Archive for Monday, February 14, 2005

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February 14, 2005

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New York

Central Park display draws record crowds

More than 700,000 art lovers walked through "The Gates" over the weekend -- bringing record crowds to Central Park, according to early estimates.

The saffron-colored sheets billowing across 23 miles of footpaths attracted throngs far larger than are seen on the sunniest of spring days, said city Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe.

Parks officials estimated that up to 350,000 people visited the exhibit when it opened Saturday. Official estimates for Sunday were not available. But Central Park Conservancy head Doug Blonsky said it appeared that there were even more people in the park Sunday.

"The Gates" is the creation of artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who erected the 7,500 15-foot-tall gates at no cost to the city. The exhibition, which cost them $21 million to assemble, will be up until Feb. 27.

California

Lawyers to narrow Jackson trial jury pool

Attorneys in Michael Jackson's child-molestation trial are turning to the tough job of finding jurors who can judge the pop star not as a legend but as a defendant.

Finding a jury of peers is a daunting task when the defendant lives in a storybook mansion with its own amusement park.

"If you talk about a jury of your peers, it would have to be Madonna, Liza Minnelli and maybe Elvis," said former San Francisco prosecutor and trial watcher Jim Hammer. "Michael looks like nobody else in the courtroom."

Jackson is black, while the community which will supply the jury is mostly white. Many prospects who appeared in court two weeks ago to fill out eight-page questionnaires told the judge they were barely scraping by.

Today, attorneys on both sides begin thinning the nearly 250 prospects who filled out detailed questionnaires to 12 jurors and eight alternates. Jury selection was delayed a week because of the death of Jackson attorney Thomas Mesereau Jr.'s sister.

Maryland

Nudists lobby for return to state's shores

Years ago it wasn't just horses that ran wild on Maryland's Assateague Island -- in summer naked sunbathers cavorted in the waves beside them. Now an association for nudists has been lobbying the state's General Assembly to let them return to the natural habitat.

But the Maryland lawmaker who represents the island is wildly opposed.

Delegate Bennett Bozman, D-Worcester, said he's listening to his constituents, and they are strongly against nudism on Assateague.

"My people would eat me alive," Bozman said about the idea of introducing legislation to allow naked bathing.

But Susan Weaver, the public relations chairwoman for the American Association for Nude Recreation, said nudism was just about good community-oriented people who enjoy getting out of their clothes.

There are two nudist groups in the United States with approximately 47,000 members.

Michigan

Researchers restore hearing in deaf mammals

Michigan researchers have restored hearing in deaf mammals for the first time, a feat that represents a major step toward the treatment of the 27 million Americans with acquired hearing loss.

By inserting a corrective gene with a virus, the team induced the formation of new cochlear hair cells -- the key intermediates in converting sound waves into electrical impulses -- in the ears of artificially deafened adult guinea pigs.

They later demonstrated that the animals responded to sounds, according to the study published today in the journal Nature Medicine.

Humans have about 16,000 hair cells in the cochlea of each ear, where they convert sound waves into nerve impulses. The cells are easily damaged by loud noises, aging, infections and certain medications.

Once damaged, they cannot regenerate on their own.

Even if experiments are successful, experts said, the required studies for safety and efficacy mean that it will be the better part of a decade, at least, before the technique can be tried in humans.

Detroit

Report may link blood traces to Jimmy Hoffa

The FBI crime lab has found traces of blood in the floorboards of a house in northwest Detroit where Teamsters boss Jimmy Hoffa may have been killed, raising hope that investigators might solve one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries.

Bloomfield Township Police Chief Jeffrey Werner said Sunday that the FBI told one of his detectives several weeks ago that technicians had found blood in boards investigators removed from the home in the 17800 block of Beaverland last May. Werner said the FBI didn't think it was Hoffa's blood, but needed to conduct more tests to be sure. Werner said the FBI planned to issue its findings in a report he still hasn't received.

Hoffa, 62, vanished July 30, 1975, from the parking lot of a Bloomfield Township restaurant. He had gone there to meet with Detroit Mafia captain Anthony Giacalone and Anthony Provenzano, a New Jersey Teamsters official, to make peace with Provenzano.

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