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Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Do What You Love and You'll Probably Starve
By Marty Nemko

We've been sold a bill of goods when we're told to "Follow your passion, " or "Do what you love and the money will follow." Fact is, if you do what you love, you'll probably starve.

Yes, some people do what they love and the money follows. Others make less money but still are happy, but millions of people have followed their passion and still haven't earned enough money to even pay back their student loans, let alone make a middle-class living doing what they're passionate about.

The problem is that too many people crave the same few careers, for example, the arts and non-profit work. Because employers in these fields get dozens if not hundreds of applications for each job, you have to be a superstar or extremely well-connected to get the job. In other cases, salaries tend to be low or nonexistent. Do what you love and volunteer work will probably follow.

The irony is that the small percentage of people who do make a living in "do-what-you-love," "follow-your-passion" careers, are on average, no happier than people in less sexy jobs.

Here's why. Not only do salaries in "cool" careers tend to be low, employers in those fields know they needn't treat their employees with kid gloves because zillions of other capable people are panting for the opportunity to work 60 hours a week for $27,521 (with no benefits) for the good feeling of knowing they're playing an infinitesimal role in saving the spotted owl or whatever, even though they may never get closer to a spotted owl than a pile of accounts receivable statements.

So there are plenty of unhappy people in so-called cool careers. That's true even in unarguably cool careers. Think of how many stars have big-time problems with drugs or depression. Kurt Cobain, John Belushi and Janis Joplin loved their cool career so much they killed themselves.

Other people's passion is status. So, for example, they endure years of boring law school and accumulate boatloads of student debt for the privilege of slaving under a 2,200-billable-hour quota for the law firm of Dewey, Cheatham and Howe, with a futon in their office so they can sneak in a few "zzzs" in the middle of the all-nighters they pull to boost the chances of another lawyer's corporate client giving money to their corporate client.

Other status seekers prostitute themselves to climb the corporate ladder. They put in 60-plus-hour workweeks and kiss up to their bosses, smilingly willing to uproot themselves and their families for a few years in Dubuque, Tuscaloosa, and/or anyplace else the company wants to dump them. They endure years of theoretical crap in an MBA program so they can put those three letters on their resume. And for what? So they may finally get a title of director or vice president, and after their 12-hour cover-their-butt workday, collapse on their sofa, get blitzed and stare at their oversized living room in their oversized neighborhood wondering, "Is that all there is?"

In contrast, if your job is mundane, for example, marketing manager for the Ace Processing Company, the employer knows there aren't hundreds of competent people champing at the bit for your job. So, to keep you, the employer is more likely to offer decent working conditions, reasonable work hours, kind treatment, opportunities for learning, and pay you well. Those are the things that, much more than being in a "cool" career, lead to career contentment.

You say you want status? Unless you're a true superstar (brilliant, driven, great personality, or have great connections), give it up. Status is often the enemy of success. You're more likely to find career contentment in a lower-status career. In my mind, someone who's an honorable assistant manager for the Ace Processing Co. is more worthy of respect than many lawyers, investment bankers, and business development VPs I know. If someone thinks less of you because your job isn't high-status, they don't deserve to be your friend.

Advice I'd Give My Child
If you're at all entrepreneurial, I recommend starting your own business. Yes, I know, only 20 percent of new businesses are still in business after five years, but you can beat the odds. Just this one rule: Do not innovate. Copy a successful simple business. Innovations are risky. Your product might not work, may not be popular with the public, or a competitor could beat you to market. Why be a guinea pig? Drive around to find a simple business at which customers are lined up out the door. For example, see a successful burrito shop or espresso cart? Open a similar one in a similar neighborhood. Your chances of success will be a helluva lot higher than 20 percent. Confine your urge to innovate to your hobbies.

Another approach to finding a good business is to pick a grungy one, for example, automatic transmission repair or mobile home park maintenance. Few top-notch people go into such businesses, so if you do a decent job, you'll probably make good, maybe great, money. And you'll feel better about your work, having people coming to you and thanking you, and owning your own business rather than slaving away for some boss ever fearing your job will be downsized or shipped to India.

You say you don't have the knowledge to run such a business? No problem. For example, I don't know squat about transmissions, but if I wanted to open a transmission shop, I'd find the best transmission mechanic, pay him well and hire a consultant who is the owner a successful transmission shop far enough from my store that he wouldn't fear my competition. The two of them would teach me how to set up my business. Then, I'd spend my time building relationships with car repair shop owners so I'd get their referral business.

If starting a business from scratch seems too scary, consider a franchise. According to Robert Bond, author of Bond's Franchise Guide 2004, some of the best include Jani-King commercial cleaning, Merry Maids residential cleaning and Aussie Pet Mobile, a grooming service. When you find a franchise that sounds appealing, be sure to speak with at least 10 of the franchise's franchisees at random before signing on the dotted line.

If you're not at all entrepreneurial and want to be well employed, here are some areas where the job market is not hypercompetitive: Court reporting, car finance & insurance, accounting, insurance, sales of little known commercial products, health care, health care administration, fundraising, financial services, anything serving Latinos (entertainment, schools, hospitals, criminal justice system), anti-terrorism and biotech regulatory affairs.

Remember, you're more likely to find career contentment by going far from the madding crowd.

Five ways to make blind dating fun
By Debbie Magids, Ph.D.

Dating can be hard. Some people even say it feels like a second job and that each date can feel like a job interview, or a chore, if you're the one asking all of the questions. It can be tough to keep going out, time and time again, with people you are not attracted to or those who find attractive, but don’t call for a second date.

What to do? A Blind Dating Makeover. Make a strategic plan for having fun:

1. Readjust your thinking. Instead of viewing your outing as yet another date, make it into an adventure. The night has to be open to possibilities. You'll be amazed at how changing your thoughts helps to change how you feel about a situation. Give the guy/gal a chance, even if they’re boring. Sometimes, still waters run deep. You just never know. Like an old sweatshirt, at times, you just have to let things grow on you.

2. Do an external makeover. Go out feeling great about yourself, really attractive, smart and sexy. Buy a new outfit. Get your hair cut. Get you nails done. Trim your beard or shave your legs. Do whatever it takes to make yourself feel attractive from the outside in.

3. Do an internal makeover. Change how you feel from the inside, as well. Remember, if you're boring, the date will be boring. If you’re fun, the date will be fun. It doesn't guarantee a connection, but it does mean it won't be another depressing night.

4. Have an exciting, "palatable" experience. Go to restaurants you've never tried before. Eat foods you never tried. Drink drinks you never tasted. Indulge in dessert. Those things will give you pleasure and something to talk about with your date.

5. Try an activity you've never tried before or haven't wanted to do alone. Go hiking, skating, or something that's fun, regardless of the company.
Remember, you only get one life. If part of yours is looking for a mate, try enjoying the process. It’s what life is all about. Then, no matter what, you win!

Lonely granddad seeks family to adopt him
Italian's appeal in classified ads tugs heartstrings across nation

MILAN, Italy - "Elderly retired school teacher seeks family willing to adopt grandfather. Will pay."

Lonely Giorgio Angelozzi, 79, published his appeal in the classified pages of daily Corriere della Sera over the weekend, tugging on heart strings across family-loving Italy.

The classics teacher has lived alone outside Rome with seven cats since his wife died in 1992 but on Monday he had received dozens of replies from across the country.

"So many families want to adopt me as their grandfather," said Angelozzi who promised 500 euros (around $604) a month to the family who took him in. "So many families answered my appeal and want me to teach their children and their grandchildren about Horace and Catullus."

Among those who responded -- from southern Catanzaro to northern Milan -- was much-loved Roman popular music singer Antonello Venditti, one of Angelozzi’s former students.

"I was not expecting so much warmth, so much interest in my story," Angelozzi told Corriere on Monday. "But remember that my problem is one that affects so many elderly people in Italy."

Italy has long been famed for the central role of the family in society. But in recent years, as the divorce rate rises and families move more easily from city to city, elderly relatives are frequently left on their own.

In the record heat of summer 2003, 4,175 elderly people died. Many of them had been left to sweat out July and August in Italy’s sweltering cities where many pharmacies and food stores close down and basic services are cut back

Sunday, August 29, 2004

Urban Legends: Lies We Love to Tell
by Martha Brockenbrough

One of my Aunt Ruby's friends had the most terrible thing happen to her. Her fingers turned black and fell off, and nobody knew why until her doctor asked if she had cable Internet access at home. It turns out that cable access emits deadly spiral waves that will turn your fingers gangrenous if you stay online long enough.

According to an article a friend read in a magazine, the same thing has happened to at least three dozen other Internet users around the world, including two cats in Kalamazoo that sat on the computer monitor for warmth.

The magazine further reported that scientists at England's Brushworth-By-Sands College warned people in 1982 that it would happen. But dirty politicians let the technology through so they'd have the money to get reelected. Ever since, there's been a massive cover-up involving at least 27 members of Congress. You say you heard something similar? Then it must be true.

Only it's not. I made that whole story up. It's lies, all lies! I don't even have an Aunt Ruby, nor is there a Brushworth-By-Sands College. What I'm doing here is creating an urban legend--the kind of story that sounds as though it could have happened, seems real because it happened to someone I know, and has extra credibility because you're seeing it in print.

