Bad Nuke News!
Portuguese UFO! Toxic PCs!
Fixing Hubble, Cheap Oil,
Gargantuan Galactic Clusters!
Bad Nuke News!
Senate Allows Nuclear Sludge
By H. Josef Hebert
Associated Press

WASHINGTON June 04, 2004 (AP) — The U.S. Senate on Thursday agreed to ease cleanup requirements for tanks holding millions of gallons of highly radioactive waste from Cold War–era bomb making.

Senate critics said the change would leave poisonous sludge in underground tanks and risk contamination of groundwater.

An attempt to block the change failed by the narrowest of margins. Senators voted 48-48 on an amendment offered by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Washington, that would have stripped the provision from a defense authorization bill.

The provision allows the Energy Department to reclassify radioactive sludge in 51 tanks at a South Carolina nuclear site so it can be left in place and covered by concrete, instead of being entombed in the Nevada desert.

While the plan has been approved by South Carolina officials, it brought sharp criticism from officials in Washington and Idaho who feared the change would put intense pressure on them to agree to a similar cleanup plan at nuclear sites in their states. The proposal also left South Carolina's two senators sharply divided.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who had put the provision into the defense bill, said it will quicken waste cleanup at the Savannah River nuclear complex near Aiken, South Carolina, by 23 years and save $16 billion. He rejected claims the waste would harm the environment.

Sen. Fritz Hollings, D-South Carolina, said the sludge accounts for more than half of the radioactivity in the tanks of liquid waste and endangers future generations. It's "not harmless sludge we can pour sand over and cover with concrete" as the Energy Department proposes, said Hollings.

The Savannah River tanks contain 34 million gallons of liquid waste. Sludge accounts for about 1 percent of the waste volume.

While supporters of the measure insisted it would apply only to waste at the Savannah River site, opponents said the change in nuclear waste policy would create a "clear precedent" that could force other states — mainly Washington and Idaho where there also are defense waste tanks — to accept less safe cleanup plans.

Cantwell, who led the push to kill the measure, accused the administration of trying to "sneak" the change in cleanup requirements through Congress by tacking it onto a defense measure in closed-door proceedings without hearings.

In an interview, Cantwell said she hasn't given up on getting the provision defeated. "I don't think the issue is over.... It's too significant of an issue," she said. "We have more amendments." Since the House bill doesn't contain a similar measure, the issue is also likely to come up in final negotiations by a conference.

Graham's provision was put into the $447 billion defense bill during consideration by the Armed Services Committee without hearings. The House panel refused to include the changes in its version of the defense bill and, instead, called on the National Academy of Sciences to examine the Energy Department cleanup proposal.

The White House is trying "to blackmail my state to accept a lower cleanup standard," declared Sen. Patty Murray, D-Washington.

The tanks of nuclear waste are left over from decades of producing plutonium and highly enriched uranium for nuclear weapons. A 1982 law requires that all waste from such reprocessing must be buried at a central repository planned for Nevada.

But the Energy Department argues that the residual sludge should be considered low-level waste and should not have to be removed. Instead, the department wants to cover the sludge with cementlike grout, saying that would be protective for hundreds of years.

Deputy Energy Secretary Kyle McSlarrow said Thursday the proposed treatment of the sludge is a "scientifically sound plan to empty, clean, stabilize, and dispose of nuclear waste" in the tanks. He maintained it was "fully protective" of the environment.

Last year a federal judge, acting on a lawsuit by environmentalists, ruled that such an approach violates the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act. To get around the ruling, the department wants to get the law changed.

There are 177 tanks with 53 million gallons of waste at the Hanford nuclear site near Richland, Washington, and 900,000 gallons in tanks at the (Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL) facility near Idaho Falls, Idaho.

Environmentalists blasted the Senate action.

It's "a cruel trick that allows the Bush administration to leave a legacy of radioactive pollution that could endanger drinking water for millions of Americans," said Karen Wayland, legislative director of the Natural Resources Defense Council, which filed the lawsuit that successfully challenged the Energy Department plan.

Robert Pregulman, executive director of the Public Interest Research Group in Washington state, said the legislation marks another attempt by the Energy Department "to weasel out of its obligation to properly clean up the radioactive mess it created at Hanford and other sites around the country."

Rokkasho Nuke Plant Sparks Protests
By Kenji Hall
Associated Press

TOKYO June 04, 2004 (AP) - A closely watched nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in northern Japan received a shipment of high-level radioactive waste Thursday, triggering protests a year-and-a-half after it was closed for safety failures.

A shipment of drums containing 46 tons (50 short tons) of used fuel — mostly radioactive uranium and plutonium — was delivered under heavy guard from a Japanese power plant to Rokkasho, said local government official Kazumitsu Terashita.

Aside from immediate safety concerns, the unique reprocessing program has received intense attention around the world because it produces plutonium that critics say could be diverted and used to make nuclear weapons.

Japan Nuclear Fuel Ltd. temporarily closed the plant, which lies about 580 kilometers (360 miles) northeast of Tokyo, and halted shipments of waste in November 2002, after a radioactive water leak and other problems.

But the plant, which is designed to store radioactive waste and recycle spent nuclear fuel, was allowed to resume operations after passing safety checks, Terashita said.

The plant will handle 529 tons (582 short tons) of used fuel through March 2005, according to Japan Nuclear Fuel's Web site. The company, a consortium of utilities, refused to confirm Thursday's delivery.

Dozens of residents and antinuclear protesters staged demonstrations near the plant and hundreds of people were expected to turn out for more demonstrations in the afternoon, said activist Osamu Imamura.

Residents and environmentalists worry about radioactive leaks and possible training accidents from nearby Misawa U.S. Air Base.

"We don't want dangerous radioactive wastes to be brought here for storage. The government should end its nuclear fuel reprocessing plans," Imamura said.

Nuclear power is at the center of Tokyo's plans to make this resource-poor island nation more energy independent.

Government plans call for producing more electricity at nuclear plants instead of coal- or oil-fired plants, which rely on imported resources. Japan's 52 active nuclear power plants already supply nearly 35 percent of the country's energy.

But the industry has been plagued by safety problems and reactor shutdowns in recent years. The country's worst nuclear accident at a reprocessing plant outside Tokyo in 1999 killed two workers and exposed hundreds of people to radioactivity. That has fanned public worries about nuclear energy and put pressure on the government to review its policy. Tokyo wants to build 11 more reactors, boosting nuclear power to 40.7 percent of the country's energy supply by 2010.

The 2.1 trillion yen (US$19 billion) Rokkasho plant began operating in the early 1990s as a vital fuel storage site and is expected to hold fuel and waste for up to 50 years. Since opening, it has taken in 779 tons (857 short tons) of spent fuel, more than one-quarter of its capacity, said Japan Nuclear Fuel spokesman Masanori Hirao.

