Animal Cruelty!
Kennewick Man, Silicon Laser,
Earth's Gamma Rays! Spit!
Kissinger Deep Throat & More!
Animal Cruelty!
[As if our planet wasn't in enough trouble with war, terrorism, greed, famine, and human intolerance! New reports of continuing barbaric treatment of many of Earth's other citizen species are surfacing every day. Here are just a few of thousands of stories regularly ignored by corporate news agencies not wishing to offend foreign car makers or just because kicking a dog when he's down isn't what they call news. If you cringe at the thought of eating a pet or torturing Earth's animals, click on some of the links below to see what you can do. Ed.]

Dog Survives Gas Chamber!

ST. LOUIS February 18, 2005 (US Newswire) - More than 26,000 companion animals are destroyed every day. One thousand every hour. Eighteen every minute. Thousands more die a horrible death on the city streets, alone and unwanted. America's "throw away, convenience-driven" society somehow makes it acceptable.

Quentin stood on top of 7 dead
dogs when the gas chamber
door was opened

Randy Grim, founder of Stray Rescue of St. Louis, brings awareness to the plight of these animals, along with an amazing story of miracles and heroism, in his new book 'Miracle Dog: How Quentin Survived the Gas Chamber to Speak for Animals on Death Row'.

The miracle of Quentin's survival, standing on top of 7 dead dogs when the gas chamber door was opened, is just the beginning. Today, Randy Grim and Quentin travel around the U.S. promoting the concept of animal guardianship and the need for no kill shelters.

Grim tells the story as no one else can -- with humor and passion. Alongside the story of Quentin's survival and the media frenzy following runs the embarrassing statistics about America's homeless dogs: why so many dogs are relinquished to shelters when only 12 to 14 percent nationally are adopted; the staggering number that are euthanized; and the sometimes appalling manner in which this is handled.

For every two animals that have homes, there's one on the street. Living in a wild state, but with no knowledge of how to survive on their own, these dogs breed and die by the thousands in our cities. Guard dogs and fighting dogs that are abused and either escape or are turned out add to the problem.

Grim's eye-opening account, based on a decade as a shelter operator and personal experience rescuing street dogs, provides a wealth of statistics for those interested in animal welfare.

In addition to managing a staff of over 200 volunteers at Stray Rescue, Randy Grim and Quentin have appeared on The Today Show, John Walsh, Animal Planet and have been featured in Guideposts, and People magazines. Grim has received the Guardian Award, the Red Cross Life Saver award, and the St. Louis FOCUS award.

Order "Miracle Dog" -

Stray Rescue of St. Louis -

Korean Government Seeks to Legalize Sale of Dog Meat
IDA News Release

Dogs on their way to slaughter (photo courtesy of
Animal Freedom Korea)

South Korea - IDA (In Defense of Animals) has learned from our colleagues at Animal Freedom Korea (AFK) that the Ministry of the Office for Government Policy Coordination in Korea plans to legalize the sale of dog meat by setting standards for hygienic slaughter and processing.

The Ministry recently completed a report on "the hygienic control of dog meat," and is about to open an internal debate.

Under current Korean law, dogs cannot be sold as food, but the law is not enforced. If the Ministry's plans for hygienic control succeed, it will effectively legalize the dog meat market.

If the sanitary and environmental problems are so serious as to require government intervention, then the Korean Government must ban dog meat - not legalize it - in order to protect its citizens. AFK participated in the policy discussion for the hygienic control of dog meat and strongly opposed the measure. The group is actively working to block all efforts to legalize dog meat in Korea.

Dogs for sale in an Asian meat market

The sale of dog meat can only be legalized if the scheme is approved by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF), which is responsible for the hygienic control of livestock.

However, the MAF has already stated that it is impossible to hygienically control dog meat. In addition, the people of Korea must support legalization for it to take effect. The fact is, very few Koreans eat dog meat and most wish to see it banned. Despite this, the Ministry of the Office for Government Policy Coordination continues to seek legalization.

What You Can Do

Please write polite letters to Korean Government officials and let them know that for the health of their people and for the millions of dogs who are already suffering unimaginable cruelties, they must not legalize the sale of dog meat.

To contact these officials or automatically send them a pre-written email, click here:

For more information, please visit Animal Freedom Korea - or e-mail

Whistleblower Sues Louisiana Chimp Lab
IDA News Release

New Iberia LA February 14, 2005 - A 20-year animal research veteran has filed a lawsuit against the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC) – the world’s largest chimpanzee lab with over 6,000 chimps and monkeys – asserting illegal retaliation from NIRC after she blew the whistle on alleged animal welfare and employee safety violations, In Defense of Animals (IDA) announced today.

An NIRC chimp looks at his reflection. Reports
of chimp torture paint a different picture than
this NIRC photo. (NIRC)

The lawsuit, filed on behalf of Narriman Fakier by attorney L. Clayton Burgess, asserts numerous violations of federal animal welfare laws as well as potential criminal animal cruelty.

The suit alleges that NIRC fired Ms. Fakier for whistleblowing, thus depriving her of her free speech rights (a copy of the suit is available at

The suit states that Ms. Fakier was fired after protesting a plan to place ten toddler chimpanzees in isolation while they were experimented upon.

She also objected to the use of a chimpanzee who had never recovered from prior research in a new study that ended up killing him, and raised questions about the deaths of monkeys from exposure due to insufficient heating in their outdoor enclosures.

Ms. Fakier was shocked when chimpanzees were deliberately burned with a cigarette lighter and scalded with hot water. According to the suit, NIRC Director Thomas J. Rowell, DVM told Ms. Fakier that if she didn’t like the way NIRC operated, she should quit.

"These allegations of reprehensible cruelty are shocking but unfortunately not a surprise," said IDA president Elliot Katz, DVM. "Negligence, abuse and profound suffering seem to be inherent in the secretive world of federally funded chimpanzee research."

6,000 chimps and monkeys participate in NIRC
studies. This African green monkey is one of the
drafted subjects. (NIRC)

Katz recalled the ten-year controversy over the federally supported Coulston Foundation in New Mexico, in which dozens of chimpanzees died in a lab that was formally charged four times by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for rampant Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations.

He also pointed to the pending criminal animal cruelty charges against Charles River Laboratories, the federal contractor operating the Alamogordo Primate Facility (APF), a chimpanzee lab in New Mexico owned by the National Institutes of Health (see NIRC Director Thomas J. Rowell also sits on the advisory committee that oversees Charles River’s operation of the APF.

Fakier’s suit also alleges that NIRC violated the whistleblower protection provision of the AWA. According to the lawsuit, the USDA, which enforces the AWA, has opened an official investigation into Ms. Fakier’s claims. IDA said that it will press the USDA for a full investigation of the matter, and reiterated its call for a permanent ban on chimpanzee experimentation.

