Biomass Versus Oil!
Perchlorate? Ape and Essence!
Fast Solar Wind,
US Jails!
Bartholomew Gosnold & More!
Biomass Versus Oil!

Over time a thick layer of wood and needles falls
to the forest floor. As this biomass accumulates,
that carbon which is not consumed by fungi,
insects, micro-organisms, and bacteria, is buried
in the forest. (National Parks Service)

Oak Ridge National Laboratory News Release

OAK RIDGE TN April 21, 2005 — Relief from soaring prices at the gas pump could come in the form of corncobs, cornstalks, switchgrass and other types of biomass, according to a joint feasibility study for the departments of Agriculture and Energy.

The recently completed Oak Ridge National Laboratory report outlines a national strategy in which 1 billion dry tons of biomass – any organic matter that is available on a renewable or recurring basis – would displace 30 percent of the nation's petroleum consumption for transportation. Supplying more than 3 percent of the nation's energy, biomass already has surpassed hydropower as the largest domestic source of renewable energy, and researchers believe much potential remains.

"Our report answers several key questions," said Bob Perlack, a member of ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division and a co-author of the report. "We wanted to know how large a role biomass could play, whether the United States has the land resources and whether such a plan would be economically viable."


Biomass

Looking at just forestland and agricultural land, the two largest potential biomass sources, the study found potential exceeding 1.3 billion dry tons per year. That amount is enough to produce biofuels to meet more than one-third of the current demand for transportation fuels, according to the report.

Such an amount, which would represent a six-fold increase in production from the amount of biomass produced today, could be achieved with only relatively modest changes in land use and agricultural and forestry practices.

"One of the main points of the report is that the United States can produce nearly 1 billion dry tons of biomass annually from agricultural lands and still continue to meet food, feed and export demands," said Robin Graham, leader for Ecosystem and Plant Sciences in ORNL's Environmental Sciences Division.

The benefits of an increased focus on biomass include increased energy security as the U.S. would become less dependent on foreign oil, a potential 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an improved rural economic picture.


Burning biomass produces carbon dioxide, but if managed properly these
emissions could be balanced to avoid ecological damage.

Current production of ethanol is about 3.4 billion gallons per year, but that total could reach 80 billion gallons or more under the scenario outlined in this report.

Such an increase in ethanol production would see transportation fuels from biomass increase from 0.5 percent of U.S. consumption in 2001 to 4 percent in 2010, 10 percent in 2020 and 20 percent in 2030.

In fact, depending on several factors, biomass could supply 15 percent of the nation's energy by 2030.

Meanwhile, biomass consumption in the industrial sector would increase at an annual rate of 2 percent through 2030, while biomass consumption by electric utilities would double every 10 years through 2030.

During the same time, production of chemicals and materials from bio-based products would increase from about 12.5 billion pounds, or 5 percent of the current production of target U.S. chemical commodities in 2001, to 12 percent in 2010, 18 percent in 2020 and 25 percent in 2030.


This 50 MW biomass power plant runs on residues
produced by the nearby forest products industry.
(Warren Gretz, NREL)

Nearly half of the 2,263 million acres that comprise the land base of the U.S. has potential for growing biomass.

About 33 percent of the land area is classified as forest, 26 percent as grassland, 20 percent as cropland, 13 percent as urban areas, swamps and deserts, and 8 percent as special uses such as public facilities.

The report, titled "Biomass as Feedstock for a Bioenergy and Bioproducts Industry: The Technical Feasibility of a Billion-Ton Annual Supply," was sponsored by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renwable Energy, Office of Biomass Program. Lynn Wright and Anthony Turhollow of ORNL, Bryce Stokes of the USDA Forest Service and Don Erbach of the USDA Agriculture Research Service are co-authors of the report.

The complete report is available at: http://feedstockreview.ornl.gov/pdf/billion_ton_vision.pdf

Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy.