The company plans to begin tests enriching uranium later this month and start reprocessing highly radioactive plutonium for reactors in 2006, said Hirao.

The reprocessed fuel could be used in reactors that burn a mixture of uranium and plutonium, or more advanced fast-breeder reactors, which use plutonium fuel instead of uranium and produce more plutonium that can be used as fuel. Japan's only other reactor using plutonium fuel has been closed since a 1995 accident.

But some scientists say volcanoes and frequent earthquakes make Rokkasho a dangerous place for storage and that reprocessing plutonium is costly and riskier than technology currently in use.

EU Wants Nuke Plant Closed
By Kieran Cooke 

Yerevan Armenia June 1, 2004 (BBC) - The EU is freezing 100m euros of aid to Armenia because of the country's refusal to set a date to close an old Russian-built nuclear power station. The Metsamor plant, which is sited some 40km west of the Armenian capital Yerevan, is built on top of one of the world's most active seismic zones. The station was closed after one major quake in 1988, but reopened in 1995. 

"This plant is a danger to the whole Caucasus region," says Alexis Loeber, head of the EU's delegation in Armenia. Our position of principle is that nuclear power plants should not be built in highly active seismic zones."

Metsamor is a pressurized water reactor that was first commissioned in the mid 1970s. It is about 80km from what is believed to have been the epicenter of the 1988 earthquake, which killed 25,000 people. 

The European Union, as part of its general policy seeking the closure of elderly nuclear plants constructed in territories of the former Soviet Union, agreed to give the grant aid ($122m; £66m) to Armenia for finding alternative energy sources and for helping with decommissioning costs at the plant. In return, the government in Yerevan would commit to a definite date for the plant's closure. 

"We cannot force Armenia to close the plant," says the EU's Mr Loeber. "Originally it was agreed the plant should cease operations this year - now Brussels is asking the government to give a definite date as to when it proposes to close it. We feel that should definitely be well in advance of the end of Metsamor's design lifecycle in 2016." 

The Metsamor plant has no secondary containment facilities, a safety requirement of all modern reactors. Another concern is that due to border and railway closures with surrounding territories, nuclear material to feed the plant is flown into Armenia from Russia. 

"It is the same as flying around a potential nuclear bomb," says Mr Loeber. "It's an extremely hazardous exercise."

Armenian and EU officials are due to meet in Brussels this Friday to discuss Metsamor's future. The EU has warned that if no progress is made on the issue, its grant aid offer might be withdrawn altogether. At present, however, there is no indication that the Armenian government has any intention of closing Metsamor. Areg Galstyan, the country's deputy minister of power, says $50m (40 million euros; £27m) has been spent on upgrading safety at Metsamor.

"It was a big mistake to shut the plant in 1988," says Mr Galstyan. "It created an energy crisis and the people and economy suffered. It would be impossible for the government to cause the same problem again by shutting off the plant." 

The deputy minister also insists that all necessary safety measures are taken with flying in fuel to feed the reactor, though he says exact details of the operation are kept secret "to avoid alarming the people". 

Alvaro Antonyan, president of Armenia's National Survey for Seismic Protection, says Russian scientists had built the power station on a special raft to resist earthquakes. Dr Antonyan says the 1988 earthquake - a magnitude 6.7 event - had not damaged the reactor. 

The Metsamor plant supplies about 35% of Armenia's total energy output. Electricity industry specialists say that due to the expansion and updating of existing thermal and hydro-energy plants, the country has become an electricity exporter in recent years. A major new power source will come on stream in 2006 when a pipeline supplying gas from neighboring Iran is due to be completed. 

In a country where jobs are scarce and per capita annual incomes are less than $600 (490 euros; £326), people have mixed feelings about the Metsamor issue. 

"I fear for my two children because I do not think the plant is safe," says Gohar Bezprozvannkh, who worked at the plant for two years. "Earthquakes happen here and there is danger. On the other hand, we do not have any other options for work." 

Martiroian Harazat, now retired, had worked at the plant since it opened. "If they shut down the reactor we will die of hunger. People have to eat. There's no alternative place to work."

European Union -

[...And Now The Good News - kinda'. Ed.]

Regulators Nuke Ohio Facility Cleanup
By John Nolan
Associated Press

CINCINNATI, Ohio June 4, 2004 (AP) — Federal environmental regulators have rejected a government plan to begin removing highly radioactive waste from a former uranium-processing plant in Ohio.

Nevada has threatened a lawsuit to block the Energy Department from shipping the waste from the former Fernald plant to the department's desert disposal site 65 miles north of Las Vegas.

The Environmental Protection Agency told the Energy Department this week that it should not start removing the powdery waste from a concrete silo later this month and then hold it at Fernald until it could be shipped. Keeping the waste at Fernald after it is out of the silo would violate a cleanup agreement the Energy Department reached years ago with federal and state environmental regulators, the EPA said.

Bill Taylor, the Energy Department's director of the $4 billion-plus cleanup, said Thursday that any lengthy delays could jeopardize the project's planned completion in 2006.

The Energy Department will continue talks with all parties in hopes of working out the differences, Taylor said.

Federal and state environmental regulators say the cleanup agreement requires continuous shipments of waste to Nevada as it is removed from silos.

The Energy Department wants to ship the wastes in hundreds of trucks between now and 2006 for permanent disposal at its Nevada Test Site, where the government once tested nuclear weapons.

The department has been moving low-level radioactive wastes from Fernald to Nevada for years. But state officials say the higher-level waste will need a more secure disposal site with lined pits.

From the early 1950s until 1989, the Fernald plant processed and purified uranium metal for use in reactors to produce plutonium for nuclear weapons. Fernald ended production in 1989 to begin the cleanup. The site is located about 20 miles northwest of Cincinnati, Ohio.

Portuguese UFO Sighting
LISBON June 3, 2004 (AFP) - The Portuguese air force has been on alert since late Tuesday, when several authorities and witnesses reported seeing a luminous unidentified flying object.

"Military radar surveillance has been increased and F16 planes are ready for take-off," tabloid daily Correio da Manha reported Thursday. 

It said the Portuguese civil protection service had received scores of calls from people who reported briefly seeing a silent, luminous object in the sky on Tuesday night, giving off white smoke. Air force spokesman Colonel Carlos Barbosa confirmed to Lusa news agency that military radars had detected "a target... that was not identified as a plane" for two or three minutes. 

The national air traffic control authority, Navegacao Aerea de Portugal (NAV), also confirmed a UFO had been spotted in the north and south of the country just before midnight on Tuesday.