My tale fits the profile of an urban legend as urban legend expert Jan Harold Brunvand defines it: "a story in a contemporary setting (not necessarily a big city), reported as a true individual experience, with traditional variants that indicate its legendary character."

You've most likely received at least one urban legend in your e-mail inbox. I know I've received a fake Neiman Marcus cookie recipe at least five times. I might have believed it, too, if I hadn't also gotten a photocopy of a fake Mrs. Fields cookie recipe in the early 1980s. I believed that one was real, until I baked the cookies--they weren't even close to the real Mrs. Fields's. Still, that wasn't my first urban legend. The first one I heard was a Halloween warning that people were giving out LSD-laced Mickey Mouse tattoos instead of candy. Every kid I knew was freaked out about getting one, and it was all for nothing. The story just wasn't true.

It sure seemed like it could be, though, and this is one of the reasons people believe urban legends. According to Brunvand and others, we're eager to believe these stories because:

• They seem like they might be true. Either someone we trust is telling it, or it happened to a FOAF.
• They're good stories--scary or memorable or funny.
• They carry a message, one that confirms a world-view, such as that Neiman Marcus is greedy or that parents are bad for leaving their kids with babysitters.
• These are some of the same reasons we tell urban legends, too--with an addition of the "just-in-case" clause. Just in case it's true, I'll be doing a service if I pass the word along, right?
Many of these same forces help keep old wives' tales alive, too. Although old wives' tales don't usually contain a FOAF (and instead dispense nuggets of motherly wisdom and rules), we often believe them just the same. This is because it might somehow really be bad for the groom to see the bride before the wedding. Or, swallowed gum really might remain in your stomach forever. (Neither is true; and although gum can't be digested, it does pass through your system.)

Famous and true urban legends
So if the babysitter didn't roast the baby, and Neiman Marcus didn't charge a woman $250 for a chocolate chip cookie recipe, surely it's true that someone really did find a rat in their bucket of chicken?

Sorry, but there is no direct evidence to back up this story. A really great Web site for urban-legend aficionados, though, does report that a woman did find a deep-fried chicken head in her McNuggets. You can see a picture of the "McNoggin" here.

In other legends of indeterminate origin, no one has been able to prove that a woman was found in a grocery store parking lot slumped over her steering wheel because she thought she'd been shot. As the story goes, the gooey white brains the woman was holding in place were merely dough from an overheated tube of raw biscuits that had exploded, "shooting" her in the head.

Even though it sounds plausible, no one has found the woman, or a police report or other printed evidence supporting the tale. What's more, as Brunvand points out, tubes of biscuit dough don't routinely pop open--at least not in such a way that they could smack someone in the head.

Want to Learn More?
Urban legends are a particularly modern type of folklore--learn all about it in Encarta.
Get the scoop on the latest computer virus hoaxes, some of which bear a striking resemblance to urban legends.
The Snopes site features extensive information about all kinds of urban legends, including which ones are full of baloney.

Nor did a vacationing couple in Mexico bring home a giant rat for a pet, thinking it was a dog. Nor did a small child yell, "Cram it, clown" at Bozo during a TV broadcast. Even the story about the eagle carrying off a woman's Chihuahua, evoking cheers from her husband, is a mere legend (although it was reported in many newspapers, including the one I worked for at the time).

It is true, however, that a pretzel knocked out the leader of the free world. It's also true that a math student who showed up late for class solved a previously "unsolvable" problem that he copied off the blackboard thinking it was homework. You might have seen variations on this story in the movies Good Will Hunting and Rushmore; the guy who really did solve the math problem enjoyed a long and distinguished career in mathematical programming.

Tracking down the student who solved the "unsolvable" equation was a high point in Brunvand's career, he has said.

So how does he do it?

The urban legend hunt
In his book The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story, Brunvand describes the hunt for the origins of several famous urban legends--including the one about the hippie babysitter that, although I know better, continues to horrify me, probably because my toddler is upstairs with the babysitter as I type.

As the legend has it, the babysitter takes acid when the parents depart. Instead of roasting the turkey, as she is told, she cooks the baby and tucks the turkey into bed. Brunvand's account of this legend mentions a related yet also unproven kitchen tragedy: the microwave-induced explosion of a poodle that has been put there to dry by its feckless owner.

Brunvand not only scours other books for references to such stories, he also catalogs letters written to him by people who've learned about his academic work with urban legends. Brunvand tracks when the story was heard and where it was heard, so he can understand how long a tale has been in circulation and how far it has spread.

It's not enough to find people who heard the story from a FOAF. Brunvand looks for evidence of the actual person on the actual date the event is supposed to have happened. It is detailed academic work, and his chapters often cite as many as 50 source books validating the material.

Read All About It
Urban legends are a fascinating phenomenon that has inspired several books. Here are a few recommended titles:
Too Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand
Urban Legends: The Truth behind All Those Deliciously Entertaining Myths That Are Absolutely, Positively, 100% Not True by Richard Roeper
Encyclopedia of Urban Legends by Jan Harold Brunvand

What Brunvand is doing is working backwards from the edges of a story to its epicenter. This is how he found the real-life mathematician George Dantzig--and how he concluded that other urban legends are merely stories.

This can't be easy because of how quickly urban legends spread, especially in the age of instant communication. They're like a virus that spreads geometrically from one person to two people to four people, although the story's small details might change along the way. Finding the ground zero of truth in this environment is a lot harder than believing a story just because someone we trust told it to us.
But there is an easier way to avoid being duped.

The shortcut to "smart"
The last time I got the Neiman Marcus recipe in my inbox, the poor person who sent it foolishly forwarded it to an e-mail group of about 500 people at our company. Many of the people who knew it was a hoax ridiculed him publicly. I don't even want to think about the private e-mail replies he got.

This, in a nutshell, is why it's not a good idea to pass along an urban legend. Unless it's strictly for amusement and everyone is amused, you can end up looking like a real dope.

Most people don't have the time or talent to make a career out of researching urban legends, though. If that's the case, there are some simple ways you can protect yourself:
• Use common sense. Does it sound too good or weird to be true? Then it probably is. (A good example: the fake Nostradamus prediction of the World Trade Center attack.)
• Recognize the hallmarks. Does the story involve a FOAF? A dead pet? A message written in blood? The ghost of a long-dead child, a hitchhiker, or other such character?
• Get suspicious every time you get an e-mail that says "This is not a joke" or "forward this to everyone you know."
• Know where to go for research on urban legends.
• Keep Learning
Find online classes and degree programs.
The last tip is the most fun, because there are a ton of great books and Web sites that have collected the skinny on hundreds of legends. You can find out all sorts of fascinating variations on the story you may have heard.

Even better, you'll have that many more tales you can tell about strange things that really did happen to a friend of a friend somewhere.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Firm recalls candy with 9/11 attack toy
Trinket depicts airplane flying into World Trade Center

The toy, shown in a Friday photo, depicts a plane flying into the twin towers on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Associated Press

Updated: 4:50 p.m. ET Aug. 27, 2004MIAMI - Small toys showing an airplane flying into the World Trade Center were packed inside more than 14,000 bags of candy and sent to small groceries around the country before being recalled.

Lisy Corp., the wholesaler that distributed the candy, said Friday that the toys were purchased in bulk from a Miami-based import company.

The toys came in an assortment purchased sight unseen from L&M Import in Miami and included the toys depicting the Sept. 11, 2001, attack on the twin towers, whistles and other small toys, said Luis Pedron, Lisy's national sales manager. The invoice said the toy was a plastic swing set.

"I hate to blame the importer. He probably did not know what he was getting. He brings them in 40-foot containers. But whoever made it knew exactly what they were making," Pedron said.

Pedron said Lisy did not notice the small plastic figurines until two people complained, but there is no mistaking what the toys represent: At the bottom of each is the product number 9011.

"When we found out what happened, we recalled them immediately," said Pedron, who said the toys do not reflect the company’s view. "I was offended by them."

The company's 100 distributors sent out the candy bags. Most are sold to small Hispanic and Mexican groceries, Pedron said. He estimated about 90 percent of the bags have been collected.

Anna Rodriguez, who bought a bag of the candy for her grandson, said she was stunned when she saw the toy.

"It makes me angry," she told television station WFTV. "I was offended because I couldn't believe that someone would give something like that to a kid."

Pedron said he is saving the toys to return to the distributor.

A woman who answered the telephone at L&M and refused to give her name said Friday she did not know anything about the toy.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Saving Eden
Christopher Dickey joined us on Wednesday, August 25, at noon ET to discuss the pillaging of Iraq and whether priceless archeological artifacts can be saved.