"We applaud Ms. Fakier’s courage in exposing the cruelty of chimpanzee research," Katz concluded.


In Defense of Animals -

Ramses, a three-month-old Jaguar, is seen
in the National Zoo in Managua, Nicaragua,
in need of more aid for the maintenance of
its animals. (AP/ Esteban Felix)

Zoo Animals Dying
By Andrew Stern

CHICAGO February 11, 2005 (Reuters) - Zoo elephants swaying back and forth, polar bears swimming in endless circuits and manic monkeys grooming themselves to baldness.

Such disturbed, trance-like behavior in some zoo animals and the deaths of four elephants in the past year at two U.S. zoos have sparked animal rights protests and renewed a larger debate over the purpose of zoos.

Defenders say zoos serve important purposes, including offering access to researchers, providing money and expertise for habitat preservation elsewhere and as repositories of genetic material for fast-vanishing species. But critics say captivity is both physically and mentally stressful.

"We might see within our lifetimes a great reduction or extinction of these animals," as their natural habitats are squeezed by the crush of human populations, said Bill Foster, president of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association. "Extinction is not acceptable."

A one month old Pumas in the National Zoo in
Managua, Nicaragua. (AP/ Esteban Felix)

Zoos originally gave city dwellers the chance to marvel at the world's fauna and later promoted habitat preservation, but those purposes have been eclipsed, critics say.

"In the old days, when you didn't have television, children would see animals for the first time at the zoo and it had an educational component," said Tufts University animal behaviorist Nicholas Dodman.

"Now the zoos claim they're preserving the disappearing species, preserving embryos and genetic material. But you don't need to do that in a zoo. There's still a lot of entertainment to zoos," he said.

Elephants are often chosen the most popular zoo animals in surveys, and a newborn calf draws hordes of visitors. But seeing animals behaving oddly in zoos is more disturbing than educational, a spokesman for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said. Oxford University researchers contended 40 percent of zoo elephants display so-called stereotypical behavior, which their 2002 report defined as repetitive movements that lack purpose.

The report said studies have shown zoo elephants tend to die younger, are more prone to aggression and are less capable of breeding compared with the hundreds of thousands of elephants left in the wild.


Moreover, critics say many zoo elephants, though hardy, spend too much time cramped indoors, get little exercise and become susceptible to infections and arthritis from walking on concrete floors.

Asian baby elephant licks mother Nova's leg during his
first public appearance in a Berlin zoo. He was  born on
Valentines Day February 14, 2005 has not been named.
(REUTERS/ Tobias Schwarz)

After two of three African elephants housed at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo died over the past four months, animal rights activists charged their deaths were hastened by the stress brought on by the elephants' 2003 move from balmy San Diego.

Zoo curators denied climate was to blame and concluded that Tatima, 35, died from a rare lung infection.

Peaches, at 55 the oldest of some 300 elephants in U.S. captivity, suffered from organ failure.

When two elephants in San Francisco's zoo died within weeks of each other last year, the resulting outcry prompted the zoo to close its exhibit and opt to send its remaining elephants to a California sanctuary against the wishes of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.

Detroit's zoo director, who decided his zoo lacked the space or resources to keep elephants, also had a fight with the association about sending his elephants to a Tennessee sanctuary. The association relented only when one elephant showed signs of herpes.

Detroit's zoo was the eighth North American zoo to stop exhibiting elephants since 1991, according to PETA.

"For the modern-day zoo to have elephants does nothing for the preservation or conservation of the species. And it does nothing for the welfare of the elephant," said Carol Buckley, who created a Tennessee sanctuary that now cares for a dozen cast-off zoo and circus elephants on 2,700 acres (1,000 hectares).

Foster of the zoo association countered that many northern zoos have successful elephant programs with plans to expand.

Elephants in Bombay (AFP)

Calves born in captivity have higher mortality rates and survivors often have to be isolated for a time from their inexperienced mothers, who may trample them.

Based on the Oxford University report that found 40 percent of zoo elephants engage in stereotypical behavior, the report's sponsor, Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, urged European zoos to stop importing and breeding elephants and to phase out exhibits.

Dodman said he frequently observes stereotypical behavior among zoo animals: polar bears rocking in place or swimming in endless circuits, parrots grooming themselves until they bleed, gorillas regurgitating and re-ingesting meals, and big cats pacing the same routes in trance-like patterns.

Most zoos embrace efforts to enrich the animals' lives by varying feeding rituals and providing toys, with some success; an Alaskan zoo is even building its elephant a treadmill. But elephants and other animals that range widely in the wild are less easily distracted, critics say.

Some zoos give animals behaving stereotypically the same antidepressant drugs found to ease compulsive behaviors in people, Dodman said.

The key is providing more space and companionship for elephants, which often travel in large herds and forage for hours, Buckley said.

UK Hunt Ban Begins

LONDON February 18, 2005 (US Newswire) - Today heralds the end of cruel sports in the British countryside. The ban on hunting wild animals with dogs comes into force in England and Wales at midnight, after 15 years of campaigning by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). The new law makes it a criminal offense to use dogs to chase fox, deer, mink and hares.

The Master Huntsman of the Surrey Union Hunt talks
to a policeman before setting off near Okewood Hill, near
Dorking southwest of London. Hunt supporters and their
opponents prepared for a clash of wills over a ban on
using dogs to hunt foxes and other animals which took
effect Friday, ending a centuries-old tradition in England
and Wales. (AFP/ Adrian Dennis)

IFAW has campaigned relentlessly for this ban since 1989, arguing that hunting with dogs is both cruel and unnecessary and cannot be made humane by any amount of regulation. Its two full- time hunt monitors have gathered vital evidence of cruelty and malpractice by hunts. Following the ban, IFAW's hunt monitors will continue following hunts to ensure that they obey the law.

Phyllis Campbell-McRae, UK Director of International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: "The ban on hunting with dogs will radically change the landscape of animal welfare in the UK and worldwide. Britain has banned a traditional practice because of the suffering it causes to animals. This should act as an inspiration and example to other countries where animals suffer for human entertainment.

"We thank all our supporters in the UK and worldwide who have helped us to achieve this victory for the welfare of wild animals."

The campaign has included media events, advertising campaigns and forming close working relationships with anti-hunting members of parliament. It was supported by frequent polling that showed repeatedly that the majority of the British people thought that hunting with dogs was cruel and should be made illegal.

[Hunting is already illegal in Scotland, following another successful IFAW campaign. Ed.]