"The control tower in Oporto (north) detected a flying object which had been observed 25 minutes earlier in Montijo and Beja (south)," NAV spokesman Paulo Lagarto said. 

The authorities were unable to say what the mysterious object was. 

But Jose Fernando Monteiro, a geology researcher at Lisbon's science university, said he had consulted US air defence officials and the UFO could not have been a meteorite. 

If it had been a meteorite it would have traveled much faster and made a lot of noise, Monteiro told Correio da Manha and Lusa. 

The European Space Agency said the UFO was not a falling satellite either and the Portuguese weather service said there was no meteorological explanation for the phenomenon. 

The only person to come up with a possible explanation was astronomist Jose Matos, who said the UFO might have been an Iridium telecommunications satellite. 

"These satellites orbit at a height of about 780 kilometers (490 miles). They each have three antennae, which are polished like mirrors and reflect the light of the sun," he told the media.

[Aliens getting popular! The Portuguese report follows similar recent mass sightings in Mexico and Iran, not to mention the one Rover saw on Mars! Ed.]

House Budget Shortchanges National Parks
WASHINGTON, June 3, 2004 (US Newswire) - The National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) today said that the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee's budget shortchanges the national parks, despite extensive reports in the media about visitor center closures, crumbling roads and trails, and other urgent park needs.

"The subcommittee's hands were tied, resulting in a budget that is woefully inadequate for the national parks," said NPCA senior vice president Ron Tipton. "This bill takes only baby steps where giant steps are needed."

NPCA's Endangered Rangers report in March 2004 profiled the extensive impact of insufficient funding on the national parks, from visitor center closures in Olympic to reduced public education programs at Great Smoky Mountains.

The committee, recognizing that the national parks need additional funding for day-to-day operations, doubled the funding available for the base operating needs of the parks over the administration's requested budget. The administration's national parks budget for fiscal year 2005 included a $76 million increase for operations. The House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee maintained the administration's $76 million level, while increasing the portion of the operating budget that goes directly toward the parks' base needs. 

However, the House budget eliminates all land acquisition funding, including monies for projects such as the creation of a national park site to commemorate Flight 93 and expansion of Fort Clatsop to celebrate the bicentennial of the Lewis & Clark expedition. The administration had requested $84 million for National Park Service land acquisition.

In total, the House bill appropriates $93 million less than the administration requested, which was already insufficient to cover mandatory cost of living increases for dedicated park staff, never mind other needs.

Over the past three years, the parks have had to absorb $170 million of unfunded costs, such as homeland security expenses and cost of living increases, which should have been budgeted for and funded. These costs continue to erode national park budgets, which already suffer from an annual operating shortfall in excess of $600 million.

Earlier this month, 84 members of the U.S. House of Representatives and 20 U.S. Senators signed bipartisan letters to their appropriations committees seeking an additional $240 million for national park operations in the fiscal year 2005 budget.

The House has two additional opportunities to increase the national parks' budget: next week, the full House Appropriations Committee meets; floor action is likely the week after. The Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee marks up the bill next week.

To download a PDF version of NPCA's report, Endangered Rangers, visit
Toxic PCs!
By Rachel Konrad
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO June 04, 2004 (AP) — "Toxic dust" found on computer processors and monitors contains chemicals linked to reproductive and neurological disorders, according to a new study by several environmental groups.

The survey, released Thursday by Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition, Computer TakeBack Campaign, and Clean Production Action, is among the first to identify brominated flame retardants on the surfaces of common devices in homes and offices.

Electronics companies began using polybrominated diphenyl (PBDEs) and other flame retardants in the 1970s, arguing that the toxins prevent fires and cannot escape from plastic casings.

"This will be a great surprise to everyone who uses a computer," said Ted Smith, director of the Toxics Coalition. "The chemical industry is subjecting us all to what amounts to chemical trespass by putting these substances into use in commerce. They continue to use their chemicals in ways that are affecting humans and other species."

Researchers collected samples of dust from dozens of computers in eight states, including university computer labs in New York, Michigan, and Texas; legislative offices in California; and an interactive computer display at a children's museum in Maine. They tested for three types of brominated flame retardants suspected to be hazardous.

Penta- and octa-brominated diphenyl will be taken off the market by the end of the year. Environmental groups are demanding legislation that would ban deca-brominated diphenyl too.

PBDEs, which have caused neurological damage in laboratory rats in numerous studies, are related to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). PCBs have been used in fire extinguishers, fluorescent lights, and liquid insulators since the 1920s.

The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and several other organizations have confirmed that PCBs damage brains of human fetuses.

Scientists have not directly correlated exposure to PBDEs with specific diseases or developmental impairment. Researchers at University of California, Davis, and elsewhere are studying possible links between brominated flame retardants and autism, but results are years away.

Independent researchers who reviewed the new study say consumers shouldn't throw out their computers, and they needn't wear special gloves or minimize exposure to computer monitors. There's no known way to remove dust-born PBDEs, so special wipes or sprays wouldn't reduce chemical exposure.

"The levels in the dust are enough to raise a red flag, but not enough to create a crisis," said Dr. Gina Solomon, senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council and assistant professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco. "I have an old computer monitor in front of me now, and I'm not about to throw it away. But when I get a new one, it darn well will be free of these chemicals."

The electronics industry has been reducing or eliminating some brominated flame retardants since the late 1990s, when European countries began prohibiting the sale of products that contain the chemicals.

Dell Inc. and many other computer makers continue using a flame retardant related to PBDEs on circuit boards. They use lead, mercury, and other toxins in central processing units and monitors. But Dell, along with Apple Computer Inc. and others, stopped using PBDEs in 2002.

"People can be very confident about their new computer purchase," Dell spokesman Bryant Hilton said. "We've worked a lot with suppliers, and we require audits and material data sheets on all our products. It's an important topic to be aware of, and brominated flame retardants are something we've been very focused on and will continue to be focused on."
Antarctica's Dry Valleys
AUCKLAND June 2, 2004 (AFP) - A vast ice-free area of Antarctica has been given a new status in a bid to protect it following lobbying by New Zealand and the United States, Antarctica New Zealand (ANZ) said in a statement.

The 15,000 square kilometer (6,000 square mile) Dry Valleys will become the first "Antarctic Specially Managed Area". 

The Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting this week in Cape Town approved the Managed Areas status, including a comprehensive management plan. 

A second area, proposed by Australia, has also been approved for a much smaller area at Cape Denison, south of Tasmania, where the Australasian Antarctic Expedition (1911-1914), led by Douglas Mawson, was based. 

ANZ chief executive Lou Sanson hailed the Dry Valleys decision. 

"Achieving this special status for the Dry Valleys is the result of a very successful international collaboration". 