Oak Ridge National Laboratory - http://www.ornl.gov

Bush Admits Energy Bill Won't Lower Prices Today


The U.S. market consumes almost 21 million
barrels of oil and petroleum products each day

WASHINGTON April 21, 2005 (Reuters) — House Democrats on Wednesday criticized an $8 billion energy bill they said favored big oil companies and President Bush acknowledged the legislation would do nothing to immediately ease record gasoline prices.

The White House faces public opinion polls showing voters are increasingly worried about high fuel prices. Last week, the average retail gasoline price hit a record $2.28 per gallon.

"An energy bill wouldn't change the price at the pump today. I know that and you know that," Bush said in a speech to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Costly imports of oil are affecting consumer spending, the U.S. trade balance and manufacturers' prices. Bush asked Congress to send him by August a comprehensive energy plan that he said would expand U.S. supplies of oil, natural gas, coal, nuclear and other energy sources.

"What I'm talking about is making sure that we leave our children and grandchildren a cleaner, healthier and more secure America ... that is less dependent on sources of energy from overseas," Bush said.

The House began debating an energy bill, which is expected to win approval Thursday. Democrats and environmental groups criticized the bill for offering lavish tax breaks to energy companies while failing to curb U.S. demand for imported oil by imposing stricter fuel mileage standards on new vehicles.

Democratic lawmakers complained that they were denied the opportunity to try to modify the bill to remove a provision that protects big oil companies from certain lawsuits. "We have been shut out," said Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts.

Protection for Oil Companies

While the House bill offers no short-term price relief for motorists, it would immediately protect oil companies from lawsuits over the water-polluting gasoline additive MTBE.

The protection is worth billions of dollars to MTBE makers such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, which produced it to help gasoline meet clean air rules.

The liability waiver, backed by House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, helped doom energy legislation last year because the Senate refused to accept the provision. The chairman of the Senate Energy Committee said the House must find an MTBE compromise before the Senate will approve a final energy bill.

The House Rules Committee, which set the terms for debate on the energy bill, blocked an effort by Democrats to try to strip the MTBE protection language from the bill.

"We're working with our friends in the Senate and folks in the House to come up with that (MTBE) compromise," said Joe Barton of Texas. "We have an agreement to have an agreement."


(AFP photo)

Bush said the administration was willing to step in, if necessary, and help the House and Senate come up with a "reasonable compromise" on the MTBE dispute. The House bill contains $8 billion in energy tax breaks and incentives to encourage energy-saving technology and more crude oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear production. Bush said with the price of oil above $50 a barrel, energy companies don't need tax incentives to hunt for oil and gas. However, the president is seen as unlikely to veto a bill that includes lavish subsidies for the industry. Barton said that price tag on the bill was "peanuts" compared to $166 billion spent for U.S. oil imports in 2004.

The House bill would also allow oil drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). House Democrats will to try to remove ANWR drilling from the chamber's energy bill during the House floor debate. In the Senate, a coalition of Republicans and Democrats opposes giving oil companies access to the Arctic refuge and has enough votes to filibuster an energy bill over the issue.

Democrats will also attempt to add language to the bill to boost the fuel efficiency of cars and trucks to slow oil imports. The U.S. market consumes almost 21 million barrels of oil and petroleum products each day. Imports account for about three out of every five of those barrels.

An energy bill passed by the House would eventually have to be reconciled with the Senate's version before it could become law. The Senate Energy Committee is expected to write its energy bill in May, followed by a vote in the full Senate.

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Research or Mind Control?
  

A mouse's memory is recorded by sensors connected to its head in a laboratory in East China Normal University in Shanghai April 25, 2005. Scientists at East China Normal University are researching the formation of memory in the brain as part of efforts to learn more about the nature of human intelligence. (REUTERS/ Aly Song)

Perchlorate?