With the future of Iraq so uncertain, the protection of its buried past has not really been a priority of the occupation troops or the new regime of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. But what there was in the beginning, in the world of the Bible, is what there was in the land now called Iraq. Now, every day and every night, the record beneath the sands is being destroyed. In what have become the lawless wilds of occupied Iraq, the history of civilization is being pillaged on an epic scale for a black market where irreplaceable fragments of our past are sold to museums, to sophisticated collectors or just to the highest bidder on e-Bay. When Columbia University professor Zainab Bahrani visited the Biblical site of Babylon late last spring, she was stunned to see an American military base, known as Camp Alpha, spreading across the hallowed ground. And among Muslim extremists, any graven image is seen as wicked, so what harm is there in stealing it and sending out of the country? How can these priceless artifacts be saved? Should it even be a priority? NEWSWEEK's Christopher Dickey joined us for a Live Talk to discuss these issues on Wednesday, August 25, at noon ET. Read the transcript below.

Christopher Dickey has served as NEWSWEEK's Middle East regional editor since 1993 and as Paris bureau chief since 1995. He reports on European politics, economy, society and new technologies, as well as developing stories throughout North Africa, the Near East and the Persian Gulf. An experienced combat reporter and expert on terrorism, Dickey led investigative coverage of the first World Trade Center plot in 1993. Since September 11, he has played a key role in NEWSWEEK's coverage of the war on terror. Dickey made his mark as a novelist with the prescient "Innocent Blood" (Simon & Schuster, 1997), the story of an all-American holy warrior recruited by an Al Qaeda-like group in a plot using smallpox virus to terrorize the United States, with Saddam Hussein as the villain behind the scenes. The sequel, called "The Sleeper," will be released next month. Dickey's work is included in "The Best American Science Writing 2002." He was also part of the team that in 2002 won NEWSWEEK the American Society of Magazine Editors Award for General Excellence and the Overseas Press Club Award for Best Magazine Reporting.

Christopher Dickey: Good afternoon. The looting of Iraq's underground archeological treasures is an enormous tragedy for anyone interested in the civilizations of the past that gave us the first written laws, religions and many of the critical events of the Bible. I'll be happy to answer your questions about what's happened so far, and what might be done to prevent the situation from getting worse in the future.


Garnavillo, IA: Is there any proof today that the Garden of Eden, as described in the Bible, really existed?

Christopher Dickey: No. There's no proof, and most archeologists take the story to be a metaphor for the creation rather than a literal description of events. But what's undoubted is that the world of Genesis, as it has come down to us, originates in the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates. Abraham was born at Ur, one of the ancient cities there.


Livermore, CA: Suppose 0.1% of USA's military people defended ancient artifacts? 0.1% of 80,000 Army people is 80 defenders.

Christopher Dickey: The American, Coalition and Iraqi military clearly have their hands full protecting themselves and the economic infrastructure of modern Iraq. There are more than 40 attacks a day against US forces there. The oil pipelines, as you know, are under constant threat. The resources required to protect archeological sites in such an environment are simply greater than anyone is likely to commit.


Canary Islands, Spain: Do you really believe there are artifacts buried there? Or could it all be a myth. Is the Bible true? Or a book written by someone with a vivid imagination?

Christopher Dickey: There is no question there are enormous numbers of artifacts buried beneath the sands and silt of Iraq. They and the ruins in which they are found are a window onto the world of the Bible that the book itself only begins to give us.


Costa Mesa, CA: I'm grieved about the looting of objects and sites where precious, valuable objects could be found, but I think our generation has become a generation of "Idol Worshipers". God's Word says, "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." God works in mysterious ways. Do you think God is allowing this current atmosphere because we have made objects more important than the the worship of the true and living God of the Bible?

Christopher Dickey: The question of idol worship is very relevant to the issue of looting. Muslims, even more than Christians and Jews, are deeply hostile to the idea of idol worship. And fundamentalist Muslims of the sort who make a virtue of suicid bombings are also, quite literally, iconoclasts, They would destroy (or loot and sell in this case) any symbol of idolatry. Which is why in Afghanistan they blew up the enormous Buddhas at Bamiyan. They also viewed the World Trade Center towers, in their way, as false idols, symbols of decadence and Mammon.


Anonymous: Have any of the artifacts been recovered and if they are found what can you possibly learn from them? Will they help answer the questions about the Scripture being real?

Christopher Dickey: The terrible thing about these thefts is that once an artifact is removed from the ground, we lose the context that provides at least 80 per cent of the information we might have gleaned from it. For example, suppose a battered cup from the first century were found for sale in a Middle Eastern marketplace. It would be worth very little. But what if it were found in the ground at site where Jesus and his disciples were known to have eaten at least one, last meal? The context would change everything.


London, Canada: There is nothing left of the Garden of Eden, no artifact at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where myth has placed the Temptation and the Fall. But the great cities and empires from the Books of Genesis and Kings and Chronicles have left their traces: God in his infinite wisdom has hidden things from the self professed pompous wise and revealed the truth onto babes and its obvious from your statement that you fall into the category of FOOL!

Christopher Dickey: Thanks for your thoughtful comment.


Livermore, CA: what can anyone do to save artifacts?

Christopher Dickey: We cannot begin to save most of these artifacts until law and order are reestablished more generally and effectively throughout Iraq. Until then, we can continue trying to strengthen security at some of the most famous sites, such as Ur, Babylon and Nineveh, and we can pursue as aggressively as possible the organized criminals and international dealers who trade in these items.


Mesa, AZ: Why was President Bush making plans to invade Iraq in early 2000?

Christopher Dickey: In early 2000, Bush was still a candidate. But even before 9/11 there were widespread fears among Middle East experts that Saddam Hussein might be rebuilding his weapons programs, and might share biological or chemical agents with some terrorist groups. These were legitimate concerns. The critical question was how best to address them. In the event, the invasion of Iraq created problems that many people -- including archeologists -- had predicted, but the administration was not prepared to address.


Livermore, CA: What can anyone do to save artifacts in Iran?

Christopher Dickey: Iran is an interesting problem. Although the lawlessness there is not nearly so extensive as in Iraq, there is widespread corruption that facilitates looting. It's also believed that a lot of the looted artifacts from Iraq are leaving the country through Iran.


Jakarta, Indonesia: If you think that historical valubles are being lost in Iraq, what should you do?

Christopher Dickey: For all the reasons we've discussed above, Iraq's antiquities are unlikely to be "the" of the United States or the Iraqi government for many years to come. But public attention and pressure can at least make antiquities "a" priority.


New York, New York: What is the significence of these artificates when there is so much unbelief and evil in the world. According to the Word of GOD in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Christ is image of the invisible GOD. If you believe, then all else has no substance or value.

Christopher Dickey: For those who believe that God created a world that is infinitely rich and complex, the study of history should be a pleasure, even an exaltation, not a threat to one's faith.


San Diego, CA: Isn't it ironic that the location of the Garden of Eden is today a desolate desert?

Christopher Dickey: It is a terrible irony, made worse by Saddam Hussein, who drained the marshes of the region in order to punish the tribes who lived there.


Portland, OR: How much will it cost to mummify my corpse? Should I start a savings plan?

Christopher Dickey: Cost should be congruent with your expectation that anybody might be interested in seeing it 3,000 years from now. Or three years for that matter.


Port Edwards, WI: How can you, and how dare you refer to the Garden of Eden, the temptation and fall, as "myth." Where do you get your misinformation that leads you to such a misguided conclusion, and why would a prominent magazine allow you to spred such lies?

Christopher Dickey: Read the article again. The literal truth of the creation is a matter of faith, which I didn't address. The specific location of Eden in southern Iraq is the stuff of myth.


Drexel Hill, PA: Why isn't the television being used to educate the people regarding the problem. Can't they have their own History Channel? Education is everything.

Christopher Dickey: Journalist Micah Garen was kidnapped earlier this month while making a TV documentary about the looting. Fortunately he was released a few days ago. But it's clear that one reason there is not more television coverage is that it's simply too dangerous to film.


Montrose, CO: Yes, I think the artifacts can be saved if cultures within that region are educated on how important their history is to them for there survival, and by having outside help as consultants.

Christopher Dickey: There are plenty of Iraqis with a finely developed sense of their own vast history, and there have been several consultants trying to help them. The problem here is being driven by necessity for the common laborers, by greed among collectors, and by organized crime.


Concord, MA: Under the present circumstances, when would you expect:

1. scholars and archeologists to be able to come to Iraq to begin studying these areas of interest

2. plans for reviving tourism to begin

Thank you,

Christopher Dickey: 1) not for another year or so. 2) not for three or four years at the earliest.
That said, there was an interesting project at the ruins of Hatra, near Mosul in northern Iraq. The opening scenes of the movie "The Exorcist" were filmed there in 1973, and some of the American troops near the site have tried to set up a tourist attraction called "The Exorcist Experience."


Anonymous: You have many questions concerning the validity of scriptures. The physical evidence proving that scripture is true and accurate is overwhelming. The "theory" of evolution; now that's hard to swallow. It is amazing that a college drop-out and barfly like Charley Darwin could not only be believed, but that our schools still teach his proven lies and imaginative fairy tales to our children as fact.
Perhaps people should be researching the right things to start with. Evolution vs. creation. Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.

Christopher Dickey: Questioning the validity of some of the physical evidence is not the same as questioning the validity of scripture.


Orlando, Fl: It is mentioned in your beginning headline that Muslim extremist think that Camp Alpha is wicked because it is spread across hallow ground. What do the normal Iraq think?