Karl Erb, Director of the United States Antarctic Program, said "the McMurdo Dry Valleys are a unique venue for research on subjects as diverse as the history of the earth and the adaptation of life to extreme environments".

The Dry Valleys, west of the New Zealand and US bases at McMurdo Sound, contains the largest expanse of ice-free ground in Antarctica. 

The cold desert environment encompasses soils millions of years old, communities of unusual plants and microorganisms, special geological features and spectacular scenery. 

The Dry Valleys are particularly sensitive to human disturbance with extremely slow recovery rates, meaning that footprints made in the 1950s in areas of low wind disturbance are still clearly visible today. 

They are ice-free because the Transantarctic Mountains, which run along the western edge of the Ross Sea, block the Antarctic icesheet. 

The new agreement will ensure that the scientific, wilderness, ecological, and aesthetic values of the Dry Valleys are protected. 

Under the 1959 Antarctic Treaty all territorial claims in Antarctica are suspended and the continent is managed by the treaty's current 45 signatory states.

Shuttle Plan to Fix Hubble
By Deborah Zabarenko 

WASHINGTON June 2, 2004 (Reuters) - One day after NASA's chief announced plans to look for robots to fix the aging Hubble Space Telescope, scientists heard on Wednesday about a proposal to use shuttle astronauts to do essentially the same job.

NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe on Tuesday announced a formal request for proposals for a space-walking robot to repair Hubble and install some updated scientific instruments.
O'Keefe in January had ruled out sending astronauts in a shuttle mission to the orbiting telescope, deeming it too risky. 

But Wayne Hale, deputy manager of the shuttle program at NASA's Johnson Space Center, told a National Academy of Sciences panel investigating ways to repair the Hubble that it might be possible to use the shuttle for a mission to extend the Hubble's life.

The telescope's stabilizing gyroscopes are expected to fail and its batteries to fade, probably in 2007. 

The shuttle plan was conceived before O'Keefe announced ruled future missions to fix Hubble, but is being considered by the science panel which NASA had asked to look at the issue. It would depend on getting the now-grounded fleet back in flight with new safety measures in place, following the Feb. 1, 2003, Columbia accident that killed seven astronauts. 

Hale said any Hubble repair mission by the shuttle must, as recommended by investigators who probed the Columbia accident, include time to examine the shuttle for damage and a plan to rescue the shuttle astronauts if the damage proved critical. 

This would involve having a second shuttle on the launch pad while the repair mission proceeded.

If the first shuttle were critically damaged, the second shuttle would be sent -- with a four-person crew -- to rescue the seven astronauts on the Hubble mission. 

All 11 crew members would fly home aboard the rescue shuttle, Hale said. The Hubble repairs would be scrapped. 

A new Hubble mission would be the fifth maintenance trip by astronauts to the 14-year-old orbiting observatory. It would involve five full days of two-person space-walks. The crew would have to include four astronauts qualified for the work, along with two others skilled in manipulating the shuttle's robotic arm, Hale said. 

The Hubble telescope's early history was clouded by blurred vision caused by a flawed main mirror, which was fixed by shuttle astronauts. Since then, it has probed the infant universe, distant galaxies and cosmic phenomena including black holes and dark matter. 

O'Keefe's decision to forgo any future astronaut repair missions sparked outrage from the astronomical community and the public.

Save The Hubble -

Watching Paint Dry
LONDON May 28, 2004 (Reuters) - Some critics say the endless stream of hugely popular reality television shows are as dull as watching paint dry. Well, now they can test the theory with a live, eight-week round-the-clock Webcast of just that. 

Billed as the "ultimate reality TV show," British pay-channel UKTV Style promises a wall, some brushes and different types of paint in its program "Watching Paint Dry." 

"Every other reality show is full of boring drips, so we thought that we would go one step further," said Nick Thorogood, UKTV head of lifestyle. "We guarantee that Watching Paint Dry will be at least as interesting as the other reality shows." 

The tongue-in-cheek Internet program is being launched on Friday, the same day the most famous fly on the wall show of them all, "Big Brother," takes to the air again in Britain. Most such shows rely on viewers voting out the human contestants, be they the Big Brother wannabes or the famous names of jungle show "I'm a Celebrity Get me Out of Here" 

But people watching paint drying on will be able to vote for their favorite wall-covering, such as gloss, satin or matte, with the least favorite being voted out each week before the nation's choice is revealed.
Cheap Oil
By Laura Walsh
Associated Press

WESTON, Connecticut June 04, 2004 (AP) — As car owners across the country grapple with pumped-up gas prices, some are turning to their favorite restaurants for a solution: recycled vegetable oil.

Environmentalists with diesel cars have used vegetable oil for years as an alternative fuel to cut back on sooty emissions, but as gas prices soar above $2 a gallon, they say their "veggie cars" are a great way to save cash.

Every two weeks, Etta Kantor drives to a local Chinese restaurant to fuel her blue Volkswagen Jetta. She calls ahead and the owner puts aside a few buckets of used oil for her.

At home, Kantor uses a colander and a bag filter to remove water and any food particles.

The vegetable oil is then poured into a 15-gallon tank in the back of her Jetta, where a spare tire would usually be kept. With a touch of a button located above the radio, Kantor can switch from diesel fuel to vegetable oil in seconds.

"Oh, I zip around town, go fast on highways. It's not any different," said Kantor, 58, of Weston.

Restaurants that would have to pay to get rid of their old vegetable oil are happy to give it away for free.

"It saves us a couple of dollars and it helps to save the environment a bit so I thought, 'Why not?'" said Shawn Reilly, a co-owner of Eli's On Whitney, a restaurant in Hamden. Reilly estimates it costs as much as $60 a month to have the oil removed otherwise.

Bridgeport resident Aaron Schlechter says he picks up about 30 or 40 gallons twice a month from Eli's. He uses it to fuel his car for his 170-mile commute every day to his job as an environmental consultant in Staten Island, New York.

"The only way that I can assuage my guilt by driving this awful distance is by driving something that isn't consuming fossil fuels and has much more environmentally friendly emissions," Schlechter said.

Vegetable oil is becoming so popular that a Massachusetts company called Greasecar is buying it in bulk from a distributor and selling it to local customers. It's priced at 90 cents a gallon, said company founder Justin Carven.

Since 2001, Greasecar has also been selling conversion kits, like the one in Kantor's car, that allow diesel cars to run on the recycled oil. About 200 kits were sold in the past year, Carven said. A standard conversion kit sells for $800 at Greasecar.

"Once you install it, though, you are saving hundreds and hundreds of dollars," Carven said. "The product usually pays for itself within the first year."