(NASA photo)

By ERICA WERNER
Associated Press Writer

RIALTO CA April 23, 2005 (AP) - Like dozens of other towns nationwide, this working-class suburb is facing an emerging threat of uncertain dimensions — a chemical used in rocket fuel and defense manufacturing that has befouled nearly half its drinking water supply. Concern spread along with the underground plume of water that carries the chemical from barren land that once housed World War II munitions, Cold War weapons-makers and, now, fireworks warehouses and a dump.

As one city well after another tested positive for perchlorate — six of the city's 13 wells in all — projected cleanup costs ballooned to more than double Rialto's $40 million annual budget. The town sued the Defense Department and dozens of other suspected polluters, pleaded with residents to conserve water and hiked water rates 65 percent.

Officials and townspeople, meanwhile, want to know just how hazardous perchlorate is. High amounts can be dangerous — the chemical can interrupt the production of thyroid hormones, which are needed for pre- and postnatal development. But how much exposure should be permissible sparks debate in governmental and scientific circles.

The conclusion of city leaders: Piping any amount of perchlorate into homes posed an unacceptable gamble.

Rialto is a case study of what can happen when a community refuses to take that risk. The choices faced here — when to close wells, whom to sue and how not to get sued — confront officials in 36 states where the Environmental Protection Agency says perchlorate has been detected.

A majority black and Latino town of 98,000, Rialto has palm-dotted streets with small single-family homes, its downtown a mix of old-time churches, homes, businesses and strip malls. Residents work in manufacturing or retail jobs, some slogging through a 50-mile commute west into Los Angeles.

The source of Rialto's perchlorate problem is a 2,800-acre plot north of downtown, once isolated but now surrounded by new homes, notes Bill Hunt, a geologist consulting for the city.

The military used the site as a pit stop for weapons bound for the Port of Los Angeles and then the Pacific theater in World War II. Later, Cold War defense contractors built, tested and stored rockets and munitions. Then came the fireworks industry and the county dump.

With each successive tenant, city officials believe, came growing deposits of perchlorate, an oxidant used in fireworks and road flares and as an accelerant in rocket fuel.

"We'll probably never know definitively who did what and how much," says Hunt.

What the city does know is that 400 feet below ground begins a 7-mile plume of perchlorate that's polluting Rialto's aquifer, as well as groundwater drawn by residents of other nearby communities.

Standard filtering doesn't work on perchlorate, so the town has invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment that uses a resin to rid water of perchlorate molecules. The water rate increases paid for those systems on two of the six contaminated wells — the others remain shut — and for the town's legal fight against the Pentagon, San Bernardino County and a host of corporations large and small, from General Dynamics to Pyro Spectaculars Inc.

"The city is trying to do their best, but by going after the polluters they've raised the water bills," said former Rialto resident Jan Misquez, who now lives in neighboring San Bernardino. "Us taxpayers are having to foot the bill."

None of the 42 defendants has admitted liability and some of the companies no longer exist, leaving the city to battle insurance companies with only paper connections to the events of decades ago.

Perchlorate was little-known before 1997, when tests were developed that could detect it at lower levels than before. Soon afterward, the chemical was discovered in Rialto and found to be widespread around military bases and defense manufacturing sites.


400 feet below ground begins a 7-mile plume of perchlorate that's
polluting Rialto's aquifer, as well as groundwater drawn by residents
of other nearby communities.

In February, the EPA issued a safety standard that any amount of perchlorate less than 24.5 parts per billion in drinking water was safe. That was much higher than the 6 parts per billion California set as a public health goal, and higher still than EPA's original draft standard of 1 part per billion, a proposal environmentalists embraced.

Pentagon officials, who could face billions in cleanup costs, criticized the 1-part-per-billion standard, instead favoring 200 parts per billion. A Pentagon spokesman declined comment for this story.

Thus far no state has issued a final drinking water regulation, and the EPA, under pressure from both sides, hasn't decided whether it will take such a step. A regulation would force cleanup, while the agency's safety standard offers only its guidance on exposure levels.