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)

Founded in 1969, IFAW is an international animal welfare and conservation organization that works to protect wild and domestic animals and to broker solutions that benefit both animals and people. With offices in 15 countries around the world, IFAW works to protect whales, elephants, great apes, big cats, dogs and cats, seals, and other animals.

To learn how to help IFAW protect animals, please visit

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Pluck The Magic Twanger, Froggie!

A poisonous cane toad sits on a log before feeding time at Sydney's Taronga Zoo February 15, 2005. Australian conservationists are combating an invasion of the toads through a modern-day Noah's Ark program, taking pairs of endangered animals to toad-free islands to breed safely. Photo by David Gray/ Reuters.

Indian Nations Appeal Kennewick Man Ruling
KENNEWICK WA February 16, 2005 (AP) - Indian tribes that failed to block the scientific examination of the 9,400-year-old remains known as Kennewick Man are appealing a court ruling in hopes of gaining a role in future discoveries.

The appeal of a ruling by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was brought Monday by the Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation and Yakama Indian Nation, which claim Kennewick Man as an aboriginal ancestor.

"It's a fundamental right to protect the grave of your ancestor," said Audie Huber, intergovernmental affairs manager for the Umatilla Reservation's Department of Natural Resources.

The appellate court ruled in July that the tribes had no right to any role in the study because they failed to establish that they were related to the remains.

"They (scientists) have had a plan out there for quite a while, and they are negotiating it with the feds - not us," Huber said. "Our voice is not being heard right now. We need some way to participate."

Reconstruction of the Kennewick Man from his remains.

According to the ruling, Kennewick Man was not covered by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act of 1990, which requires museums or other agencies to return remains found to have cultural affiliation with an existing tribe.

The disputed bones are being stored at the Burke Museum at the University of Washington in Seattle. Huber said the tribes' latest appeal was brought under the Archaeological Resources Protection Act of 1979.

"There are thousands of collections of Indian artifacts, and the law says that there needs to be consultation with the tribes when those remains are studied," he said.

There is little chance the latest court action will have any effect on Kennewick Man studies, said Paula A. Barran of Portland, Ore., a lawyer for scientists eager to study the bones.

"The court said the case is over and you've (the tribes) already been heard," she said. "You have made these arguments and lost."

Even if the court fails to stop Kennewick man research, Huber said the case could still influence the handling of artifacts and remains that may be found in the future. James C. Chatters of Richland, an archaeologist who recovered many of the bones from a bank along the Columbia River in this Eastern Washington town in 1996, said leading scientists plan to begin studies of the bones as early as this spring or summer.

"I am just holding my breath until it starts," Chatters said.

A chip in the shoulder blade area may hold clues to an injury to Kennewick Man before he died, and soil inside the skull may show where the bones had been before they were found in Columbia Park, he said.

"Every time you look at one of these individuals, something new comes out," Chatters said.

Environmentalists Sue Bush Over New Forest Rules
By Matthew Daly
Associated Press

WASHINGTON February 18, 2005 (AP) — Environmentalists sued the Bush administration on Thursday over new rules for managing the 192 million acres of national forests. The rules issued in December give managers of the 155 national forests more discretion to approve logging and other commercial projects without lengthy environmental reviews.

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, claims the rules water down protection of wildlife and the environment "to the point where they are virtually meaningless."

The suit filed by San Francisco-based Earthjustice on behalf of a coalition of conservation groups said the rules fail to include important environmental protection measures mandated by Congress under a 1976 law, the National Forest Management Act. The suit contends the rules reverse more than 20 years of protection for wildlife and other resources without any scientific basis for doing so and removes requirements to use measurable standards to protect wildlife.

"The new Bush forest rules aren't rules at all -- they're more like suggestions. They turn forest management to mush, mocking the intent of Congress and undermining public participation in the process," said Trent Orr, a lawyer with Earthjustice.

Forest Service officials declined comment Thursday. But, in announcing the long-awaited rules, they said the changes allow forest managers to respond more quickly to changing conditions, such as wildfires, and emerging threats such as invasive species.

The rules were last updated in the 1970s. Officials long have complained that the analyses required under the law take up to seven years to complete. Under the new rules, forest plan revisions could be completed within two years to three years, officials said. The new plan gives regional forest managers more discretion to approve logging, drilling and mining operations without having to conduct formal scientific investigations, known as environmental impact statements.

That approach could cut costs by as much as 30 percent, said Sally Collins, associate Forest Service chief. She also noted the new rules require independent audits of all forest plans.

"We really have a process that takes way too long, that really isn't as responsive ... as it should be," Collins said.

But environmentalists say the plan eliminates analyses required under the National Environment Policy Act, scraps wildlife protections established under President Reagan and limits public input into forest management decisions.

"The nation's forests and the people who own them deserve better than this," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife, one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

The American Forest Resource Council, a timber industry group, said the new rules are "a lot more responsive" than the previous rules, which they called cumbersome and counterproductive.
Intel's Silicon Laser

Intel researchers have built the world’s
first silicon chip capable of producing a
continuous laser beam. This breakthrough
could help future computers to move data
at the speed of light. (Intel)

Intel News Release

SANTA CLARA CA February 17, 2005 - Intel today announced a scientific breakthrough using standard silicon manufacturing processes to create the world's first continuous wave silicon laser. This technology could help bring low-cost, high-quality lasers and optical devices to mainstream use in computing, communications and medical applications.

As reported in today's issue of the journal Nature, Intel researchers have found a way to use the so-called Raman effect and silicon's crystalline structure to amplify light as it passes through it. When infused with light from an external source the experimental chip produces a continuous, high-quality laser beam. While still far from becoming a commercial product, the ability to build a laser from standard silicon could lead to inexpensive optical devices that move data inside and between computers at the speed of light - ushering in a flood of new applications for high-speed computing.

"Fundamentally, we have demonstrated for the first time that standard silicon can be used to build devices that amplify light," said Dr. Mario Paniccia, director, Intel's Photonics Technology Lab. "The use of high-quality photonic devices has been limited because they are expensive to manufacture, assemble and package. This research is a major step toward bringing the benefits of low-cost, high-bandwidth silicon based optical devices to the mass market."

Today, every computer has a power supply to drive the chips, hard disc and peripherals. In the future, PCs may also come with a supply for powering tiny lasers, amplifiers and optical interconnects that move terabytes of data around the computer and across networks. In addition, there are special wavelengths of light that are optimal for interactions with human tissue. For example, one type of laser wavelength is useful for working on gums and another one for excavating cavities in teeth. Today, these lasers cost tens of thousands of dollars each, limiting their use. Potential future uses of Intel's breakthrough technology could lead to more affordable medical lasers so that trips to the dentist become easier and less painful for patients.

