The Range

Bio Bust

Looks like Biosphere 2, the world's largest terrarium, may soon be history. Reporter Joseph Barrios of the morning daily broke the news last week that Fairfield Homes is making a deal to buy the Biosphere's spectacular 1,600 acres to develop a master-planned community. Evidently, a three-acre simulation of the planet isn't a selling point for buyers of luxury homes these days.

It's a sad end for the Biosphere, which was the dream of John Allen, aka Johnny Dolphin, the leader of a New Mexico theater troupe/oddball gang that was fortunate enough to rope in Ed Bass, a Texas oil heir who had dropped out of Yale. With Bass' financial backing, Dolphin was able to realize his dream of building the massive simulation of the planet Earth as part of his long-range plans to colonize other planets.

The original vision of the Biosphere called for sealing it up for 100 years, with two-year tours of duty for teams of bionauts. The Range vaguely remembers attending the 1991 launch of the Biosphere, a star-studded occasion where we met LSD guru Timothy Leary, who walked away from us after our photographer popped the question: "So, are you holding?"

The Biosphere's headlines got more and more interesting, especially after it was revealed that the bionauts had snuck an oxygen-generating machine into the sealed environment after they realized that the atmosphere wasn't going to be life-sustaining after all.

But the most exciting part came after a change in management motivated a pair of the original bionauts to break a window in the Biosphere, ruining the whole sealed-for-a-century plan. At a later trial, the bionauts said they did it not out of spite, but to prevent a catastrophic disaster similar to NASA's Challenger explosion.

A subsequent effort to put the project in the hands of Columbia University didn't go so well, leaving the Biosphere facing the same fate as the rest of the Sonoran Desert: knocked down for more housing.

Safety First!

The vice president of the United States gave the nation a lesson in gun safety when he shot a 78-year-old member of his hunting party with a shotgun over the weekend. Dick Cheney was on a Texas hunting expedition when he spun around and fired at some birds, striking fellow hunter Harry Whittington in the face and chest.

By Monday, the White House--which delayed release news of the mishap for 24 hours--was blaming Whittington for the accident. Administration spokesman Scott McClellan told the press corps that "protocol was not followed by Mr. Whittington when it came to notifying others that he was there." Our sense of protocol whenever Dick Cheney has a gun: Stay the hell out of the way.

On Tuesday, Whittington suffered a minor heart attack as the birdshot moved into his heart, according to press reports.

Stormy News

America's most-hated bureaucrat, former FEMA boss Michael "Heck of a Job" Brown, testified on Capitol Hill that he warned Bush administration officials that Katrina was going to do a real job on New Orleans. Previously, Homeland Security Director Michael Chertoff and President George W. Bush said they had no idea that the disaster that wiped out the Crescent City was going to be so bad.

Brown told senators that he felt "somewhat abandoned" by his superiors, according to The Associated Press.

In other Katrina news from AP (and this is going to come as a big surprise): Millions of dollars in aid was wasted in the wake of the hurricane. Homeland Security Inspector General Richard Skinner told the news agency that FEMA, which "made many, many mistakes," still was "not where they should be." Hey, it's not like we have to worry about being prepared for terrorist attacks or anything.

Hoop Scoop

The UA basketball team rebounded last week, winning 70-68 against the Oregon Ducks last Thursday, Feb. 9. The Cats followed the narrow win up by clobbering the Oregon State Beavers 80-58 on Saturday, Feb. 11. OK, so beating the Oregon teams at McKale Center shouldn't be all that big of a deal. This season, we'll take whatever we can get.

In other Wildcat news: Coach Lute Olson announced earlier this week that senior Chris Rodgers was once again practicing with the team.

"He'll be back with us on the court today," said Olson at a press conference. "He's fulfilled the various responsibilities that had been set up for him to get back. I visited with all of the guys individually today to discuss that situation, and they are all very much in favor him being back on the floor."

Olson stopped short of saying Rodgers would start this week.

"When will I decide when anyone will play?" Olson said. "Once I see the practices and how things go."

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