Christopher Dickey: That's not quite what the article said. The Columbia University archeologist, Zainab Bahrani, has a Muslim name. That does not make her a Muslim extremist.


Columbus, OH: Do you think some of our reluctant allies (e.g. France and Germany) could be persuaded to provide military or police personnel expressly to guard archaeological sites?

Christopher Dickey: Col. Matthew Bogdanos, whom we mentioned in the article, has made precisely this suggestion. It's a good one, and I'd like to see the French and the Germans put more pressure on their governments to follow up on it.


New York, NY: is it possible that us agression on Iraq was triggered by collecting as many artifacts, and that the U.S. Army are in conivance?

Christopher Dickey: There has been some looting by U.S. and other Coalition soldiers, but, no, I don't think a desire to loot the artifacts was in any way a motive for the invasion.


Lake Carey, PA: Have any artifacts or items of interest been discovered in any of the presidential palaces of Iraq? The lavishness shown on news reports would lead me to think that would be the case. And if so, what is the proceedure in dealing with any items recovered?

Christopher Dickey: The Iraqi Museum is supposed to be in charge of any such items. I don't know of specific cases, but there certainly would have been some. Saddam liked to identify himself, after all, with Nebuchadnezzar, and be claimed he was building the modern Babylon.


Hudson, FL: Do you believe that all lot of American soldiers have stolen sacred artifacts for the re-selling of them at low prices? Are we that dumb in the U.S., to fetch such a small price for these artafacts, since we are a nation of capitalists?

Christopher Dickey: It's possible that some soldiers are selling some artifacts, but nobody I talked to believes that is the core of the problem.


Hudson, FL: What is your opinion on the cave they discovered and saying that it might be the baptisamal cave of John the Baptist?

Christopher Dickey: Probably we'll never know with absolute, scientific certainty whether the historical John the Baptist was there. But the probability is intriguing, and for some people it is already becoming a shrine.


Dallas, TX: Since the topgraphy of the earth was changed by the Flood, how do we know that the sites of the present Tigris and Euphrates are in the same place as the two rivers by the same names mentioned in the book of Genesis in the Old Testament?

Christopher Dickey: Interesting thought. Even without the flood, there's no question the paths of the rivers have moved. But the cities of Ur, Nineveh and Babylon have not.


Ripon, CA: If these "priceless" artifacts are so valuable, to what purpose might they be used for anyway? To study history? Would this be by trying to date these pieces? Now it seems to me that "almost all" of the dating methods used so far have proven to bee so inaccurate that is is laughable. The reason is that those that try to date artifacts are using methods developed by narrow-minded evolutionists. If they cannot show one piece of evidence to support their theory, how can anyone continue to use any of their ideas? The saddest part is that our schools still teach our children that the world is "billions of years old" and that your great, great, great grandaddy was an ape! It is the new world of North America that needs God,s help the most.Let us study on Genesis 1:1 "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

Christopher Dickey: I don't think you seriously want me to comment, or would pay much attention if I did. But your note is interesting so I'm posting it here.


Johnstown, PA: Did the humane laws of Iraq (CODE OF URNAMMU) change to The harsh laws of Hammurabi(IN WHICH NO DISTURBER WILL BE PERMITTED) after Abraham left UR with strong disgreement and conflict with his father.(Honor thy father and thy mother?) Five new harsh laws which pertain to the Relationship of Father and Son.
This change of law was of such a magnitude it resembles the Patriot Law which a stark contrast to the liberal laws of the U.S.
Did Mesopotamia have a 9-11-2001 B.C?

Christopher Dickey: Not sure I understand this one ...


Indianapolis, IN: If you are aware of the scripture reference ... Babylon is fallen ... then you must realize that things in our world are only going to ''worsen'' rather than improve. This earth and its archeological artifacts is going to be destroyed according to Scripture. Do you know Jesus the Christ? His second coming (the Rapture) seems very close at hand.

Christopher Dickey: We'll have to take that as the final word for now.
Thank you all very much for sending in your questions and comments. I look forward to further exchanges in the not-too-distant future.

Search for the Sacred
In Israel, archeology fuels believers' passions and provokes skeptics in a sharp debate without end

By Jerry Adler And Anne Underwood

NewsweekAug. 30 issue - The 550 residents of Kibbutz Tzuba, a few miles down the road from Jerusalem toward Tel Aviv, mostly just want to be "left alone in their own little patch," Yael Kerem says apologetically. She ought to know, as marketing director for the guesthouse with which the kibbutz supplements its main businesses, a fruit and dairy farm and a small factory that makes bulletproof windshields. Yet even as she spoke last week, her cell phone was burbling as requests poured in for tours and interviews: a group of monks from Jerusalem, five busloads of visitors from Turkey, reporters from the United States and Europe. She gestures expansively toward a stand of olive trees. "We might have to pave over this area," she says, "so we can park the buses."

Israel, it has been said, is a place of too much history and too little geography. The very earth beneath Kibbutz Tzuba's nectarine trees hides the walls of settlements going back to the dawn of civilization, cisterns and caves used by wanderers in the time of Jesus. Wanderers very much like the Biblical John the Baptist, who, according to written tradition dating to the fourth century, was born just two miles from here. That distinction meant little, though, until last week, as word spread of a new book by one of Israel's most ambitious archeologists, Shimon Gibson, who spent three years excavating a cave on the grounds of Kibbutz Tzuba. Gibson's electrifying claim is that the cave contained a man-made pool in which John—and possibly even Jesus himself—may have performed the ritual cleansing known as baptism. If those claims are accepted—already a chorus of skeptics is rising to dispute them, and it is hard to see how they could ever be proved—the Tzuba cave would be, for Christians, one of the holiest places on earth.

Which is, perhaps, a mixed blessing, and not just for the kibbutzniks who would prefer an olive grove to a parking lot. The buried history of the Holy Land is a subject of no less contention than its endlessly fought-over land and water. In this part of the world, shards of pottery and scraps of parchment are weapons. The father of Israeli archeology, Yigael Yadin, who died in 1984, sought to show that the Jews' claim to the land of Israel dates back 3,200 years to the conquests of Joshua. The extreme wing of the so-called minimalist school—which claims that Biblical accounts of a Jewish presence in the Holy Land have no basis in fact—is suspected in Israel of trying to undermine the case for Zionism. Both sides, though, have had to hold their fire in the face of the Palestinian uprising, which in four years has reduced the number of full-scale academic digs in Israel from about 45 to approximately four. William Dever, professor emeritus at the University of Arizona at Tucson and one of America's leading authorities on Near Eastern archeology, calls the situation in his discipline "a crisis." And Jews and Arabs are both wary and solicitous of the powerful American Christian groups who support research aimed at vindicating the Gospels, for which there is virtually no surviving physical evidence. For all that his words did to change history, during Jesus' time on earth he was but one man among 300 million, his tracks long since covered by the dust of the centuries.

The quest for artifacts related to Jesus Christ spans virtually the entire history of the church, from the fourth century, when Saint Helena is said to have retrieved a piece of the True Cross, to two years ago, when an Israeli antiquities collector produced a stone box with an inscription suggesting it had held the remains of Jesus' brother James. Each era sees in these relics a reflection of what it values most. The touch of the Cross was believed able to bring back the dead; the owner of the so-called James Ossuary valued it at $2 million. The magic powers of neither were put to the test, however, because both are now considered forgeries. Just two years ago the fragment of the Cross supposedly found by Helena—she said it was a part of the Titulus, the headboard with its famous inscription ("Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews")—was dated by scientists to be between the 10th and 12th centuries. As for the inscription on the ossuary (a limestone box in which first-century Jews stored the bones of their dead), "the overwhelming scholarly consensus is that it's a fake," according to Eric Meyers, a Judaic-studies scholar at Duke. The Israeli police have confiscated the box from the owner, who claimed to have bought it for $200. A minority, though, holds to the view of Hershel Shanks, editor of Biblical Archeology Review, and co-author of a book on the ossuary, that the inscription may be genuine.

Value of Archeology
In any case, serious scholars rarely bother with religious relics that turn up in churches or dealers' shops, removed from the vital archeological "context" that situates them in a time and place. "Even if the [James] Ossuary is genuine, it provides no new information," says Andrew Overman, head of classics at Macalester College. Nor do archeologists generally set out to prove, or disprove, a point of scripture, although there are fundamentalist groups that try to enlist them in that quest. "They've got big checkbooks, but they can't get anyone to take their money," says James Strange of the University of South Florida, Tampa, who directs one of the excavation teams at the first-century city of Sepphoris, the capital of lower Galilee. "They say, 'Would you help me find the giants of Genesis 6?' A serious archeologist can't expend his credibility on that."

The value of archeology is not in validating scripture, but in providing a historical and intellectual context, and the occasional flash of illumination on crucial details. An ossuary containing the only known remains of a victim of crucifixion suggests that artists may have erred in their depictions of Christ on the cross; this victim's feet were not nailed one on top of the other, but positioned on either side of the cross and fixed with a horizontal spike. Scholars like John Dominic Crossan, a professor emeritus of religious studies at DePaul University and former co-chair of the Jesus Seminar, can read volumes into a simple signpost in the Biblical town of Ephesus. "There's a gate to the market that Paul would have walked under," Crossan relates. "On top, it says Caesar is the son of God. When Paul applies that name to Jesus, it's not just a nice title. It's the title of Caesar. That is known as high treason."