Technical Details

Building a Raman laser in silicon begins with etching a waveguide -- a conduit for light on a chip. Silicon is transparent to infrared light so that when light is directed into a waveguide it can be contained and channeled across a chip. Like the first laser developed in 1960, Intel researchers used an external light source to "pump" light into their chip. As light is pumped in, the natural atomic vibrations in silicon amplify the light as it passes through the chip. This amplification - the Raman effect -- is more than 10,000 times stronger in silicon than in glass fibers. Raman lasers and amplifiers are used today in the telecom industry and rely on miles of fiber to amplify light. By using silicon, Intel researchers were able to achieve gain and lasing in a silicon chip just a few centimeters in size.

A laser is widely considered to be any device that emits an intense, coherent beam of light (where the photons all have the same wavelength, phase, and direction). By coating the sides of the chip with a reflective thin-film material, similar to coatings used on high-quality sunglasses, the team was able to contain and amplify the light as it bounced back in forth inside the chip. As they increased the pump energy a critical threshold point was reached where instantaneously, a very precise beam of coherent light (i.e., laser) exited the chip.

The Breakthrough

As light is amplified inside the chip an electronic device called a "P-I-N"
that surrounds the laser removes excess electrons from the path of the
light. By removing this fog of light-absorbing electrons, the PIN device
allows the laser to sustain the beam of light. (Intel)

Initially, they discovered increasing the light pump power beyond a certain point no longer increased amplification and eventually even decreased it. The reason was a physical process called "Two-Photon Absorption," which occurs when two photons from the pump beam hit an atom at the same time and knock an electron away. These excess electrons build up over time and collect in the waveguide until they absorb so much light that amplification stops.

Intel's breakthrough solution was to integrate a semiconductor structure, technically called a PIN (P-type - Intrinsic - N-type) device into the waveguide. When a voltage is applied to the PIN, it acts like a vacuum and removes most of the excess electrons from the light's path. The PIN device combined with the Raman effect produces a continuous laser beam.

Making Silicon & Light Work Together

Silicon Photonics research at Intel began as a way to explore applying the company's silicon expertise to the development of integrated optical devices that could be incorporated into a variety of products by Intel's customers. The silicon photonics research team has achieved a number of breakthroughs, starting in 2004 with the first silicon-based optical modulator to encode data at 1GHz, an increase of over 50 times the previous research record of about 20MHz.

"We have a wide range of long-term research programs in place to find new ways of applying our silicon expertise to make life better for people," said Kevin Kahn, Intel Senior Fellow, director, Communications Technology Lab. "For example, we are developing wireless sensor networks that could be used to spot equipment failures in factories and even on ships at sea before they happen, or used to improve healthcare services for the elderly. With the Silicon Photonics program, our goal is to use our silicon manufacturing techniques to mass-produce low-cost optical devices so the benefits of high-bandwidth photonics can be used throughout the computing and communications industries."

The report on this research was published in Nature, Volume 433, dated February 17, 2005.

A copy of the paper and more information can be found at

Oldest Rabbit Found

Gomphos had long hindlimbs, just like a
modern rabbit. (BBC)

Mongolia February 17, 2005 (BBC) - The fossilized skeleton of a rabbit-like creature that lived 55 million years ago has been found in Mongolia, Science magazine reports. Gomphos elkema, as it is known, is the oldest member of the rabbit family ever to be found.

Gomphos was surprisingly similar to modern rabbits - and probably hopped around on its elongated hindlimbs. The fossil adds weight to the idea that rabbit-like creatures first evolved no earlier than 65 million years ago.

"This skeleton is very complete," co-author Robert Asher, of Humboldt Universität, Berlin, Germany, told the BBC News website. "Gomphos gives us valuable information about the anatomy of early rabbits - it tells us what they looked like. Gomphos had a true 'rabbit's foot'; that is, a foot more than twice as long as the hand that could be used for hopping."

But the ancient creature did have some traits that were unlike its modern relative. For example, Gomphos had quite a big tail and some of its teeth were more squirrel-like than rabbit-like. Prior to this discovery, the oldest, most complete fossil lagomorphs (the family which includes rabbits, pikas and hares) were about 35 million years old.

Scanty fossil evidence has led to some uncertainty about when modern placental mammals first appeared in evolutionary time.

One camp believes that modern placental mammals (which include elephants, bats, rabbits, lions etc, but not kangaroos, opossums or echidnas) existed long before the famed "KT" boundary 65 million years ago, which marked the demise of the dinosaurs. The other camp disagrees with this view, and instead claims that modern placentals did not originate until close to, or shortly after, this event.

Gomphos has waded - or hopped - into the debate, adding evidence to the latter theory. Hitherto, there was a strong school of thought that suggested lagomorphs are more closely related to an extinct group of Cretaceous animals called the "zalambdalestids", than they are to other, modern mammal groups.

Zalambdalestids lived before the great mass extinction event 65 million years ago. So, if they were close relatives of the lagomorphs, it would suggest modern placental groups were diverging during the Cretaceous period. But an analysis of Gomphos suggests this is not the case, Dr Asher and his colleagues believe. This makes it more likely that modern lagomorphs - and other placental mammals - originated after the dinosaurs went extinct.

"This skeleton gives us more data to throw into the analysis," he told the BBC News website. "And using this new information we favour the second idea."

Earth's Mysterious Gamma Ray Blasts

Earth can be an accelerator of particles to ultrarelativistic
energies. (NASA)

University of California - Santa Cruz News Release

SANTA CRUZ, CA February 17, 2005 - A particle accelerator operates in Earth's upper atmosphere above major thunderstorms at energies comparable to some of the most exotic environments in the universe, according to new satellite observations of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes.

Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are very short blasts of gamma rays, lasting about one millisecond, that are emitted into space from Earth's upper atmosphere. The gamma rays are thought to be emitted by electrons traveling at near the speed of light when they scatter off of atoms and decelerate in the upper atmosphere. TGFs were first discovered in 1994 by the Burst and Transient Source Experiment (BATSE) on the Compton Gamma-Ray Observatory.

BATSE could only detect TGFs in a special observing mode and was limited in its ability to count them or measure their peak energies. New observations from the Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) satellite raise the maximum recorded energy of TGFs by a factor of ten and indicate that the Earth gives off about 50 TGFs every day, and possibly many more.

BATSE consists of eight modules, one at each corner of the
GRO spacecraft. (CGRO)

The findings are reported in the February 18 issue of Science by a team of researchers from the University of California, Santa Cruz, UC Berkeley, and the University of British Columbia (UBC).

"The idea that the Earth, a fairly small and tame planet, can be an accelerator of particles to ultrarelativistic energies is fascinating to me," said David Smith, an assistant professor of physics at UC Santa Cruz and first author of the paper. "The energies we see are as high as those of gamma rays emitted from black holes and neutron stars," Smith said.

