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Sue



There was an article about Sue in the local newspaper (Philadelphia
Inquirer)'s magazine section yesterday.  It was written by Amy Linn, a
freelance writer currently living in Missoula, Montana.  The article
is kind of depressing from my perspective, but it's balanced to the
extent that it makes everybody look bad.

For newcomers to the list who might not be familiar with the case, Sue
is a Tyrannosaurus rex fossil which was found on land tended by a
Sioux Indian named Maurice Williams.  The land is actually held in
trust by the U.S. government.  The fossil was discovered by a woman
from the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research.  The director
of the Institute, Peter Larson, paid Maurice Williams $5000.  Larson
thought (as he apparently wrote on the check) that he was buying the
fossil.  It's not clear what Williams thought the money was for at the
time, but now he seems to think Larson was effectively trying to
swindle him.  He also claims that the fossil is "land", so he couldn't
sell it without the government's permission.  Currently Sue is sitting
in a basement in the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology while
various legal battles involving Williams, Larson, the U.S. government
and the Sioux Indians continue.  Current status is that Williams is
considered the legal owner of the fossil, and Larson is being charged
with 39 federal crimes including money laundering, conspiracy, wire
fraud and theft of government property--all for transactions unrelated
to Sue.

In the article, professional palentologists are compared to (in quotes
from Robert Bakker) "11th century feudal lords" with attitudes like
"doctors toward chiropractors" when dealing with non-degreed bone
hunters.  Please note that I'm only the messenger here!!!

The person who comes across the worst in the article, however, is
Maurice Williams.  He's portrayed as a first-class paranoid jerk.  The
article ends with a paragraph containing quotes of Williams:  

        'All of this is my country,' Williams was saying on the day of
     his tour.    ... 'I don't know a lot about dinosaurs,' Williams
     said to the cliff, and to his past, and to his present.  'What I
     do know is there's lots of people out there trying to steal it
     from me.'

The article mentions (without describing in any detail) both the
Baucus bill and the House bill related to fossil collecting.  What
little is said about the bills confirms what was said about them in
this forum, however.

If there's interest, I may try to give further details at a later date
(or maybe somebody else around here can do it for me, hint, hint).
For now, I'll finish with what seemed the most depressing bit in the
article.  Maurice Williams was quoted as saying:

        'I don't give a damn about science.  What has science ever
     done for me?'

-- 
Mickey Rowe     (rowe@lepomis.psych.upenn.edu)