Even more evocative to Crossan is a fishing boat discovered in the Sea of Galilee in 1986: a sturdy workhorse of a vessel with two oars on each side, a keel and mast, very likely the sort of boat on which Jesus himself might have set out. Crossan is intrigued by signs that the boat's owner fell on hard times, patching it over and over and finally removing the nails before pushing it out to sea. To Crossan—although other scholars dispute the point—this suggests that hard economic times had befallen the Galilee fishermen. Against this backdrop he sets the Biblical account of fishermen leaving their nets and following Jesus. "Did they just drop everything and take off after Jesus? Well, maybe. But maybe there were human reasons. Life was getting tough around the lake."

Perhaps the most revealing Biblical site excavated in recent years has been Sepphoris, five miles from Nazareth, which has been under excavation since 1985. Although not mentioned in the Bible by name, Strange believes it was the "city on a hill" Jesus had in mind in Matthew 5:14. It was razed by the Romans right around the time of Jesus' birth, and reconstructed afterward, and it's not unreasonable to think Jesus himself might have worked there. But more important than the chance of finding Jesus' tool belt is what it tells us about his milieu. "Jesus has a lot to say about the rich, and most of it is not good," says Strange. "This is where he would have encountered the rich, not in Nazareth." Archeologists have excavated three villas with interior courtyards, richly frescoed walls and luxury goods similar to those found anywhere in the Roman Empire—but unmistakably the homes of Jews, with ritual baths and inhabitants who obeyed Jewish dietary laws. (At least until the fourth century, when Christianity became the official religion and pig bones make a sudden appearance in the garbage.) "It gives us an entirely new way of thinking about the social context of Jesus' life," says L. Michael White, a religious-studies professor at the University of Texas at Austin. "He is not just a poor peasant from a remote village; he's living close to a large, multilingual urban center, heavily influenced by Roman culture."

For some believers, no doubt, this kind of information helps make the Bible more real; others, perhaps, don't really want to be told that the economics of the Galilee fishing industry was a factor in spreading the Gospel. But Christian believers have no quarrel with archeology, because they assume it will vindicate scripture eventually. On a hot and wind-swept Saturday afternoon, 34 tourists from Poland, most of them born-again Protestants, tramped the barren plateau of Megiddo behind their pastor, Janusz Szarzec. They had already spent the morning in Nazareth, and now they were taking in the high stone gates believed to be part of King Solomon's northern citadel—a simple demonstration, says Szarzec, that "excavations prove what was written in the Bible." His sky-blue eyes glistening, the pastor read to them a prophecy of the battle of Armageddon (Megiddo) from Revelation. "You must take this literally," he urged his flock, "because it's going to happen!"

Complicated Issue For Jews
But the issue is more complicated for Jews. Orthodox Jews consider it a sin to disturb Jewish graves, but Dever, the American scholar, suspects the issue of Jewish graves is hiding a more serious agenda: "They don't want scientific investigation," he charges, "because they're afraid it will prove their patriarchal stories aren't historical." And, in fact, current scholarship is not especially congenial to Old Testament literalists. There is, essentially, no evidence for the existence of Abraham and the other patriarchs, and—despite more than a century of intensive study of Pharaonic Egypt—only the barest wisps of support for the Exodus, the central event in Jewish theology. There are accounts of Egyptian raids into Palestine that brought back captives, presumably as slaves, and a dispatch from a border guard in the early 12th century B.C., reporting that two people had escaped from Egypt into the Sinai. On the basis of what has been found so far, "there was no Exodus, at least not of hundreds of thousands of people making a miraculous escape across the desert," Dever says. "And there was no conquest" of the land of Canaan by Joshua. "There are several chapters in Joshua on Jericho," says Carol Meyers, a professor of Biblical studies at Duke, "but Jericho wasn't even inhabited at the time." Some things do check out: an Egyptian artifact, the Merneptah stele, refers to a victory by Pharaoh's Army over the Israelites in about 1200 B.C. That date falls in the period when the minimalists deny that Jews even lived in the Holy Land. This particular question is so politically fraught, according to Claire Pfann, a New Testament scholar in Jerusalem, that minimalists have accused their opponents of forging evidence to bolster the Zionist case.

So the territory on which Gibson has embarked is a treacherous one, both politically and geologically, but for good or ill he has jumped in with both feet. Gibson, 45, was born in England to a mother who moved the family to Israel when he was 9, and he studied archeology at London's prestigious Institute of Archaeology. His peers consider him an outstanding archeologist in the field, but his decision to publicize his cave finding in a popular book before publishing in a scientific journal has raised some eyebrows. "I don't want to spoil the celebration," says Ronnie Reich, a respected archeologist with the Israel Antiquities Authority, "but I'm skeptical."

He first crawled inside the cave, Gibson writes, in 1999, brought there by a kibbutznik who had discovered it years earlier. On a wall he saw an incised drawing of a crude stick figure holding a staff, with one arm raised upright as if in blessing; he recognized it immediately as an icon of John the Baptist. That meant two things to him: that the cave was worth excavating, and that with the right connections, money would be available to help excavate it. He contacted an archeological enthusiast from Texas, Joseph Peeples, who raised funds from donors including John C. Whitehead, a wealthy New York banker and former deputy secretary of State under President Ronald Reagan. Whitehead, on a trip to Israel, visited the cave with Gibson and, after one look at the drawings, agreed to bankroll the excavation along with his friend and fellow financier Roger C. Altman. "You can't help but be a little tingly about what might have taken place there," Whitehead recalled last week. What neither of these men apparently realized—and what Gibson himself denies knowing—is that Peeples, who died in 2002, served time in prison on two separate federal fraud convictions. But there is no evidence that his connection to Gibson had any sinister purpose.

Peeples's other contribution was to put Gibson in touch with James Tabor, professor of early Christianity at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, who agreed to help with the dig—a role that included supplying students to wield the shovels. On a March day in 2000 two of those students, Lee Hutchison and Jeff Poplin, reached the floor level of a shelf on the right side of the cave. For days, the team had been unearthing pieces of thick, gray pottery from the fourth and fifth centuries. Gibson had already concluded that Byzantine monks, the ones who had engraved the icons on the wall, had probably established a shrine to John in the cave. At their feet, the students saw something new, a delicate red shard of pottery. They took it to Tabor, who showed it to Gibson, who at a glance pronounced it "First-century Roman."

And that put an entirely new face on things. As Gibson dug down, he found thousands of these shards, suggestive, to him, of pottery that was intentionally shattered, as if in a ritual. He uncovered a stone with an indentation in the shape of a human foot, linked by a channel to a small basin: it looked to him like a kind of font for anointing the foot with oil. And armed with those archeological clues, and the oral and written traditions linking John to the region, he makes what some of his colleagues call the stupefyingly audacious leap to the conclusion that John himself may have used the cave to baptize believers.

'Nothing is Certain'
"In archeology," Gibson admits, "nothing is certain, not even written evidence." But, he says, the evidence that the cave was used by John "is as strong as you can get in terms of archeological remains. Of course it would be nice to have an inscription saying, 'I, John the Baptist, was here and my disciples are using it as a ritual site.' But you usually don't get that."

Few of his colleagues, even the few who have seen the cave, go along with him. "Maybe Gibson and the kibbutz want to attract tourists," says David Amit, a senior archeologist with the antiquities authority who describes himself as a friend of Gibson's. "It's pure fiction. It's not archeology." Even Tabor, who agrees with Gibson that the cave was undoubtedly used for ritual purposes in the first century, concedes that "you can't prove John was there." Among other objections to Gibson's theory, there is nothing in scripture to suggest that John baptized believers anywhere except in the Jordan River. And there is little more than conjecture for a scenario sketched in Gibson's book by which John "might very well have sent Jesus intentionally to visit the scene of his early baptism activities ... and our [Tzuba] was just that place."

In any case, unless someone comes along with conclusive evidence to refute Gibson, for better or worse the cave will be attracting tourists for a long time to come. Two thousand years ago, Jesus, John and the disciples changed human destiny forever, and then disappeared into history. One way or another we have been trying to bring them back into our lives ever since.

With Dan Ephron and Joanna Chen In Israel, Emily Flynn In London, Julie Scelfo, Mary Carmichael and Claire Sulmers

Unearthing The Bible
Sacred relics lie scattered beneath the deserts of the Middle East. In Iraq, our religious history is being obliterated; in Israel, it's a question of faith.

Lost treasures: An Italian soldier peers into a hole scavenged by thieves

By Melinda Liu And Christopher Dickey

Newsweek InternationalAug. 30 issue - What there was in the beginning, in the world of the Bible, is what there was in the land now called Iraq. There is nothing left of the Garden of Eden, no artifact at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers where myth has placed the Temptation and the Fall. But the great cities and empires from the Books of Genesis and Kings and Chronicles have left their traces: Ur, where Abraham was born; rapacious Assyria with its capital, Nineveh, and Babylon, where the ancient Israelites were carried into captivity and where, as the psalm tells us, they wept when they remembered Zion.