The exact mechanism that accerates the electron beams to produce TGFs is still uncertain, he said, but it probably involves the build-up of electric charge at the tops of thunder clouds due to lightning discharges, resulting in a powerful electric field between the cloudtops and the ionosphere, the outer layer of Earth's atmosphere.

"Regardless of the exact mechanism, there is some enormous particle accelerator in the upper atmosphere that is accelerating electrons to these very high energies, so they emit gamma rays when they hit the sparse atoms of the upper atmosphere," Smith said. "What's exciting is that we are now getting data good enough for the theorists to really test their models."

TGFs have been correlated with lightning strikes and may be related to visible phenomena that occur in the upper atmosphere over thunderstorms, such as red sprites and blue jets. Just how these various phenomena are related is a question the RHESSI investigators plan to pursue in collaboration with other researchers around the world, Smith said.

The Science paper presents the first analysis of RHESSI data for TGFs. RHESSI, a NASA Small Explorer spacecraft, was launched in 2002 to study x-rays and gamma-rays from solar flares. But RHESSI's detectors pick up gamma rays from a variety of sources. Smith worked with RHESSI principal investigator Robert Lin at UC Berkeley and Christopher Barrington-Leigh, now at UBC, to plan ways they could use the satellite for a range of investigations in addition to studying solar flares.

Computer simulation image shows galaxy
clusters in space aglow in a halo of gamma
rays. (Uri Keshet / NASA)

Liliana Lopez, a UC Berkeley undergraduate, has been working with Smith to analyze the RHESSI data for TGFs. The Science paper presents the results from a search of three months of RHESSI data, and the analysis of additional data is ongoing.

The authors estimated a global average rate of about 50 TGFs a day, but the rate could be up to 100 times higher if, as some models indicate, TGFs are emitted as narrowly focused beams that would only be detected when the satellite is directly in their path.

The duration of TGFs recorded by RHESSI ranged from 0.2 to 3.5 milliseconds. The most energetic TGF photons detected by RHESSI were in the range of 10 to 20 million electron volts (10-20 MeV), or about 300 times as energetic as medical x-rays. The electrons that emitted these gamma rays would have been traveling at 99.99 percent of the speed of light, with energies on the order of 35 MeV.

The findings raise many interesting questions, including whether the electrons that emit TGFs ultimately contribute to the high-energy electrons in Earth's radiation belts, Smith said. "This is a very interesting process involving extreme physics right here on Earth, and if we can understand the process here it might give us insights into similar processes in less accessible parts of the universe."

University of California - Santa Cruz -


Drool can be tested

American Association for the Advancement of Science News Release

WASHINGTON DC February 17, 2005 - The eyes may be the window to the soul, but many scientists would say the mouth is the window to the body. Saliva and other oral substances are now emerging as the bodily fluids of choice for physicians, dentists and drug testers, researchers said today at the 2005 Annual Meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

Saliva and other oral fluids (from the cheek and gum surfaces) contain many of the same proteins and other molecules that blood and urine do. Some of these molecules can reveal the presence of diseases such as cancer. Others can be used to predict the number of cavities in a person's teeth and perhaps even where in the mouth the cavities will develop, according to new research.

Saliva is also relatively easy to collect, since spitting into a cup doesn't require needles and can be done while a doctor or drug tester watches. As the panelists explained, researchers are making progress in both developing the technology for testing saliva and identifying the molecules, or "biomarkers," that reveal disease.

Saliva testing for drugs of abuse is also a growing trend in the workplace. The United States Department of Health and Human Services is currently developing guidelines for adopting oral fluid testing, according to speaker Edward Cone of ConeChem Research, LLC.

"Saliva has not really been used in the mainstream. As a scientific community, it's time to bring oral fluid testing to the front line and look at what value it will bring," said David Wong of the University of California, Los Angeles Jonsson Cancer Center and School of Dentistry.

One of the emerging uses for oral fluid testing is in dental health. Based on information from someone's saliva, Paul Denny of the University of Southern California said he and his colleagues can determine how vulnerable the patient is to cavities.

The test detects saliva proteins that have special sugars that bind to the surfaces of microbes. There are more than fifty varieties of these sugars, which are present in different combinations inside people's mouths.

Various combinations seem to make people more or less prone to cavities, according to Denny. By analyzing the protein sugars in an adult's saliva, Denny's research team was typically able to predict how many cavities - give or take one or two - were in that person's mouth.

The combination of these sugars doesn't change much over time, and preliminary results from Denny's research also suggest that this test could help predict the cavities a young person is likely to develop later in life. The tests also seem to be able tell whether someone is likely to get cavities in his or her molars, premolars, or throughout the mouth.

Could help predict future cavities

Denny has not yet sought FDA approval for his techniques, but ultimately, dentists may someday use this type of test on children to make decisions about applying cavity-preventing tooth sealants.

Other researchers are also focused on the pushing the technology forward. Daniel Malamud of the University of Pennsylvania is working on taking prototypes and turning them into diagnostic devices. He has just shown, as a "proof of principle," that it's possible to detect certain microbes - HIV and a harmless bacterium related to anthrax - from the microbes' genetic material detected in saliva.

Malamud stressed the importance of technology that can be used right in the doctor's office. For example, doctors often put children with respiratory infections on antibiotics until they get their test results. If a diagnosis from a saliva test were available right away, it could prevent unnecessary use of antibiotics, which can lead to bacterial resistance.

"For the first time there are at least seven major scientific groups in the United States engaging in the development of micro- and nanotechnology-based biosensors [to detect biomarkers in oral fluids]. What we're bound to see is that in the next year or two the fruits of these projects are going to come together," said Wong.

One reason the field of oral fluid testing is gaining momentum now is that an effort has just gotten underway to decipher the entire set of proteins, or "proteome," present in saliva. This information could allow researchers to determine exactly how the saliva of a healthy person varies from the saliva of a person with a given disease. From there, a saliva-based test for diagnosing the disease should be within reach.

"If we could catalog all the proteins in saliva into a periodic table of sorts for healthy people, then you could compare it with the salivary proteome of the diabetic population or breast cancer population, for example," Wong said.

Wong and his colleagues recently reported in the journal Clinical Cancer Research that RNA molecules in saliva can indicate whether a patient has head and neck cancers, which he said is a proof of principle that saliva testing can work for diagnosing disease.

It's possible to detect certain microbes - HIV and a harmless bacterium
related to anthrax - from the microbes' genetic material detected in saliva

One place that saliva testing is already underway is in the workplace for drug tests.

"In contrast to urine testing, which is currently the standard of industry, oral fluid testing brings with it some new features that are more related to the status of an individual at the time of testing," Cone said.

