclear war. During the Cold War, schools held air-raid drills and civil-defense agencies set up shelters in public buildings for protection against fallout—the shower of radioactive particles following a nuclear blast. Even at the time, some experts doubted whether the shelters would be effective; most were dismantled during the 1980s.

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When Dogs Fly ...
Most dogs love to ride in the family car, but the family plane can be a different story. Michele McGuire, an experienced pilot from Westminster, Md., found that out the first time she took her dog, Cooper, for a ride in her Cessna. The normally playful dog started whimpering, then curled up in a ball at the rear of the plane. McGuire realized that the plane's ear-splitting engine noise was the culprit. Attempts to place foam plugs in Cooper's ears proved futile. Finally, it dawned on McGuire: If pilots could wear bulky headsets, why not dogs? She and a fellow pilot set out to develop Mutt Muffs—an over-the-head hearing protector especially contoured for a dog's skull. McGuire estimates that Mutt Muffs reduce noise by 21 to 24 decibels, but she hopes to have their effectiveness tested by an independent laboratory. Since Mutt Muffs went on sale in January, she has sold about 125 of the headsets, which cost $52. Most customers have been pilots, but McGuire has also had inquiries from pet owners who want to prevent their dogs from being frightened by thunder.

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A Modest Proposal
Clothing designers can sometimes change how people live and play, as they did for young Somali women in Kenya's refugee camps. Volleyball is one of the few leisure activities for these women, whose families fled the war in neighboring Somalia in the 1990s. But spiking and serving can be difficult while wearing the traditional Somali hijab: the players tend to get tangled up in the long head scarves. "Most of us are Muslims, and we want to preserve our religion," says Farhiyo Farah Ibrahim, 23. The United Nations refugee agency, along with Nike, came to the rescue. Nike's designers helped the women devise a modest but sporty hijab that allows more freedom of movement. Although some traditionalists still disapprove of sports for women, the Somali refugee community approved one of the uniform designs. "Our arms will be free now," says Hamdi Hassan Hashi, 27, one of the players. "There won't be as much cloth in the way."

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Judas, Minus the Betrayal
An ancient Christian manuscript, including the only known text of the Gospel of Judas, has surfaced after 1,700 years, and it portrays Judas Iscariot not, as tradition holds, a betrayer of Jesus but as his favored disciple and willing collaborator. In this text, scholars report, Jesus asks Judas to betray him to the Roman authorities. Some experts say the text sheds new light on the relationship between Jesus and Judas. Others say it is yet another scripture produced by the Christian cult of Gnostics, whose followers lived a few hundred years after Jesus' day and could not possibly have written anything accurate about his life. The document, made around 300 A.D., was discovered in the 1970s near El Minya, Egypt. It is considered the most significant ancient, nonbiblical text to be uncovered in the past 60 years. Previous major finds include the Dead Sea Scrolls, discovered in a cave near the Dead Sea in 1947, and a collection of Gnostic writings, found in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945.

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Could a Giant Fish Be the Missing Link?
Fossils of a scaly, 375-million-year-old creature may be a long-sought "missing link" in the evolution of some fishes from water to a life walking on land. A team of scientists led by Neil H. Shubin of the University of Chicago says they found several skeletons of the fossil fish in streambeds of the Canadian Arctic. The fossils have fins, scales, and other attributes of a fish four to nine feet long. But in front fins of the fish, scientists found the beginnings of digits, wrists, elbows, and shoulders— all evidence of limbs in the making. The fish also has a flat skull like a crocodile's, a neck, ribs, and other parts similar to those of early four-legged land animals known as tetrapods.

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Climbing the Walls
William Fredericks grew up near the Rocky Mountains, home to some of the best rock climbing in the country. But until last fall Fredericks, 15, a freshman at Adams City High School in Commerce City, Colo., had never experienced the sport for himself. Then he joined the Climbing Eagles, a competitive team at his school. Fredericks now finds climbing far more exciting than traditional sports. "I love the mental game in climbing," he says. More than 50 high schools nationwide have established climbing teams, with about 1,000 students participating. "In five years, it's very possible that climbing could be a common sport at hundreds of high schools," says Duane Raleigh, 46, editor of Rock and Ice, a climbing magazine. Competitions pit school against school on indoor climbing walls peppered with plastic hand-holds. The object is to see who can climb the highest on the most difficult route; points are awarded to individuals and then tallied to form team scores.

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