Cars that have a conversion kit have two fuel systems, one that operates on diesel and the other on the recycled oil. The car is stopped and started with diesel; once it's running, the vegetable oil is heated to make it thinner. The driver can then switch fuel systems and the recycled oil is sprayed into the engine in the same way diesel fuel is.

The kit only works on diesel engines because vegetable oil is not flammable enough to work in gasoline engines that are spark-ignited.

Liquid Solar in Ithaca, New York, has contracts with a few local restaurants to collect their used vegetable oil. And in Santa Rosa, California, a group of 50 people have formed a co-op to buy oil in bulk from a local manufacturer and then filter it for their own use.

Although the Environmental Protection Agency has approved vegetable-based biodiesel, which is also gaining in popularity, it hasn't OKed any recycled oil for sale, said Christine Sansevero, an environmental engineer for EPA.

"You just don't know what's in that oil," she said. "There could be metals, other chemicals that, when burned, could create something you didn't intend to burn. It could also be fine, but it's an unknown."

Biodiesel is a fuel derived from plant oil or animal fat, Sansevero said. It can be used in pure form but it is often blended with regular diesel. The most common form is B20, a blend of 20 percent biodiesel and 80 percent petroleum diesel.

Veggie car owners agree that biodiesel is another renewable fuel source but say it isn't as cost effective or eco-friendly. Pure biodiesel costs about $1 more per gallon than diesel, Sansevero said. B20 costs about 20 cents more per gallon than diesel, she said.

The trend is catching on, especially for those who have a distance to drive.

The Healing Waters Band had a Greasecar conversion kit installed in its bus for a recent seven-week tour across the country. The band used a blended biodiesel mix to start and stop the engine and vegetable oil for the rest.

The band left its hometown of San Diego on a full tank of vegetable oil and then filled up again at a Chinese restaurant in Missouri before buying 500 gallons during a stop at Greasecar in Massachusetts.

"We only spent $200 that would have normally cost us about $1,200, and we probably could have done it all for free if we kept stopping (at restaurants)," said Tony Thorpe, a bassist and vocalist for the band.

Watching Venus Fly
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Press Release

June 3, 2004 - NASA invites you to safely view a rare celestial event, one not seen before by any person alive. On June 8, Venus will appear to cross in front of the sun as viewed from Earth. The last "Venus transit" occurred in 1882. The next two Venus transits are on June 6, 2012, and Dec. 11, 2117.

NASA has formed partnerships with observatories, museums, and amateur astronomers to help people safely observe the event. Special precautions are necessary to safely observe the sun. NASA's Office of Space Science is offering exciting activities and resources for classrooms and museums.

Information, resources, opportunities for educational participation, local events and viewing times, are available on the Internet at:

The event may be safely observed over the Internet with images from solar observatories and satellites.

For Internet viewing options, including a live webcast from Athens, Greece, made in partnership with the Exploratorium in San Francisco, Calif., visit:

The Venus transit will be visible from approximately 75 percent of the Earth. For a map of the transit visibility on the Internet, visit:

Transit times for cities worldwide are available on the Internet at:

"People using a filter approved for safe solar viewing can expect to see a small black dot, about 1/30 the size of the solar disk, very slowly moving across the sun," said Fred Espenak, an eclipse expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. 

During the 19th century, Venus transits were essential for astronomers to determine the scale of the heavens. Transits were used to calculate a relatively accurate distance from the Earth to the sun. Once that distance was determined, astronomers calculated the size of our solar system. They also calculated distances to nearby stars by measuring how much they appeared to shift against remote background stars, as the Earth progressed in its orbit around the sun.

So critical was this measurement that, beginning in 1761, leading nations sent expeditions to remote corners of the globe to exactly time when Venus appeared to begin its transit of the sun. The precise timing of the transit depended on location, because different places on the Earth observed the event from different angles. The times were compared, and the distance to the sun calculated using the known distances between expedition locations on the Earth and trigonometry. 

The transit phenomenon also has relevance for the future of astronomy. Scientists with NASA's Kepler mission hope to discover Earth-like planets outside our solar system by searching for transits of other stars by planets that might be orbiting them.

NASA's Kepler mission is scheduled for launch in October 2007. It will allow astronomers to find planets, perhaps the size of Earth, orbiting other stars by looking for tiny dips in the brightness of a star when a planet crosses in front of it. Periodic brightness dips will signal the presence of a planet in orbit around the star, even if the planet is not directly visible. For information about the Kepler mission on the Internet, visit:

Charting Gargantuan Galactic Clusters!
European Southern Observatory Press Release

June 3, 2004 - Clusters of galaxies are very large building blocks of the Universe. These gigantic structures contain hundreds to thousands of galaxies and, less visible but equally interesting, an additional amount of "dark matter" whose origin still defies the astronomers, with a total mass of thousands of millions of millions times the mass of our Sun.

The comparatively nearby Coma cluster, for example, contains thousands of galaxies and measures more than 20 million light-years across. Another well-known example is the Virgo cluster at a distance of about 50 million light-years, and still stretching over an angle of more than 10 degrees in the sky!

Clusters of galaxies form in the densest regions of the Universe. As such, they perfectly trace the backbone of the large-scale structures in the Universe, in the same way that lighthouses trace a coastline. Studies of clusters of galaxies therefore tell us about the structure of the enormous space in which we live.

Following this idea, a European team of astronomers, under the leadership of Hans Böhringer (MPE, Garching, Germany), Luigi Guzzo (INAF, Milano, Italy), Chris A. Collins (JMU, Liverpool), and Peter Schuecker (MPE, Garching) has embarked on a decade-long study of these gargantuan structures, trying to locate the most massive of clusters of galaxies.

Since about one-fifth of the optically invisible mass of a cluster is in the form of a diffuse very hot gas with a temperature of the order of several tens of millions of degrees, clusters of galaxies produce powerful X-ray emission. They are therefore best discovered by means of X-ray satellites.

For this fundamental study, the astronomers thus started by selecting candidate objects using data from the X-ray Sky Atlas compiled by the German ROSAT satellite survey mission. This was the beginning only - then followed a lot of tedious work: making the final identification of these objects in visible light and measuring the distance (i.e., redshift) of the cluster candidates.

The determination of the redshift was done by means of observations with several telescopes at the ESO La Silla Observatory in Chile, from 1992 to 1999. The brighter objects were observed with the ESO 1.5-m and the ESO/MPG 2.2-m telescopes, while for the more distant and fainter objects, the ESO 3.6-m telescope was used.

Carried out at these telescopes, the 12 year-long program is known to astronomers as the REFLEX (ROSAT-ESO Flux Limited X-ray) Cluster Survey. It has now been concluded with the publication of a unique catalogue with the characteristics of the 447 brightest X-ray clusters of galaxies in the southern sky. Among these, more than half the clusters were discovered during this survey.