Beneath the sands and silt of Iraq, for millennium after millennium, truths have waited to be pieced together about these legendary places that loom so large in the faith and culture of Jews, Christians and Muslims. "This is where the first writing began, where the first ideas of law and religions were written down," says archeologist McGuire Gibson at the University of Chicago. Golden calves, winged bulls and rampant lions have emerged from the dust, helping explain the consequential journey from the opulent polytheism of Mesopotamia to the more ascetic monotheism of the Promised Land. It is a story that has emerged slowly, painstakingly, over the past century from some 10,000 scientific excavations in Iraq and innumerable ones in Israel.

Across the Middle East, the quest for sacred artifacts and for the lessons they can teach us is taking on new urgency. Archeology is growing more sophisticated; the technology of dating relics is improving. Driven by curiosity and faith, ambition and sometimes avarice, diggers yearn to unearth the Bible, to try to solve its mysteries and reveal its secrets.

• Cave of the Baptist?
Aug. 16: Archaeologists found a cave where they believe John the Baptist may have anointed his disciples. MSNBC-TV reports.

It is the most challenging of archeological obstacle courses. In Iraq, the fall of Saddam Hussein raised hopes that new money and new freedoms would help open up many sites to more scientific investigation and restoration. But the ravages of war are clouding that prospect. In Israel, a rising tide of funds for Bible-related projects is flowing into Jerusalem and its environs, but archeology is an overlooked casualty of the intifada: the violence has cut down the number of active digs.

Indeed the hunt for treasure and truth is growing ever wilder and more worrisome. In the lawless deserts of occupied Iraq, history—both of the Bible and of the larger ancient world that scriptures only hint at—is being pillaged on an epic scale for a black market where irreplaceable fragments of our past are sold to sophisticated collectors, or just to the highest bidder on eBay. "It's wiping out a whole field of knowledge, of social and cultural history," says Gibson, "just so somebody can have a beautiful object sitting on the mantelpiece."

In Israel, much care is taken to preserve the slightest trace that might reveal literal truths about the mystical teachings of scripture. The tragedy of Iraq is that contexts are disappearing as fast as the objects them—selves. Archeologists are like crime-scene investigators trying to discover how whole societies lived and died. And to do that they need to know when, how—and especially where—each clue is found. "You take an object out of context, you are losing about 80 percent of the information it can give you," says Gibson. Near Nasiriya, in southern Iraq, a 2,700-year-old Sumerian site known as Um Al Agareb, "Mother of Scorpions," is crisscrossed by the tire tracks of looters' trucks. Holes are everywhere. "It makes you cry," says John Russell, an American archeologist who advised the Iraqi Culture Ministry until June. The thieves no longer wait for the cover, or even the cool, of the night. One day last week a portly 35-year-old who said his name was Hassan clawed the earth with a pickax and shovel in 120-degree heat. When asked why, his answer was simple. "We are poor people," he said. According to Donny George, director of the Iraqi National Museum, laborers like Hassan sell the pieces they find for as little as $10 to $15. Those same artifacts may be sold for thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars in Europe, the United States or Japan.

The looting of the museum itself last year created an international sensation as American troops were accused of standing by while more than 100,000 artifacts were stolen. Those numbers were inflated. But more than 8,000 pieces are still missing, of which almost 30 are considered of unique historical and artistic importance. Col. Matthew Bogdanos, a Marine reservist and Manhattan assistant district attorney who led the investigation of the museum theft last year, believes that most of this hoard is being held off the market by organized gangs waiting for prices to rise. In New York, Middle East scholar and author Joseph Braude pleaded guilty this —month to smuggling three delicately etched ancient seals into the United States. He said he paid only $200 for the three of them together. The cylinders were marked with the letters IM, for Iraqi Museum, as well as with serial numbers from the collection. Braude's lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, tells NEWSWEEK his client had no part in any looting.

Treasures stolen from the ground can't be traced easily—if at all. "If you are a bad guy [looting a dig], your chances of being caught go way, way down," says Bogdanos. Artifacts can make their way to high-end boutiques, along with papers from unscrupulous dealers "proving" they were found a century ago.

On the ground in Iraq the pillaging is all but impossible to stop. Earlier this month American journalist Micah Garen was abducted while working on a documentary about efforts to protect Iraq's treasures. His captors have threatened to behead him. With the future of Iraq so uncertain, the protection of its buried past is not really a priority of the occupation troops or the newly sovereign regime of Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. "The reality is, we put Iraqi guards on many of the most important sites with little training, and at first they weren't armed," says Bogdanos. "Four men pull up in a pickup truck, and they are armed: What are you going to do? Is the guard going to lay down his life for antiquities? Do you put an American platoon on every site?"

As it is, the Coalition military sometimes makes matters worse. When Columbia University professor Zainab Bahrani visited the site of Babylon late last spring, she was stunned to see an American military base spreading across the hallowed ground. Workers scooped up earth potentially rich in relics to make blast walls. Bulldozers carved out helicopter landing pads, and the vibrations from the choppers themselves did still more damage. Portions of two ancient temples have collapsed and Nebuchadnezzar II's palace is threatened. "We're very worried about the palace walls," said Bahrani. "They're made of brick. They rattle when the helicopters take off."

For believers contemplating the rise of the looters, lines from the Revelation of Saint John the Divine may come to mind: "Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen." For archeologists, for the faithful, for all of us, the loss of this past impoverishes the future. Ripping artifacts from their contexts takes away the last chance we have to know those civilizations—from the world of Abraham to that of Nebuchadnezzar—that gave us our own.

With Babak Dehghanpisheh in Baghdad

Monday, August 23, 2004

Strange-But-Real College Scholarships
by Jennifer Merritt

Thanks to inheriting Dad's klutz gene, you're hardly the star of the basketball team. And, because you've spent countless nights on the court trying to defy genetics and improve your jump shot, your grades fall just short of honor-roll status. Under these circumstances, your chances of getting a sports or academic scholarship to college seem slim. So where does that leave you?

At the risk of sounding like a Pollyanna, everyone has something special about them. What you lack in athletic or scholastic talent can be made up in other ways...

1. If you've got the height of a basketball player but don't play killer hoops, you're still not out of the running for a scholarship. Males 6'2" or taller and females 5'10" or higher qualify for the Tall Clubs International Scholarship. Write an essay on "What Being Tall Means to Me," and vie for $1,000 at

2. If you're bummed you missed out on a "Best Dressed" nomination in the yearbook, make up for it by entering the Duck Brand Duct Tape Stuck on Prom Contest. You and a date must attend prom wearing complete attire or accessories made from duct tape! First place winners get a $2,500 scholarship and a $2,500 cash prize goes to the school who hosted the prom. Go to

3. Remember how tiresome it was being a kindergarten lefty and using right-handed scissors? Well, all your suffering has finally paid off. Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA) offers up to $1,000 to two left-handed students each year. Call 814-641-3142.
CollegeBound Teen

For more scholarship and financial aid news, get your FREE copy of CollegeBound Teen.4. Calling callers? Yes, the Chick and Sophie Major Memorial Duck Calling Contest awards a $1,500 scholarship to the winner. First runner-up gets $500, second runner-up gets $300, and third runner-up gets $200. Call 870-673-1602.

5. See? This scholarship stuff is as easy as pie. Apple, that is. First-prize winners of the Culinary Institute of America's (Hyde Park, NY) All-American Apple Pie Recipe Contest get a $25,000 scholarship to the school. Second and third prizes are $15,000 and $10,000 scholarships. Call 800-CULINARY.

6. You may want to reconsider your decision to dismiss applying to grandma's alma mater. Hood College's (Frederick, MD) Heritage Scholarship is awarded to freshman or transfer students with a parent or grandparent who attended Hood as an undergrad for at least one full year. If accepted, your first year of college will only cost what they paid their freshman year. That means if grandma only paid $300 for her first year back in 1941, so will you! Check out for details.

7. So maybe Klingon doesn't count as a foreign language, but if you plan to study it at college (the Klingon language, that is), you can enter the Kor Memorial Scholarship given by the Klingon Language Institute. Familiarity with Klingon not required. Go to for details.

8. Betcha' never thought you'd find a use for that paper your teacher loved on Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead. Guess what? Here it is: The Ayn Rand Institute awards $10,000 to the first-prize winner in its annual essay contest on the novel. Go to

9. To avoid competition with David Letterman's Top 10 list, we'll offer Letterman's own scholarship the number 9 spot on our list. Ball State University in Muncie, IN offers the David Letterman Scholarship, which awards the first-place winner with $10,000 and is funded by the university's most famous alumnus. With no minimum GPA required, this scholarship is awarded based on outstanding creativity. Details are at

Sunday, August 22, 2004

L.A. Cemetery Showing Movies
The Associated Press

LOS ANGELES -- Amid the mausoleums and headstones at Hollywood Forever Cemetery about 1,700 living guests have unfurled picnic blankets and set up beach chairs, erected makeshift coffee tables with flowers and candles, and unpacked dinners of sushi, fried chicken or pasta salad.

