New 'moon' found
around Earth

There could be another one


By Dr David Whitehouse 
BBC News Online science editor 



An amateur astronomer may have found
another moon of the Earth. Experts say it may
have only just arrived. 

Much uncertainty surrounds the mysterious
object, designated J002E3. It could be a
passing chunk of rock captured by the Earth's
gravity, or it could be a discarded rocket
casing coming back to our region of space. 

It was discovered by Bill Yeung, from his
observatory in Arizona, US, and reported as a
passing Near-Earth Object. 

It was soon realised, however, that far from
passing us, it was in fact in a 50-day orbit
around the Earth. 

Paul Chodas, of the American space agency's
Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, says it
must have just arrived or it would have been
easily detected long ago. 

Calculations suggest it may have been
captured earlier this year. 

Moon or junk? 

When he detected the object, Bill Yeung
contacted the Minor Planet Center in
Massachusetts, the clearing house for such
discoveries, which gave it the designation
J002E3 and posted it on their Near-Earth
Object Confirmation webpage. 

Soon, however, the object's motion suggested
it was in an orbit around the Earth. Its
movements had all the hallmarks of being a
spent rocket casing or other piece of space
junk. 

But experts are not completely sure what
exactly the object is. 

Observations made by Tony Beresford in
Australia indicate that the object's position
does not match any known piece of space
junk. 

Observations made in Europe have failed to
see any variations in brightness that might be
expected from a slowly spinning metallic
object. 

Paul Chodas says the object must have arrived
quite recently or else it would have been easily
detected by any of several automated sky
surveys that astronomers are conducting. 

Its trajectory suggests that it may have been
captured in April or May of this year, but there
is still some uncertainty about this. 

If it is determined that J002E3 is natural it will
become Earth's third natural satellite. 

Earth's second one is called Cruithne. It was
discovered in 1986 and it takes a convoluted
horseshoe path around our planet as it is
tossed about by the Earth's and the Moon's
gravity. 

================================================================

Sep 14, 2002

Minority farmers to get help

BY PETER HARDIN
TIMES-DISPATCH WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT 

WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Agriculture, after facing sit-ins and protests by black farmers this
summer, announced yesterday a series of steps to strengthen its programs for minority farmers.

They included transfer of nearly $100 million in additional money for an operating loan program for minority
farmers; and efforts to expand technical assistance, make more farm loan decisions on time and provide further
diversity training to employees.

"We believe these actions will provide additional focus on our efforts to ensure fair and equitable treatment for all
producers," Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said. She outlined the steps in a letter to leaders of a black
farmers' group.

But Gary Grant of Tillery, N.C., one of the leaders, said it did not appear USDA was addressing the long-term,
chief problem - eliminating discrimination against minority farmers seeking loans in field offices of the department.

"It's another bunch of hogwash," Grant complained as he read through Veneman's letter late yesterday.

"Until we get at the core problem, nothing is going to change. And the black farmers will be extinct," said Grant, a
leader of the Black Farmers & Agriculturists Association.

Grant and others from his group met FARMERSwith Veneman in July after sit-ins in Tennessee at USDA offices.

Earlier this week Veneman announced USDA was opening a new office to help minority farmers with their loans.
Grant and John Boyd Jr. of South Hill, Va., president of the National Black Farmers Association, dismissed that as a
political gesture creating little more than a new telephone hot line.

Alisa Harrison, an Agriculture Department spokeswoman, said the office was established after it was suggested by
black farmers.

The office "provides farmers all across the country with a headquarters to call," she said.

The latest USDA announcements followed events that indicate many minority farmers feel a vast gulf still
separates them from the department. The farmers are working to step up pressure.

On Wednesday, the air was filled with invective aimed at USDA when black farmer leaders and lawyers stated their
grievances at a forum in Washington sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus.

Stephen S. Hill, a lawyer for Hispanic farmers who are suing the Agriculture Department, spoke at the forum and
promised "bombshells to come" from friendly witnesses familiar with USDA operations.

Critical written statements by two former high-ranking USDA officials already have been filed in the Hispanic
farmers' lawsuit:

Rosalind D. Gray, named in July 1998 to head the Office of Civil Rights, questioned USDA's will to reform itself.
She said "systemic exclusion of minority farmers remains the standard operating procedure" at the Farm Service
Agency. 

The FSA is a USDA branch organized in 1994 to handle farm loans, conservation and farm commodity programs. Its
programs are delivered through a far-flung field office system overseen by predominantly white and male elected
county committees.

"This system of control by a few white farmers over federal farm dollars moving into the counties has been used
to perpetuate and expand the farms of many county committee members and their families, at the expense of
disfavored minority farmers," Gray said, echoing some black farmers' harshest allegations.

Dallas R. Smith, who retired in 1999 from the post of deputy undersecretary, said discrimination in USDA loan
programs was "an open secret, but very difficult to combat." 

A USDA spokesman refused, as a practice, to comment on statements given as part of a lawsuit against the
department.

The Hispanic farmers seek millions of dollars and lasting changes in the way USDA operates. Other minorities, too,
are suing the department.

A federal judge approved settlement on April 14, 1999, of a landmark black farmers' class action lawsuit against
the USDA. It did not order operational changes at USDA.

Under the settlement, almost 13,000 farmers have won payments of more than $629 million under the simpler and
quicker of two claim routes provided. Claims by about 8,500 farmers were turned down.

In Virginia, 140 black farmers have won favorable decisions on the claims, 147 have been rejected and cash
payments of $6.8 million have been made, according to the office of the court-appointed monitor.

Failure by tens of thousands of black farmers to win any compensation under the settlement, whether their claims
were rejected or were ruled ineligible for filing late, has stirred wide disappointment and finger-pointing. A bid by
unhappy black farmers to vacate the settlement was rejected in court this week.

The steps outlined by Veneman yesterday also included a plan to speed resolution of discrimination claims brought
by black farmers through an administrative process, and development of a "tester" program to ensure fair
treatment in delivery of USDA services.


Contact Peter Hardin at (202) 662-7669 or phardin@mediageneral.com

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