Galaxy clusters are far from being evenly distributed in the Universe. Instead, they tend to conglomerate into even larger structures, "super-clusters". Thus, from stars which gather in galaxies, galaxies which congregate in clusters and clusters tying together in super-clusters, the Universe shows structuring on all scales, from the smallest to the largest ones. This is a relict of the very early (formation) epoch of the Universe, the so-called "inflationary" period. At that time, only a minuscule fraction of one second after the Big Bang, the tiny density fluctuations were amplified and over the eons, they gave birth to the much larger structures.

Because of the link between the first fluctuations and the giant structures now observed, the unique REFLEX catalogue - the largest of its kind - allows astronomers to put considerable constraints on the content of the Universe, and in particular on the amount of dark matter that is believed to pervade it. Rather interestingly, these constraints are totally independent from all other methods so far used to assert the existence of dark matter, such as the study of very distant supernovae or the analysis of the Cosmic Microwave background (e.g. the WMAP satellite). In fact, the new REFLEX study is very complementary to the above-mentioned methods.

The REFLEX team concludes that the mean density of the Universe is in the range 0.27 to 0.43 times the "critical density", providing the strongest constraint on this value up to now. When combined with the latest supernovae study, the REFLEX result implies that, whatever the nature of the dark energy is, it closely mimics a Universe with Einstein's cosmological constant.

A giant puzzle

The REFLEX catalogue will also serve many other useful purposes. With it, astronomers will be able to better understand the detailed processes that contribute to the heating of the gas in these clusters. It will also be possible to study the effect of the environment of the cluster on each individual galaxy.

Moreover, the catalogue is a good starting point to look for giant gravitational lenses, in which a cluster acts as a giant magnifying lens, effectively allowing observations of the faintest and remotest objects that would otherwise escape detection with present-day telescopes.

But, as Hans Böhringer says: "Perhaps the most important advantage of this catalogue is that the properties of each single cluster can be compared to the entire sample. This is the main goal of surveys: assembling the pieces of a gigantic puzzle to build the grander view, where every single piece then gains a new, more comprehensive meaning."

The results presented in this Press Release will appear in the research journal Astronomy and Astrophysics ("The ROSAT-ESO Flux Limited X-ray (REFLEX) Galaxy Cluster Survey. V. The cluster catalogue" by H. Böhringer et al.; astro-ph/0405546).


Genre News:  Fahrenheit 9/11, Chronicles Game, Paul McCartney, Doom, Clinton, Charlotte's Web & More!
Fahrenheit 9/11's Trailer Online

June 3, 2004 (BBC) - The trailer for Michael Moore's film Fahrenheit 9/11 has made its debut on the movie's official website. The trailer will also be shown in cinemas across the US from Friday. 

The documentary is being released in the US on 25 June by Miramax heads Bob and Harvey Weinstein, through a deal with two outside companies. 

Miramax's parent firm Disney refused to distribute the film, which criticizes President Bush's response to the 11 September attacks on the US. 

The documentary recently won the prestigious Palme d'Or award at this year's Cannes Film Festival. It is only the second documentary in Cannes' history to be awarded the festival's top prize. 

The film explores the Iraq war and alleges links between the Bush family and Osama Bin Laden. In the trailer, images of President Bush, joking with his supporters, are cut together with pictures from the Iraq war. 

It shows clips about the overnight printing of the US Patriot Act, with senators admitting no-one read it, and President Bush had planes authorized to pick up Osama Bin Laden's family.

Moore, who won an Oscar for his anti-gun documentary Bowling for Columbine, has said he hopes Americans see Fahrenheit 9/11 before they vote in this year's presidential election.

The director makes no secret of his anti-Bush stance. Moore thanked the Cannes jury for bringing his film to global attention. 

"You will ensure that the American people will see this movie...You have put a huge light on this. I want to make sure if I do nothing else for the rest of this year that those who died in Iraq have not died in vain."

[In a message on his website, Moore says: "We finally have a distributor in America! Actually, two of them! Lions Gate and IFC Films have agreed to aggressively distribute Fahrenheit 9/11 in theaters all across the country beginning on Friday, June 25th. They will open it on a record number of screens for a documentary." Ed.]

Michael Moore Official Site -

Vin's Chronicles Game

Hollywood June 3, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - Vin Diesel, who reprises the role of antihero Richard Riddick in the upcoming film The Chronicles of Riddick, told SCI FI Wire that he was also intimately involved in the creation of a prequel video game, The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape From Butcher Bay.

"I created [game developer] Tigon Studios just because I wanted the Chronicles of Riddick video game to be incredible," Diesel said in an interview. Tigon worked closely with Diesel's film production company, One Race, to take elements from the upcoming movie and incorporate them into the Xbox title, he added.

Vivendi Universal Games is distributing Escape From Butcher Bay; Universal Pictures will release the Riddick film.

Diesel also voices the character of Riddick in the game, which takes place before the events of Pitch Black, the 2000 SF movie that introduced the character and is the predecessor to The Chronicles of Riddick movie.

"I did the voice, I did dialogue writing, scene writing," he said. "Some of the cinematics are completely original. We were able to assemble a great cast. Ron Perlman [Hellboy], Cole Hauser [who played Johns in Pitch Black] ... [are] amazing in it. ... Johns is in the video game, because it's a prequel to Pitch Black."

Diesel added, "I'm so excited about the game. The game has been rated and nominated for Best in Show at [the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles]. Real exciting. It's addictive, that game. I have it in my trailer, so everybody keeps coming in to play the game. Like they're always asking, 'Can we put up that Riddick game?'"

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay has shipped to stores and carries a suggested retail price of $49.99.

Vivendi Universal Games and Universal Pictures are owned by NBC Universal, which also owns SCIFI.COM.

Sir Paul McCartney's Past Blaze

London June 2, 2004 (BBC) - Former Beatle Sir Paul McCartney has revealed he once tried heroin at the height of the legendary band's success.

"I didn't realise I'd taken it - I was just handed something and smoked it," he told Uncut magazine, adding: "It didn't do anything for me." 

The musician said he also took cocaine "for about a year" but was "never completely crazy" about the drug. In an interview published in this month's Uncut, Sir Paul admitted drugs "informed" much of the Beatles' music. 

He said the song Got To Get You Into My Life was "about pot - although everyone missed it at the time", and Day Tripper was "about acid". He added it was "pretty obvious" that Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds was inspired by LSD, and other songs made "subtle hints" about narcotics. 

But the singer said it was "easy to overestimate" the influence of drugs on the Beatles' material. 

