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By United Press International  |  Nov. 17, 2006 at 6:30 AM
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Scientists look into crystal balls

LONDON, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Britain's New Scientist magazine celebrated its 50th birthday by inviting scientists to speculate on what the next half century will bring.

The wisest of the group was probably Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist who refused to make any predictions, The Telegraph reported.

"This is an invitation to look foolish," he said.

Other scientists were more forthcoming. Ellen Heber-Katz of Philadelphia's Wistar Institute predicted that in the next 50 years drugs will be developed that will allow hearts to regenerate and severed spinal cords to fuse together.

Daniel Pauly, head of the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia, said he believes a big step will be devices that allow scientists to determine what other animals are thinking. He expects the process to start with the nearest relatives to humans, the great apes, and then move to other mammals and then to other vertebrates like fish.

"This would cause, obviously, a global revulsion at eating flesh of all kinds, and we would all become vegetarians," he said.

Fired exec charged with hacking e-mail

NEW YORK, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- An information technology specialist fired from a New York publishing company has been charged with hacking into the company's e-mail.

Stevan Hoffacker allegedly used his skills to intercept discussions between the human resources department at Source Media and company executives -- and then sent employees e-mails warning them they were about to be fired -- the New York Daily News reported. The company realized an electronic intruder was in the system when one employee told his boss about the e-mail.

The FBI helped the company trace the e-mail to Hoffacker, who faces federal charges.

Source Media, formerly known as Thomson Media, publishes American Banker and The Bond Buyer. Hoffacker was fired in 2003 as vice president of information technology -- a job that, among other things, involved supervising the company's e-mail system.

Judge refuses to stop middle school play

CHICAGO, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Chicago has refused to block a suburban middle school from performing a play that some claim is offensive to Italian-Americans.

Judge James Grady said in his ruling the school's freedom of expression at Rotolo Middle School in Batavia holds more weight than potential offense, the Aurora (Ill.) Beacon News reported Thursday.

Grady said he had not read the play, titled, "Fuggedaboudit: A Little Mobster Comedy," but an attempt to halt the production would go against the First Amendment rights of the students involved in the production, which opens Friday.

"It's called pre-censorship," said Anthony Scariano, a defense attorney who represented the Batavia School District. "That's the highest burden to overcome."

The restraining order and injunction against the performance was sought by attorney Joseph Rago on behalf of the Order of the Sons of Italy in America.

Rago said he was "disappointed" by the ruling and the group was considering an appeal.

Traffic signs coming down in cities

BRUSSELS, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- European cities are finding that doing away with traffic signs in the hope it will make drivers more responsible without imperiling safety is paying off.

One such city is Drachten in the Netherlands, which hasn't encountered too many problems after getting rid of 16 of its traffic light crossings, reports Germany's Der Spiegel.

Under a plan approved by the European Union, traffic planners want streets free of rules and directives so drivers and pedestrians can interact in a free and humane way, Der Spiegel said. Among cities joining in the effort are Ejby in Denmark, Ipswich in England and Ostende in Belgium.

Makkinga in the Dutch province of Western Frisia with a population of 1,000 has already implemented the program and now welcomes visitors with a sign, "Verkeersbordvrij" or "free of traffic signs."

"The many rules strip us of the most important thing -- the ability to be considerate. We're losing our capacity for socially responsible behavior," Dutch traffic expert Hans Monderman, one of the project's co-founders, told Der Spiegel.

Psychologists who support the project say typically 70 percent of traffic signs are ignored anyway, says the report.

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