They're here for cinema cemetery-style, an experience shared with the graveyard's 88,000 long-term residents. Later, the night's film will start, projected on a mausoleum wall.

"It's the ultimate L.A. experience," film fan Mark Koberg said between mouthfuls of smoked turkey and arugula sandwiches, washed down with wine.

Six years ago the cemetery, which adjoins Paramount Studios' backlot, wouldn't have been as inviting.

Though at least a hundred Hollywood icons are laid to rest there — including actor Rudolph Valentino, "Ten Commandments" producer Cecil B. DeMille and Bugs Bunny voice Mel Blanc — the cemetery's own fame had faded. Its previous owners had run it into bankruptcy, and a 1994 earthquake left tombstones tilted and cracked, while El Nino rains flooded its lake.

Then in 1998, Tyler Cassity, a cemetery entrepreneur, bought the century-old graveyard for $375,000. He operates seven cemeteries in California, Illinois and Missouri. His first charge in Hollywood, however, was revitalizing the cemetery— repaving roads, replacing broken stained glass inside mausoleums and righting monuments.

He also began showing movies. And he believes he's the only person in the country to combine classic movies and mausoleums.

"It makes sense when your neighbor is Paramount Studios," Cassity said. "To me it's dependent on the community around you and who is buried there. Is it memorializing them in some way? Showing movies in a cemetery where there weren't film stars — it wouldn't make sense. "

Cassity began by showing a Valentino film on the anniversary of the romantic hero's death, when 200 to 300 fans would come by to pay their respects. Then he was approached by John Wyatt, the founder of Cinespia, a Los Angeles film society dedicated to screening and preserving classic films. The society was growing too large to go to screenings as a group and was looking for a new home, one with history, Wyatt said.

Cassity said the partnership felt right: historic movies in a historic setting. Since then, Cinespia has made the 620-acre park its movie theater on summer weekends, and next year's season is already being planned.

Growing mainly via e-mail and word of mouth, the event (billed as an evening "below and above the stars") has been surprisingly successful, and even as it has grown it has retained a small-group feel — visitors making friends and sharing food with their neighbors.

Wyatt, who chooses the films, says he likes bringing his favorite films to a wider audience, and Cassity attributes part of the series' success to a growing interest in death, pointing to the popularity of the TV show "Six Feet Under" and a recent reality series about a family-run mortuary.

Visitors do keep some distance during the evening events. They don't actually sit on graves, though a few family mausoleums ring the perimeter of the lawn where movies are shown, including those of actor Douglas Fairbanks Jr. and his father, who helped co-found United Artists.

The crowd of mostly 20- and 30-somethings, some in the movie and public relations industry themselves, seem to recognize they're in a special place. They pick up after themselves, and that's helped keep complaints to a minimum — only two so far.
Visitors say they come for various reasons. Sheila Boyd and Hopper Stone went to one recent screening on a date. Tiffany Borders arrived with a group of friends. Carmonique and Vincent Harris came after being told the experience was romantic.
Some guests acknowledged being a little "creeped out" by the cemetery. But, the time and the location didn't bother Russell Rabichev, who watched a movie one recent weekend.

"After two minutes you forget it's a cemetery," he said.

29 things that used to be free
Remember when a salad came with your meal and you could talk to a bank teller at no charge? So do we.

By Aviya Kushner,

The best things in life are free, or so pop songs and well-meaning grandparents insist. While love and sunlight and smiles still don't cost a cent, much of what used to be free isn't anymore.

Part of this is just the usual pesky cost-of-living increase. "I remember when bread was 5 cents a loaf," says Ruth Rhoads of Iowa City, who is nearly 80 and remembers cheaper times vividly.

And some of the freebie evaporation might just be a tightening of belts and a scrutinizing of bottom lines.

But asking people across the country what freebie they missed most, from butcher-shop generosity to full service at the gas station, yielded a fascinating snapshot of tight-fistedness run wild. Plenty of nostalgic consumers, it seems, are frowning at the bill and reminiscing about a kinder, cheaper America.Car shopping?
Find the best loan
before you buy.

Food freebies that now cost you
• "Doggie bones" at the butcher. "Once it was OK to ask for them and the butcher would wrap them up for you, but now they call them soup bones or soup starters and they are $1.69 to $1.89," says Spider, a semi-retired artist in Mesa, Ariz.

• Extra cheese at the pizza parlor. Forget having a little more cheese, just because you're the customer and it's the restaurant's job to make you happy.

"Now everything is premeasured and instead of flipping an extra handful on the pie, they ring up another dollar and grumble about going to the refrigerator for it. Or worse, charge you for it, but 'forget' to put it on," adds Spider.

• Butter. Expect to pay for it at Bruegger's Bagels, in the Midwest, and at many Dunkin' Donuts outlets on the East Coast. The cheaper the restaurant, the more likely you'll pay for butter.

• Soup and salad. "They used to come with the meal in a restaurant," says Spider, who's 64 years young. "Now you have to pay through the nose or get the salad bar for the lukewarm soup and wilted lettuce."

• Parsley. "It used to be available in bunches at no charge," says Glennis McNeal.

"It helped flavor the soup made from 'dog bones'-- also provided free by the butcher, who was kind enough not to ask for proof of dog ownership."

Beverages - Where's the generosity?
• Coffee refills. The local diner may refill your cup for free, but don't expect the pricey coffee house to give you a second cup of java for free. At $3 or $4 a pop, Starbucks won't give up profits to be that generous.

• Water. Sarah Courteau, who grew up in Arkansas, sometimes has to pay for a glass of water. She's not the only one complaining about that indignity. In fact, Arizona had to pass a law making it illegal to charge a parched customer for a little H2O.

• Paper cups. In the old days, a deli might give you a paper cup to take a pill or split a soda can between two kids. But a sign in a funky Des Moines coffee shop spells out the hard modern truth -- "We don't give out paper cups."

• Bottles. The bottle your beer is in will cost you. "Returnable bottle fees, returnable wet cell batteries, propane tanks. If you don't return them when you buy new ones, you get fined, right?" says Owen Duff, who lives in New Jersey.

Bags and gift wrap will cost you
• Gift wrap. "Gift wrapping in many stores is an extra-cost item now and that used to be the bachelor's salvation," says Spider. "The people wrapping them seemed to care and they had some real skill.

"Now it's plain paper and a stick-on bow that won't," he says. "You're supposed to pay for a fancy bag to put the gift in since everybody is too busy to even unwrap what your hard-earned money went for."

• Bags. Call 'em what you like -- sacks, bags, wraps -- they now cost money at many grocery stores. ALDI, a discount food chain with outlets in Illinois and Iowa, charges 10 cents a bag.

• Supermarket carts. Remember when you could just take a cart and shop? At some chains, you now need to lend the store a quarter for the use of the cart. No quarter, and you'll be stuck carrying, not wheeling.

• Shipping. Von Maur, a department store in the Midwest, will ship your merchandise for free. But that doesn't happen too often anymore.

Car service -- What service?
• Maps for the lost. "Highway maps at gas stations used to be free," says Dave Bertollo, a computer scientist in Orangeburg, N.Y.

• Full-service gas stations. You pretty much have to pump your own gas in nearly every state, except New Jersey. That isn't the way it used to be.

"Going to get gas for the car meant somebody would check your oil and clean your windows -- all of 'em. And mirrors," says Spider. "Now you pay extra for 'full service' and that just means some bored person will stand by the gas filler to make sure the tank overflows onto the paint."

Other gas-station freebies are gone, too.

"No windscreen cleaning, oil checking, radiator filling or tire-pressure checking," he says.

• Air for the tires. Free air for your flat or water for the overheating radiator was common, according to several older drivers. In fact, they point out that someone usually came out to help -- and that was free, too.

Travel freebies -- gone, like childhood
• Free national parks. Dave Bertollo remembers when camping used to be free at our nation's parks. Now, it's waiting lists and escalating costs.

• Airport check-in. These days, you're your own check-in agent, says Sue Futrell, who lives and works in Iowa City. "At the airport now you have to print your own tickets, select your own seats, check yourself in ... supposedly more convenient but not when the airline agents are 10 times better at it than you are!" Futrell says.

• Travel info -- like your ticket. "Information that used to come to you in the mail now comes in e-mail, so you have to print it out yourself," Futrell says. "None of these services has gone down in price but consumers now do more and more of the work themselves."

Schoolhouse freebies no more
• School supplies. Kris Jones, a health economist in Orangeburg, N.Y., remembers free rulers and pencils. No more.

• Copies for college students. The cost of copies used to be included in tuition. "Printing and copying at university libraries used to be free," says Brian Martin, who recently graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC. "It's eight cents a page at GW now."

And at the famed University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, a $12 "copy fee" is tacked on for many courses.

• Gym facilities for undergraduates. Despite all the flak about overweight Americans, some colleges now charge students for using the gym.

Financial freebies…remember when?
• Cashing a check.
"Banks are supposed to cash checks written by persons who have accounts with them," says Don Baumgart, a writer in Nevada City, Calif. "A free service, right? Wrong.

"A recent story aired by KCRA TV in Sacramento told the story of two workers who don't have checking accounts who (took) their paychecks to the issuing banks to cash them," Baumgart says. "And they were charged $5 because they were not customers of that particular bank."