"Just about everyone was doing them in one form or another. We were no different," he said. "But the writing was too important for us to mess it up by getting off our heads all the time." 

Sir Paul said he felt "lucky" he had not taken to heroin as he "wouldn't have fancied heading down that road". He added the "terrible come-downs" had eventually persuaded him to stop using cocaine.

According to the singer, The Beatles started experimenting early in their career - "right back to the Hamburg days when there were all these pills going around". But he said his own intake was "never excessive". "I suppose I learned from an early age to do things in moderation," he said. 

Sir Paul also revealed that he and fellow Beatle John Lennon had dabbled with another addictive substance during their schooldays - tea. "We'd stuff some Twining Tea in a pipe, smoke that and write songs." 

McCartney's drug use made headlines in January 1980 when he arrived at Tokyo's Narita Airport for an eleven-date tour with his band Wings. The singer was arrested after customs officials discovered half a pound (225g) of marijuana in his luggage. He spent 10 nights in a Japanese prison before being released and deported. Sir Paul now admits "it was the daftest thing I've done in my entire life". 

"I was out in New York and I had all this really good grass," he said. "We were about to fly to Japan and I knew I wouldn't be able to get anything to smoke over there. This stuff was too good to flush down the toilet, so I thought I'd take it with me." 

He said it was "not too wonderful" being held in a Japanese jail, but he kept his spirits up by organizing "sing-songs" with his fellow prisoners. 

"I don't actually smoke the stuff these days," he told Uncut. "It's something I've kind of grown out of." 

But he said he was flattered when he was recently invited by a group of Los Angeles teenagers to share their marijuana. 

"To me, it's a huge compliment that a bunch of kids think I might be up to smoke a bit of dope with them."

Paul Official -

Bill Wyman's Vox Bass

WELLINGTON New Zealand June 4, 2004 (AP) - Nearly 40 years after he lost it, Rolling Stones bass player Bill Wyman has one of his guitars back, thanks to a New Zealand musician.

Wellington music maker and business consultant Nick Sceats airfreighted the bass to Wyman two months ago after discovering that it belonged to the rock star. 

Now, Wyman has sent a note to Sceats, thanking him for the bass that he thought he'd lost forever, local media reported Friday. 

"It doesn't look too bad for wear and tear, considering what it has gone through and the traveling it has done over the years," Wyman wrote in the letter, excerpts of which were printed in Wellington's Dominion Post newspaper. 

"Once again, thank you. Your kindness was well appreciated," he said. 

The rare guitar, called a Wyman bass, was one of a small number that the manufacturer Vox made in the 1960s, and the only Vox guitar adorned with an endorser's name: Wyman. 

It's still unknown how the 67-year-old rocker lost the guitar in Wellington in 1966 on tour with the Rolling Stones. 

Sceats, who had the guitar in his possession for 15 years, said it was known among local musicians as the "legendary Wyman bass." So he wrote Wyman saying he had a bass guitar which may have belonged to him, and offering to return it. 

Sceats said he was stunned when Wyman wrote back to say it was definitely his, and that he would love to have it back.

Arrested, Joan and Wonderfalls's Nominations 

LOS ANGELES June 3, 2004 ( - Fresh off its pickup for a second season, "Arrested Development" leads the way in the nominations for the 20th annual Television Critics Association Awards.

The FOX series earned five nominations, including spots in the program of the year and outstanding comedy categories, to lead all shows. "The Sopranos" and "The Daily Show" picked up for nominations each, while HBO's "Deadwood" and "Angels in America" each received three.

HBO programs earned 14 nods from critics to lead all other networks. FOX received nine and NBC five.

"Arrested's" multiple nominations aren't much of surprise. Critics have heaped praise on the marginally rated series and pleaded with FOX to keep the series on the air.

"The Sopranos" and "Arrested Development" are both up for program of the year, along with "The Daily Show," reality sensation "The Apprentice" and "Angels in America," HBO's adaptation of Tony Kushner's Pulitzer Prize-winning play. ("American Idol" won the award last year.)

"Deadwood," "The O.C.," "Wonderfalls" and "Joan of Arcadia" join "Arrested" as the nominees for best new series.

The recently departed "Friends" and "Frasier" are among the nominees for the Heritage Award, which honors shows that have had lasting impact on television and popular culture.

The TCA will hand out its awards July 17 in Los Angeles. Bill Maher is slated to open the ceremony.

Fox's New Summer Show Hype
By Gail Schiller

Hollywood June 4, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - An unconventional programming strategy calls for an unconventional marketing campaign, and that's what Fox Broadcasting Co. has on tap to support next week's launch of new primetime series as the network seeks to break out of the traditional September-May television season cycle.

Fox is employing an array of grassroots and alternative marketing tactics from driving the hot pink pickup truck and Airstream trailer from "The Simple Life 2: Road Trip" around the country to setting up coffee carts outside local courthouses to promote the debut of its new Barry Levinson-Tom Fontana drama "The Jury."

"Our focus is trying to get content out there in interesting ways to really drive sampling for these shows, to get people excited about these shows and hopefully to get good ratings for our premieres," Fox executive vp marketing Roberta Mell said.

[Want to get us excited? Try something other than rewashed "reality" shows and lawyers. Fox talks a "year-round" season, but there's nothing new to watch on Fox this summer. Ed.]

NBC's Motown Miniseries

LOS ANGELES June 3, 2004 (AP) - A 12-hour series about the famed Motown Records music empire and its founder, Berry Gordy, is being developed for NBC. 

"Berry Gordy's Motown" will dramatize Gordy's rise from Detroit's inner city to the head of an entertainment empire with artists that included Diana Ross and the Supremes; Smokey Robinson and the Miracles; the Temptations; and Michael Jackson and the Jackson 5, the network said Thursday. 

The series isn't expected to air until the 2005-06 season. 

Producer Suzanne de Passe, whose credits include "Motown Returns to the Apollo," the miniseries "The Temptations" and "The Jacksons: An American Dream," is developing the project with NBC.

CBS's Nielsen Opposition

LOS ANGELES June 2, 2004 (Reuters) - CBS television on Wednesday joined civil rights leaders and rival network Fox in opposing the launch of a controversial new ratings system in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago by Nielsen Media Research. 

Critics say the local people meters undercount minority audiences, compared with the old system of measuring local viewer habits through pen-and-paper diaries, thus diminishing the value of minorities' favorite shows in the eyes of advertisers. 

An independent industry group, the Media Ratings Council, declined to approve the new system in New York, saying Nielsen had failed to follow its own implementation plan correctly. 

Networks rely on the ratings to sell advertising. 

