Of Human Interest: News lite

July 29, 2002 at 4:30 AM
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Divers excavating the turret of the Civil War ironclad USS Monitor have found what may be human remains of those who died nearly 140 years ago when the Union ship sank in a storm.

The two bones, one about 7 inches and the other about 11 inches, were found in silt near two cannons, John Broadwater, manager of the Monitor National Marine Sanctuary, told the Charlotte Observer.

The Monitor was launched in 1862 and fought to a draw with the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia near Hampton Roads, Va. The sunken ship is located off the North Carolina Coast.

The turret, the most recognizable feature, allowed the ship to fire its weapons without having to turn the whole ship, the paper said.


In Sitalganj, India, the rain gods apparently were not moved. Agence France-Presse reports women in northern India have resorted to ritual naked rain dances to ask the gods for rain for the parched farmland and to keep their husbands happy.

Each night, 80-year-old Maha Devi leads a group of 40 women to the fields to perform the ancient dance. They take off their clothes, sing and dance and at dawn, they dress and go home.

So far, AFP reports, the prayers have fallen on deaf ears as the area, known as the nation's food bowl, is facing its worst drought in 12 years.

In the Aligarh district, women have a slightly different ritual -- they take off their clothes and plow the fields naked.


University of Michigan researchers in Ann Arbor are questioning the general feeling bigger and heavier vehicles translate into more safety.

They report vehicle quality actually is a better safety predictor than weight.

"Safety is a challenging concept. It includes the design of the car itself, driver demographics and behavior, the kinds of roads, the time of day -- a whole host of factors," physicist Marc Ross said in a statement. "What we need to do is move away from the idea that bigger and heavier vehicles are automatically safer."

Ross says by-and-large, the big sport-utility vehicles are not safer than smaller cars. Popular midsize cars, minivans and import luxury cars have the safest records, while SUVs are about as risky as the average midsize or large car, and are no safer than many compact and subcompact models.


The Upper Peninsula of Michigan, known for its natural beauty and untouched acres, may be in danger, say environmentalists who are worried about the sale of a tract of lakeshore and forest land about five times the size of Detroit.

The Detroit Free Press says the sale of some 390,000 acres, set for later this year, has prompted the state and conservancy groups to join to protect some 200 lakes and the land from development.

The newspaper says the Kamehameha Schools Trust of Hawaii owns the land, which extends to some 10 UP counties. The trust expects to make more than $150 million in the sale.

Ray Fenner, executive director of Superior Wilderness Action Network in northern Minnesota, said the UP land must be preserved by whatever means. "It would be a tragedy if future generations wouldn't be able to see that land," Fenner told the newspaper. "If it all goes private, it's gone."

Some UP residents fear a company will develop homes and log the forests. If this happens, thousands of miles of snowmobile trails could be taken out of use.

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