He explained that although saliva testing is gaining ground among private employers, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has been cautious about adopting it.

A key concern has been whether such tests would turn up false positives as the result of passively inhaling drugs.

But, Cone, who works in the salivary diagnostics industry, has determined that just 30 minutes after exposure there is little chance of a false positive from passive inhalation.

"Oral fluid testing certainly hasn't taken over the market, but it's making relatively large inroads," Cone said.

American Association for the Advancement of Science -

Saliva Management -

Tutankhamun Murder Mystery Continued

Tut's death mask (BBC)

CAIRO February 17, 2005 (Reuters) - A team of experts expects to announce in March whether the latest test results on the mummified body of Tutankhamun will provide evidence for the theory that the boy pharaoh was murdered.

Zahi Hawass, head of the Egyptian government's Supreme Council for Antiquities, told Reuters that results from a high tech x-ray scan of the mummy would help explain a bone chip in the skull that has sparked the murder theory.

"This hole in the skull, people talked about it a lot, we have to tell the public and the scholars what is this hole exactly and therefore we need time," Hawass said.

"We are finishing the examination and the announcement will be at the beginning of March."

Although the treasures and artifacts from his burial tomb have famously toured the world, the mummified body of the boy king has been examined only four times in detail since British archaeologist Howard Carter stunned the archaeology community by finding Tutankhamen's tomb intact in 1922.

In January, the mummified corpse was given its first CT (computed tomography) scan, which uses special x-ray equipment to obtain image data from different body angles.

Archaeologists last opened the coffin in 1968, when an x-ray revealed the chip of bone in his skull which led to the theory that the king was killed with a blow to the head. His high priest and army commander have been mooted as chief suspects.

Tutankhamun ruled during a troubled and confusing period in Egyptian history, starting shortly after the death of the monotheist pharaoh Akhenaten in 1362 BC, who may have been his father. Tutankhamun died just as he was reaching adulthood.

"Many things happened with the mummy. We are examining and answering all these questions," Hawass said.

Hawass said the team of experts was currently made up of Egyptians, including experts in pathology and anthropology, but said they would be joined by experts from Italy and Switzerland at the end of the month.

Was Kissinger Deep Throat?

Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger
addresses the House Committee on International
Relations in a hearing about the Middle East peace
process on Capitol Hill. Kissinger was close enough
to Nixon to know all the details. (Reuters)

By Greg Mitchell

NEW YORK February 16, 2005 (Editor and Publisher) - In three decades of speculation about the identity of legendary Watergate source Deep Throat, few prominent members of the Nixon administration swept up in the scandal have endorsed a likely suspect.

Even John Dean has hedged and offered multiple guesses.

But now E&P has learned that former top Nixon aide, John Ehrlichman, who went to prison for his role in Watergate, felt strongly that he knew the identity of Deep Throat.

His candidate: Henry Kissinger.

This revelation comes from Walter Anderson, the chairman and CEO of Parade magazine and a close friend of the former Nixon aide, who died in 1999.

Ehrlichman, Anderson said, identified Kissinger as Deep Throat in a conversation with him more than 20 years ago.

He was absolutely convinced of it, Anderson said, when asked by E&P to comment on the recent surge in speculation about the identity of Deep Throat. He added that Ehrlichman's view of Kissinger as Deep Throat has never surfaced before, as far he knows.

Ehrlichman argued that Kissinger was high enough in the organization to have the information, and understand it, close enough to Nixon to know all the details, Anderson said, and he was virtually untarnished by the Watergate scandal, particularly in the press.

Kissinger served as Nixon's national security adviser from 1969 to 1973.

As editor of Parade, Anderson published several articles by Ehrlichman starting in 1981, and remained friends with him until his death. He also wrote a lengthy profile of Ehrlichman in his book, Courage Is a Three-Letter Word, published in 1986.

He had met Ehrlichman in April 1981, three years after his release from a federal prison camp, where hed served 18 months for perjury and conspiracy in the Watergate cover-up. Anderson assigned him to travel around the country with famed photographer Eddie Adams, to capture the dignity of poor people. The resulting article, Chronicles of Courage Among Americas Poor," published in Parade later that year, proved popular.

Anderson then urged him to tell the full truth about Watergate, and Ehrlichman, working closely with the editor, wrote an article on that subject that appeared in Parade on Sept. 26, 1982.

Now Anderson tells E&P that, a few months after that, he met Ehrlichman again in New York City. They had covered so much Watergate ground in previous meetings, but there was one question Anderson had not yet asked: Who was Deep Throat?

Without missing a beat, Anderson recalls, he said, Henry Kissinger. He believed it very strongly. I was taken aback that he answered so quickly and so assuredly. I didn't expect that.

In listing the reasons for his choice, including Kissinger's surprisingly friendly relations with the press, he didn't seem angry about it, Anderson said. He was so declarative... absolutely convinced that Kissinger was Deep Throat, Anderson added.

Over the years, Kissinger has not generally been a prime candidate for Deep Throat, but he has gained more supporters in recent years. Some have pointed to his guttural speaking voice as one thing in his favor, among others. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the Washington Post reporters who broke the Watergate case, have said that they will reveal the identity of Deep Throat after he passes away. The opening of their Watergate archives at the University of Texas this month sparked another round of Deep Throat speculation.

Greg Mitchell is the editor of E&P and the author of "Tricky Dick and the Pink Lady" (Random House), among other books.

Genre News: Dragons, Numb3rs, Loonatics, Constantine, Blockbuster, Bob Newhart, Straczynski on Trek & More!

Were dragons contemporaries of the dinosaurs? (AP)
Are Dragons Real?

Hollywood February 17, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Charlie Foley, creator of the upcoming Animal Planet documentary Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real, told SCI FI Wire that the program applies scientific fact to suggest how the mythological beasts might have lived throughout history.

"This is something that the special definitely tries to honor, rather than just being [a] pure flight of fancy," Foley said in an interview.

"Everything that we imagine in each of the dragons is inspired by something that is real biology or real behavior or real natural history."

Dragon in a bottle - just an
infamous hoax.

Foley said the biggest obstacle was understanding how dragons might have survived the Cretaceous Tertiary extinction, or "KT event," that wiped out almost all life on Earth 65 million years ago.

"In the KT event, the big animals that actually made it out alive were the ones that were marine or aquatic or otherwise escaped through the sea," Foley said.

"So we're telling the story of dragons who were contemporaries of the dinosaurs. That's really the only way that they would have made it out, and so nature kind of led us along the way all the way."

Foley said that the producers of the show approached the animals from a biological, rather than fictional, perspective.

"Even though we're telling one of humankind's oldest stories, the way that we are doing it is that we are imagining them as real animals, and our guide throughout the process has been real natural history.