Don't get consumers started about stingy banks.

• ATM use. "There used to be a state law in Iowa prohibiting ATM fees," says Laura Crossett, an Iowa native who now lives near Chicago. "Obviously, that's a thing of the past. I no longer have an ATM card, as a protest."

• Your balance. Go to an ATM and try to find out your balance, and you might be charged a buck for the privilege.

• Talking to a teller. Yup, that pleasure will sometimes cost you. Skip the conversation and use the window, and it might be free.

• Free checking accounts. They're harder and harder to find. (For more information, read "Ditch all fees for online banking services" and "Tips for cutting the high cost of banking.")

Technology freebies … gone like the gold rush
• Telephone info. Remember when you could call the operator -- and get a human operator, not a computer -- to give you a phone number, free of charge?

• Free Internet. "NetZero used to provide free Internet service and now they charge; a similar free Internet service is long gone," says Yiyun Li, a writer in Iowa City.

Sometimes, it's still free
Even in this time of rising consumer complaints, great customer service is still free -- if you can find it.

"I'm a bicycle commuter," says Marge Murray, a mathematician. "A couple of weeks back I brought my bike in to have them check an annoying, potentially ominous clacking sound in my bicycle crank. They took me right in, looked at the bike right away, made a couple of adjustments and sent me on my way, gratis.

"It's a curious contrast to how auto service is done these days," she says.

Aaah. Even conversations about freebies turn into conversations about getting milked. The bottom line: Some things are still free, but you've got to search for them.

So walk outside, and look at the sky -- still there, and still free.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Lack of readers biggest problem of book publishers
By Josefa Therese L. Cagoco

We do not have a reading society," lamented Department of Education Undersecretary Juan Miguel M. Luz before the guests during the 25th anniversary celebration of the Book Development Association of the Philippines (BDAP).

Esther M. Pacheco, former BDAP president and director of the Ateneo de Manila University Press, said as much in her essay published in BDAP's silver anniversary report.

Despite the promise of book publishing in the country, she said, it "still lives a precarious existence as certain key basic infrastructures for books are not in place," the most basic perhaps being readership.

A 1996 survey by the National Statistics Office, which had 50 million Filipinos over 10 years as respondents, showed that Filipinos are reading less -- only 31% of the rural population and 39% of urban residents read books. Instead, a growing number of people turn to other forms of media like television and radio for information and entertainment.

To promote book readership, Ms. Pacheco called for improvements in book production and distribution. For one thing, book prices in the country are too high relative to people's income. A 1990 study by a Japanese scholar she cited in the essay found out that each Filipino buys less than one book per year. And the very high prices of imported books in the domestic market "is the biggest reason for the poor access to books."

Ms. Pacheco noted that the crucial factor to developing the country's publishing industry is language. The study supposedly established "that as long as the Philippines uses English as the main medium of communication, it will be difficult if not impossible for Filipino publishers to compete with major American or British publishers." This and the fact that a predominance of international titles in the local market also undermine cultural identity.

Together with other concerned organizations, BDAP in the early 1990s led the lobbying for the formulation of a national book policy in recognition of the problems hindering the growth of the local industry. Among their complaints were the non-availability of funding for the industry, heavy taxation of needed raw materials like paper while imported books are tax-free, inadequate facilities for the distribution of books especially outside Metro Manila where 95% of sales are made, and poor enforcement of copyright laws.

Congress responded by passing the Philippine Book Development Act in 1995 which created the National Book Development Board (NBDB). However, Ms. Pacheco said that almost after a decade, the industry is still not satisfied with the government's effort.

"[T]he NBDB board appears to be, even at this late stage, still at its 'organizational stage,' lacking focus on its core function. Above all, the National Book Development Plan, which is supposed to be the basis of the Board's operations, has not yet been made."

The current lifeblood of the local publishing industry, mentioned Ms. Pacheco, is the Filipino romance novel.

"The romance novel is the contemporary book publishing phenomenon, the success story that has brought some life to an industry suffering from the doldrums in the past three decades."

Benjamin Ocampo of Books for Pleasure first published Valentine Romances in 1984 and is now printing 120,000 copies monthly. Sold at around PhP30, the 128-page books are a huge success. Despite poor economic conditions, the romance novel continues to lead book sales, except for textbooks, with top publisher Precious Pages, Inc. printing three million copies annually. They are also widely distributed abroad.

Ms. Pacheco attributes the success of this contemporary Filipino novel to several factors, from which publishers could learn from: catering to the sensibility of the audience, low price, and using the native language.

"The language is all-important, for with Filipino, one reaches potentially 95% of all the country's literates."

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Young women, same old problem
By Margot Carmichael Lester

William, 45, has always dated younger women. It was only recently, however, that he detected a pattern in those relationships. "I end up raising them — helping them solve their problems, grow up and expand their horizons," he says.

And what's wrong with that, you might ask?

Plenty, says William. "Sure enough, they always leave me for a younger guy."

So why does he keep going back? We asked relationship expert April Masini, L.A.-based author of the best-selling book, Date Out Of Your League, why guys like William persist in putting the men back in mentoring.

Besides ego-boosting good looks, what does a younger woman offer an older man?

"There is actually quite a bit that young women have to offer older men besides looks alone," Masini says. "On the most obvious level, there’s that fun, young energy they have. There's naiveté, which can be attractive when compared with the cynicism of some older women. There’s a playfulness — a lack of the seriousness that can sometimes accompany being an adult and having responsibility. And, for some men, there’s the fact that these young girls look up to them — as father figures and as mentors. That, in and of itself, is very attractive."

All of these things, though mutually beneficial for a while, eventually wear thin for most women.

"If the relationship is… based on the man being a sort of father or mentor figure, problems can – and likely will – arise once [the younger woman] really begins to grow and come into her own," Masini notes. "Even for couples where there is little-to-no age discrepancy, people often grow in different directions, leading to the dissolution of the relationship."

Add to that a generation gap and you’ve got an even higher chance that the direction each person moves will be away from the other.

Masini explains: "Like any child breaking away from a parent, she may want to establish more of an independent life, depending on him less and less, perhaps even becoming resentful toward him for the power he has wielded over her."

The result can be a nasty break-up, because as she tries to break away, he realizes he's losing her along with his control. That often spurs a role reversal.

"The man she once looked up to begins to become more and more insecure, more possessive, more demanding and more needy as he tries to regain control of the relationship and her," Masini says. And, unfortunately, this behavior usually does just the opposite. "Not only is he unable to regain his position of power in the relationship — he succeeds in driving her away for good."

Is there hope for William and his brethren to break the cycle? Yes, Masini asserts.

The older man/younger woman can increase their odds of staying together if they:
• Are motivated to grow together in the same direction

• Share interests, goals, values and belief systems

• Commit to making it work

• Accept that they will both go through changes as individuals – and that their relationship will change, too

• Success in this arena is dependent on what each party wants to get out of the relationship.

"If he simply likes the physical attraction or energy of a younger woman with little concern for what lies beneath the surface, both parties should beware," Masini continues. "Fortunately, there are some [women] out there who have their lives together, who aren’t looking for a father figure, and who just find the stability, wisdom, and maturity of an older man attractive. But if he's drawn to girls who will idolize and defer to him, he enters into these relationships at his own risk – knowing full-well these can only go so far or last for so long."

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Doctors treat man who weighed 1,000 pounds
The Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A man who once weighed more than half a ton has lost 321 pounds under the care of a team of doctors and hopes to lose 450 pounds more.

Patrick Deuel, 42, of Valentine, Neb., weighed 1,072 pounds when he was admitted to Sioux Falls’ Avera McKennan Hospital eight weeks ago. Deuel, who is just under 6 feet tall, is on a 1,200 calorie-a-day diet.

“If we hadn’t gotten him here, he’d be dead now,” said Fred Harris, Deuel’s lead doctor.

The former restaurant manager has been bedridden since last fall. He has battled heart failure, thyroid problems, diabetes, pulmonary hypertension and arthritis, and needed help just to roll over in bed.

“Until recently, I wasn’t able to see any light at the end of the tunnel,” he said Monday from his hospital bed.

A group known as the League of Human Dignity helped arrange for Deuel to be driven to a local livestock scale, where he could be weighed.

According to the Guinness World Records Web site, the record for heaviest man in the world is 1,397 pounds, held by Jon Brower Minnoch of Bainbridge, Wash., who died in 1983.

Deuel, who has battled weight problems all his life and blames his condition in part on genetics, said it took months to find a hospital. Hospitals closer to his home balked at admitting him, he said.

“I got scared because I couldn’t help him anymore, and I didn’t know who would help him,” said his wife, Edith.

Harris said Deuel’s care could cost millions of dollars, much of which the hospital may have to cover. Officials found a special ambulance, and hospital workers joined two beds to accommodate Deuel.

One of Deuel’s goals is to walk out of the hospital. He also wants to go to a Nebraska Cornhuskers football game, and just take a walk with his wife.

“Even though he’s faced negativity all these years, he’s not a negative person,” Edith Deuel said. “He’s almost always been able to stay bubbly and make jokes and be happy.”