Dispatches > In Brief

In Brief

News highlights from around the world

Issue: "Ghost busting," Aug. 24, 2002

Cloning's mad scientist

Dr. Panayiotis Zavos, the University of Kentucky professor who announced last year that he would attempt to clone a human being, last week introduced America (sort of) to the person he wants to clone.

He went on CNN with a disguised married couple named "Bill" and "Kathy." He announced plans to make a clone with the wife's DNA and a donor's egg. He would remove the donor's DNA before implanting the egg into a surrogate mother.

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Dr. Zavos, who runs a conventional fertility clinic in Lexington, claims his experiments will produce a child next year for the infertile couple. He says that others will follow and that over 5,000 couples were willing to pay an estimated $80,000 for the procedure.

Some pro-lifers compare Dr. Zavos to a mad scientist. Family Research Council President Ken Connor said the effort represents an ethic that anything "not prohibited is permitted" and noted that 85 percent of Americans support a ban on cloning.

Digital debate

Ready or not, here comes digital TV. The FCC is ready, and this month it demanded that all but the smallest new televisions must be able to receive digital broadcast signals by 2007. Manufacturers aren't ready, and they say they will take the FCC to court. They argue that the rule will add $250 to the price of the average TV set.

Digital TV is loaded with both positives and negatives. It promises vivid pictures and crisp sound for the handful of programs currently available. But most programs today are produced for analog TV, as was virtually everything produced in the past, so improvements may be slight.

Upscale viewers with HDTV sets would benefit most from the FCC's policy, since it means more digital transmissions. For the estimated 15 percent of TV owners without cable, it means better pictures. The rest of America may notice little, except when they try to buy a new TV.

Regulators may have their own agenda for digital TV: They want to take the existing UHF and VHF spectrums and auction them off for wireless phone service and other uses.

Full-contact basketball

Slamball is America's newest sport. This "full-contact" game is a bouncier variant of basketball. Special courts feature four trampolines around each basket, so players can jump higher. Slam-dunks are worth three points each.

Slamball debuted on the revamped TNN network this month, with games lasting only 16 minutes. Two teams of four players each play on a court surrounded by 12-foot-high Plexiglas walls, so the ball stays in play. Rules about body contact were inspired by hockey.

Some call Slamball an attempt to keep extreme sports going after the disaster of the XFL and to attract under-35 viewers. Slamball's handlers are careful not to seem too extreme, however. They don't want fans to think the competition is staged. "Everyone is trying to win, and winning is the only thing that matters," they announce on the TV show's website.

Remembering Sept. 11

How do you commemorate an anniversary like 9/11? The looming date has everyone from civic leaders to TV programmers pondering that question.
Don't expect to see many commercials on TV that night. The major networks plan to air few or none due to advertiser skittishness. NBC will air a special memorial concert, while ABC and CBS will air re-creations of the government's responses to the attack.

Many expect Americans to be fearful, so airlines are cutting back flights on that date. American, United, and Delta trimmed their schedules, and several European airlines canceled flights to the United States on Sept. 11. Meanwhile, a few outfits have offered free air flights and hotel rooms on the famous date.

President Bush will mark the anniversary by visiting New York, the Pentagon, and the field in Pennsylvania where United Flight 93 crashed. New York's major commemoration will be the lighting of an "eternal flame" at a memorial near Ground Zero.

In Manhattan, which was forever changed by the World Trade Center attacks, Broadway producers grappled with whether to cancel performances that day. Megahit The Producers and several other shows will play that day, but major shows like The Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and Les Miserables will go dark.

Crime-fighting medicine

Are today's murder rates lower because modern medicine keeps victims alive? A Harvard Medical School study found that better emergency room care each year keeps alive tens of thousands of people who would have been homicide statistics 40 years ago.

The death rate among assault victims fell nearly 70 percent over the past 40 years. "People who would have ended up in morgues 20 years ago are now simply treated and released by a hospital, often in a matter of a few days," said study leader Anthony R. Harris, a sociologist at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

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