"Kevin [Mohs] and I have worked at Animal Planet for a while and have worked on natural history documentaries before that, so we have a lot of interest [in] that area of the natural world, and we brought in scientific advisors as well who helped us come to a vision of what these animals would be like, how they would have to have behaved, and then, really, actually it gave a real identity to each of the animals, because we knew we had to honor that nature that we wanted to incorporate into it."

Dragons: A Fantasy Made Real premieres on Animal Planet March 20 at 8 p.m. ET/PT.

Dragons Official -

Numb3rs Gets Four More
By Nellie Andreeva

Numb3rs - Rob Morrow has delivered a genuine hit
for CBS (CBS)

LOS ANGELES February 14, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - CBS has picked up four additional episodes of the crime drama "Numbers," bringing the total order for the midseason entrant to 12 episodes.

Following a big debut after the AFC Championship Game, drawing the largest audience for a drama series premiere in 10 years, the Rob Morrow-David Krumholtz starrer "Numbers" has cooled off after moving to its regular Friday 10 p.m. slot but still easily ranked as the top program for the night in its first two airings.

ABC, meanwhile, has ordered two more segments of "8 Simple Rules," bringing the total for the third-season comedy to 24. The show, starring Katey Sagal, has held its ground as the 8 p.m. anchor of ABC's Friday comedy block this season.


NEW YORK February 17, 2005 (AP) - Bugs Bunny and his pals are being updated for the future — way in the future. The WB network will take the famed Looney Tunes characters as models for a new children's series, "Loonatics," that will air on Saturday mornings starting this fall.

Is this really necessary - Bugs & Co. as superheros? (WB)

The characters' descendants — Buzz Bunny and the like — will be superhero action figures for the cartoon set in the year 2772.

The network's animators have re-imagined Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Wile E. Coyote as sleek new figures for a modern age.

"We all flipped for it," David Janollari, president of the Kids' WB, said this week.

"We just said, `Wow, what a great way to take the classic Looney Tunes franchise that has been huge with audiences for decades and bring it into the new millennium.'"

Janollari said both boys and girls enjoyed the new action figures in test runs of the show.

Their parents may be a little surprised, however.

"I think the legacy is intact," he said. "If anything, it's an homage to the legacy instead of a destruction of the legacy."

Constantine Banned?

Unsuitable for public viewing (WB)

KUALA LUMPUR Malaysia February 16, 2005 (AP) - The Islamic sultanate of Brunei has banned Keanu Reeves' new film "Constantine," an apocalyptic thriller that depicts demon possessions, visions of hell and a renegade angel, an official said Wednesday.

The movie has been deemed unsuitable for public viewing, Ahmad Kadir, the secretary of the Brunei government's Censor Board, said by telephone from the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan.

However, he declined to reveal the reasons for the board's decision.

Brunei has some of Southeast Asia's strictest censorship guidelines for movies and songs, especially involving material that might be considered offensive to Islam.

"Constantine," which opens in the United States on Friday, is steeped in Roman Catholic mythology and features Reeves as a chain-smoking exorcist who dispatches demons back to the underworld in hopes of erasing a mortal sin he once committed.

In one scene, Reeves' character lashes out at heaven, calling God "a kid with an ant farm." Satan also shows up in the movie's climactic moments, dressed in crisp white apparel and licking his lips as Reeves' character battles to stop a supernatural evil from taking over the world.

The film opened last week in Brunei's closest neighbor, Malaysia, which is also mostly Muslim. Malaysian censors edited out several curse words and rated the movie as having "non-excessive violent and horrifying scenes," but did not object to the religious material.

New Jersey Sues Blockbuster Over No Late Fees
AP Business Writer

NEWARK February 18, 2005 (AP) - The state of New Jersey claims Blockbuster Inc., the nation's largest movie-rental chain, has violated the state's consumer protection laws with its new policy on late fees.

In a lawsuit, the state charged that Blockbuster failed to disclose key terms in the policy, including that overdue rentals are automatically converted to a sale on the eighth day after the due date.

The state is seeking restitution for customers whose overdue rentals were converted to a sale. It also wants compensation for people who were charged late fees by stores that were not participating in the new policy, but that failed to make that obvious.

The suit was filed Friday in state Superior Court in Trenton.

The Dallas-based chain had no immediate response. Blockbuster shares rose 5 cents to $9.13 in morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange (news - web sites). Its shares are up from a 52-week low of $6.50 last fall.

Blockbuster eliminated late fees on games and movies starting Jan. 1, although customers who miss a one-week grace period will be billed for buying the item or charged a $1.25 restocking fee. The company said due dates at its 4,500 U.S. stores would remain one week for games and two days or one week for movies.

Renters who keep the movies or games beyond the grace period will be charged for purchasing the DVD or tape at Blockbuster's full retail price, minus the rental fee, the company said. If they return the movie or game in the next 30 days, they will get a refund for the purchase but will be charged a restocking fee of $1.25, the company said.


Mr. Rock and Oscar (ABC)

Chris Says Oscar Delay Still Rocks

NEW YORK February 18, 2005 (AP) - First-time Oscar host Chris Rock, a comedian known for his frequent use of expletives, says the five-second decency delay on the ABC show's Feb. 27 telecast will be a welcome "safety net."

"I've been on TV and been funny not cursing," Rock says in an interview on CBS' "60 Minutes" newsmagazine, to air Sunday night. "As far as content is concerned, I will talk about the movies. I'm not really worried about it. I'm sure ABC is more worried about it than me."

Gil Cates, the producer of the Oscar show, has expressed confidence in Rock, who suggested in a recent Entertainment Weekly magazine interview that no straight black men watch the telecast.

"(A time delay is) a safety net. You know, you're a trapeze artist ... you welcome the net," Rock says.

Rock also says that when he arrives on Oscar night, he may be traveling "small," without an entourage. The 39-year-old actor-comedian says that "with a posse, you're not letting the real world in. And if you don't let the real world in, you're not going to be funny."

He added: "Donald Trump rolls pretty small, you know."

Newhart's First Book Due

Bob as an author

NEW YORK February 17, 2005 (AP) - Could a book be called deadpan or button-down? It could, if Bob Newhart's writing it. The 75-year-old comedian has agreed to write a memoir, scheduled for publication in fall 2006.

Hyperion describes the book, not yet titled, as a work of humor that will be "organized thematically and will include stories and anecdotes from throughout Bob Newhart's life and career, as well as thoughts and observations on a multitude of topics."

"He is a national treasure," Hyperion Editor-in-Chief Will Schwalbe said in a statement Tuesday. "We are thrilled to be publishing his first-ever book, which promises to be every bit as funny and delightful as Bob Newhart himself."