ABC and NBC have sat out the controversy, but NBC's research chief said on Wednesday that Nielsen was making the best of a bad situation by keeping its old system intact while deploying the new one in New York but should not launch it in other cities until it received Media Ratings Council accreditation. 

Nielsen says the system is more accurate but on Tuesday said it would keep its old system of hand-written surveys and older electronic gauges in place for three months after the Thursday launch of the people meters. 

CBS said Nielsen should wait on the people meters, which electronically track individual viewership, until the system passed the Media Ratings Council's audit in the light of "shortcomings" identified by the group. 

"Nielsen's continued adherence to an overly aggressive, self-imposed timetable for this conversion -- in the face of the increasing evidence that these new services do not yet meet industry and community standards -- can only be detrimental to its eventual effectiveness," CBS said. 

Nielsen spokesman Jack Loftus said that keeping the old system would address the concerns of CBS. "One of the reasons we are launching a dual panel is to answer many of the issues that CBS has raised in its letter," he said. "CBS has the right to choose to use which of the two services it wants." 

NBC research chief Alan Wurtzel said he was disappointed with Nielsen's approach on the new system. 

"Until it is accurate -- and it is not now, based on the MRC audit -- we don't want it to be the measurement standard," he said. 

"I'm disappointed that Nielsen didn't execute the sample in a way to merit accreditation, but it is trying to make the best of what is a difficult situation" with the dual system, he said. 

"My worry is that all of this controversy, particularly with respect to Latinos and African Americans, may have an impact on who takes part and jeopardize the accuracy of the measurement," by scaring away participants, he added. 

The networks weighed in as civil rights leaders threatened to take legal action seeking to block the new system in Los Angeles, where Nielsen plans to roll out its new electronic measuring system next month. 

Nielsen Media Research is a unit of Dutch publisher VNU.

[All of our regular readers know that low or falling ratings have killed off many recent small network genre gems like X-Files, Farscape, Firefly, Buffy, and Angel. It is significant that CBS, the CSI network with so many ratings winners, would take sides against Nielsen. Maybe this is only the tip of the iceberg! Maybe we've got a Nielsen-gate here! Stay tuned! Ed.]

Doom Movie Un-doomed 
By Borys Kit and John Gaudiosi

Hollywood June 4, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - "Doom," despite its title, is a project that refuses to die. 

Despite having had several homes -- at Columbia Pictures and Warner Bros. Pictures -- the video game has landed at Universal Studios, which has optioned the feature film rights from the game's maker, Id Software. 

The game's last home was Warners, where it had to shoot before a certain time or else the rights reverted to Id. Writer David Callagham wrote the script when the project was at Warners, and the studio still owns that material. It is unclear whether he will write a new draft. 

Id Software released the original "Doom" in December 1993, and the first-person shooter game ushered in a new genre of action gaming for the PC. The game puts the player in the combat boots of a space marine on the Phobos moon of Mars in 2145 who must battle monsters who infiltrate the base. The game has a slower pace more akin to a horror movie than many first-person shooters. 

After a sequel in November 1994, the PC game also was adapted for different lines of video game consoles, but then the "Doom" franchise lay mostly dormant until recent years. 

"Doom 3," which is a retelling of the original "Doom" story rather than a sequel, won awards and critical praise at E3 last year in its PC incarnation and again this year as an Xbox game. 

Video game publisher Activision will ship "Doom 3" for the PC on July 20, according to video game retailer Web site, and the Xbox version will follow. The game is one of the most anticipated titles of the year, along with Valve's "Half-Life 2" and Bungie's "Halo 2."

Clinton's Documentary Plot
Associated Press Writer

LITTLE ROCK June 2, 2004 (AP) - A film that claims to expose "the 10-year campaign to destroy Bill Clinton" is scheduled for its first public screening June 15 in Little Rock.

"The Hunting of the President," a 90-minute documentary that re-creates interviews for the New York Times best-selling book by the same name, has already played at four film festivals and will premiere by invitation only in New York on June 11. The movie's general release date is June 23. 

But the first public showing, at $50 a ticket, will be at a 1,500-seat ballroom at the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock, a short walk from where Clinton celebrated his two presidential election victories. 

Director Harry Thomason, who is from Hampton, Ark., profiled Clinton in a glowing light in "The Man from Hope" for the then-Arkansas governor's 1992 presidential campaign. He says the latest piece about his old friend seeks journalistic impartiality, acknowledging that some people would likely dismiss the film as more Clinton propaganda. 

"Of course, the fact that I'm a friend of the Clintons will make a lot of people skeptical," Thomason said in a telephone interview from his Los Angeles home Tuesday. "I knew we would have no validity if we didn't tell about some of the president's indiscretions, his lapses. And so we never intended to let him off the hook. We stuck to the facts." 

The film purports to uncover a right-wing manipulation of the media, which Thomason says began with President Nixon's call to counter liberal messages in the 1970s. Thomason said the impact of Clinton's ties to Hollywood pales in comparison to the reach of conservative radio. 

"I may be wrong but I don't think the film will get everyone riled up," he said. "I hope conservatives will see it and say, 'Those people have a point.' Everyone in this country needs to speak to each other in softer tones." 

Thomason said he went to great pains to avoid discussing the film's progress with Clinton, even though the two talk frequently. Clinton called Thomason frequently for advice or editing input for his 900-page memoir, due out later this month. 

Thomason will attend the Little Rock premiere and is to be joined by the authors of the book, journalists Gene Lyons and Joe Conason, as well as some of those interviewed in the film, including Whitewater figure Susan McDougal. 

Oscar-nominated actor Morgan Freeman is the film's narrator.

Charlotte's Web
By Liza Foreman

Hollywood June 4, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Gary Winick, who helmed "13 Going on 30," has signed on to direct the British children's classic "Charlotte's Web" for the Kerner Entertainment Co. and Paramount Pictures.

Karey Kirkpatrick has been brought in to revise the adaptation -- written by Susannah Grant -- of E.B. White's classic. 

Kerner Entertainment production head Paul Neesan will serve as an executive producer on the live-action/photorealistic CG animation picture with Edgar Bronfman Sr. (The book was previously made into an animated film in 1973 by Paramount Pictures and Sagittarius Prods., which is owned by Bronfman.) 

Neesan, who has supervised the film's development, will guide production with company president Jordan Kerner. Karen Rosenfelt will oversee for the studio.

"Charlotte's Web" follows the story of a spider named Charlotte who goes out of her way to save Wilbur the pig's life by weaving five miraculous words into her webs. The book interweaves the story of 10-year-old Fern, just entering adolescence.

Winick is repped by WMA and managed by Rosalie Swedlin. Kerner Entertainment is repped by CAA. Kirkpatrick is repped by WMA. Grant is repped by CAA.

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