Newhart is best known as the star of the sitcoms "The Bob Newhart Show" and "Newhart." He also has appeared in numerous films, including "Catch-22" and "In & Out."

Bob Newhart Official -

Quantico, Commander in Chief, Triangle and other Pilots
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES February 17, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Emmy winner Mandy Patinkin leads the cast of ABC's drama pilot "Quantico," which also includes Shemar Moore and Lola Glaudini.

Meanwhile, Ever Carradine has been cast in another ABC drama pilot, "Commander in Chief."

In other pilot casting news, "Beverly Hills, 90210" alum Daniel Cosgrove and Constance Zimmer (NBC's "Good Morning Miami") have joined the ABC drama "In Justice," "Less Than Perfect" co-star Zachary Levi has been tapped to star in the CBS comedy "Three," and D.B. Woodside and Elize Du Toit have joined Ivan Sergei in UPN's drama pilot "Triangle."

"Quantico," from Touchstone TV, is a suspense thriller that centers on the workings of the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit.

Ever Carradine. (Aussenard)

Patinkin will play the leader of the team, with Moore, Glaudini and Matthew Gubler playing members of the squad.

Patinkin, who won an Emmy in 1995 for his role on CBS' "Chicago Hope," most recently co-starred in Showtime's "Dead Like Me."

Moore, recently seen in the CBS telefilm "Reversible Errors," next co-stars in the upcoming big-screen feature "Diary of a Mad Black Woman."

Glaudini's series credits include ABC's "NYPD Blue" and CBS' "The Handler."

The two-hour pilot "Commander in Chief," from Touchstone TV, centers on the first female U.S. president. Carradine will play the president's press secretary. The project is still contingent on casting the lead.

Carradine's series credits include FX's "Lucky" and ABC's "Once and Again."

"In Justice," from Touchstone TV, revolves around a group of impassioned lawyers who aid the wrongly convicted. Cosgrove and Zimmer are members of the ensemble cast.

"Three," from Paramount Network Television, revolves around a happily married couple and their recently divorced male friend (Levi).

For Levi, the project is in second position to ABC's "Less Than Perfect," now in its third season.

"Triangle," from Paramount Network TV and Shore View Entertainment, centers on a young doctor (Sergei) who moves to the Caribbean after his wife disappears during their honeymoon there. Woodside, whose series credits include "24" and "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," will play a police captain, and Du Toit will play a bartender.

Bab 5's Straczynski Says No Trek

Fans hoped for Babylon Trek

Hollywood February 16, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - A day after calling for a letter-writing campaign by fans who wanted to see his version of Star Trek produced, Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynski posted a follow-up message to the same newsgroup retracting his statement.

"[B]elay everything I just said," Straczynski wrote. "In the 24 hours between the time I composed the prior note, and sent it, and it made its way through the moderation software, two things happened."

The two things that changed Straczynski's mind were a tip from a trusted source at Paramount, which owns the rights to the Star Trek franchise, that the studio is "giving the Trek TV world a rest" for a year or two, and an offer to run a series premiering in the fall of 2006, which Straczynski has accepted.

In Straczynski's words, the Trek campaign is now "kind of moot."

The writer/producer apologized to fans and assured them that he hasn't abandoned the project completely.

"We can reconvene a year or two down the road to see where this takes us," he said. "But in the interim ... my apologies for waking everybody up in the middle of the night."

UK File-trading 24, Enterprise
By Adam Pasick

LONDON February 17, 2005 (Reuters) - Britain has emerged as the world's biggest market for downloading pirated TV, driven by tech-savvy fans who are unwilling to wait for popular U.S. shows such as "Desperate Housewives."

24 is the most pirated show
online (Fox)

Britain's status as a TV downloading hotspot, revealed in a study by UK technology consultancy Envisional on Thursday, could pose problems for UK broadcaster BSkyB, which is counting on high-profile U.S. shows such as "24" to draw new subscribers to its satellite TV service.

According to Envisional, Britain accounts for about one-fifth of TV downloads through file-sharing networks such as BitTorrent and eDonkey, more than any other country, followed by Australia and the United States.

"Because there's such a demand for U.S. TV, the UK is going to be the main downloader," said Envisional research consultant David Price.

Popular U.S. television shows such as "The West Wing," "The Sopranos" and "Friends" usually air in Britain months after they are broadcast stateside. For impatient fans, the Internet offers bootleg, advertisement-free programs that can be downloaded in a few hours over a high-speed connection.

Episodes of the espionage drama "24" show up on the popular file-trading network BitTorrent within minutes after they air in the U.S., according to Envisional, and a typical episode is downloaded by about 100,000 users.

The company said that "24" is the most pirated show online, with "The Simpsons," "The OC" and a host of sci-fi programs including "Stargate SG-1" and "Enterprise" also popular.

Sky and other broadcasters such as Channel 4, which air large blocks of U.S. shows, say they are monitoring the growing popularity of online TV downloads.

If the situation worsens, it may result in lower prices paid by broadcasters for shows such as "Joey," which went to Channel Five after an intense bidding war.


For the moment no one in the UK television sector will admit to losing any sleep over TV downloads.

"Unless you're a pretty big cybergeek, people are generally happy to watch it on TV," said an executive at one UK broadcaster who asked to remain anonymous.

Hollywood is not standing idly by. Fearful of a repeat of the rampant downloading that crippled the music industry, the Motion Picture Association of America has forced the closure of several sites that provide the links needed to download movies and television shows.

If that doesn't work, there is always the threat of lawsuits. When the MPAA shut down a site called LokiTorrent last week, they seized reams of data including logs of user data that could enable legal action against individual users.

"I'm not sure if the MPAA are going to follow that route," Price said. "The MPAA have found a very worthwhile technique, which is to go after the tracker sites and shut those down, which means the users don't have anywhere to go to get what they need."

But there is little evidence that Hollywood's counteroffensive crackdown has had any effect, according to Web analysis firm CacheLogic, which estimates that BitTorrent accounts for a staggering one-third of all Internet traffic.

"We've seen very little change, and in some cases we've actually seen an increase," said CacheLogic Chief Technology Officer Andrew Parker. "The MPAA has had no impact."

Director Alex Proyas

Knowing Alex Proyas
By Borys Kit

LOS ANGELES February 17, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - "I, Robot" director Alex Proyas is attached to shoot the supernatural thriller "Knowing."

The project is the story of a man who unearths a 1950s time capsule with children's drawings predicting the future. One set of drawings depicts horrible events that already have come true, but one of the events has not occurred, and the man sets out to prevent it from happening.

Proyas also directed the films "Dark City" and "The Crow."

The project is set up at Sony-based producer Escape Artists, but does not have a studio home.

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