With Rialto's detections ranging as high as 88 parts per billion, city officials decided to shut down any well where perchlorate was found.

"Until there's more clarity on what is the safe amount of perchlorate for the human body to ingest, our council has chosen not to serve any amount," said City Attorney Bob Owen. "We can go online right now and find a Web site saying, 'Do you live in Rialto? Have you drunk water in Rialto? And if you have, join our group, we're going to all sue them.'"

No lawsuit has been filed, said Owen, who credits in part the town's decision to adhere to a zero-tolerance standard, unlike some other municipalities.

So far, Rialto has also managed to avoid any water shutoffs, thanks to a combination of conservation, recycling wastewater for non-drinking uses and tapping supplies from neighboring water districts on high-demand days.

Town officials believe the only long-term solution is forcing polluters to fund a cleanup.

"For us it's critical," said Rialto's water superintendent, Peter Fox. "We just don't have other water available to us."

Right to Kiss

Famous women kissing

STOCKHOLM April 25, 2005 (Reuters) - A Swedish lesbian couple who were thrown out of a Stockholm restaurant in 2003 for kissing won an appeal on Monday against an earlier court ruling that cleared the restaurant owner of sexual discrimination. The Court of Appeals in Stockholm ordered restaurant owner Aziz Cakir to pay 50,000 crowns (3,700 pounds) in damages and to cover the legal costs of Sweden's ombudsman against sexual discrimination, HomO, which filed the appeal. Cakir asked Anna Fernstrom and Susanne Gustafsson to leave his restaurant after they kissed and later told police he did not let anyone engage in such behavior on his premises regardless of their sexual orientation.

Stockholm District Court cleared him of discrimination, a charge that can result in a year in jail, in the country's first test of legislation against sexual discrimination in the provision of goods and services.

But HomO director Hans Ytterberg said the appeals court found the restaurant failed to prove "these two girls behaved in a way that would justify telling them to stop or telling them to leave the premises".

"The Court of Appeals has made it clear that discriminating on grounds of sexual orientation is a serious violation of people's rights and can cost you dearly," he told Reuters. "This will hopefully function as an effective deterrent."

Ape and Essence - The Key to Human Nature

Bonobos, a species of ape from the Congo, are the
most like humans (Zoo Leipzig)

By Amy Lorentzen
Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa April 21, 2005 (AP) — Dr. Sue Savage-Rumbaugh sounds like a proud mother when she speaks about her brood of bonobos, eight ultra-intelligent apes that will take part in unique language research meant to shed light on their nature and maybe our own.

The first two bonobos will make the 16-hour road trip from the Language Research Center at Georgia State University to their new $10 million, 13,000-square-foot home near downtown Des Moines later this month. All eight -- three females and five males -- will arrive at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa by mid-May.

Bonobos, a species of ape from the Congo, are the most like humans, Savage-Rumbaugh said. They constantly vocalize "as though they are conversing" and often walk upright.

"If you want to find a human-like creature that exists in a completely natural state ... that creature is the bonobo," said Savage-Rumbaugh, an experimental psychologist who is one of the world's leading ape-language researchers.

If the apes are able to learn language, music and art, once thought to be distinct to humans, then "it strongly suggests that those things are not innate in us," she said.

"Those are things that we have created, and create anew and build upon from one generation to the next ..." she said. "Then we have the power to change it and make it any other way. We could have an ideal world, if we but learn how to do it."

The bonobos will be able to cook in their own kitchen, tap vending machines for snacks, go for walks in the woods and communicate with researchers through computer touchscreens. The decor in their 18-room home includes an indoor waterfall and climbing areas 30 feet high.

The longevity of the project is unlike any other.

The animals, which have a life span of up to about 50 years, will be allowed to mate and have families -- and develop cultures that will be studied for generations to come, Savage-Rumbaugh said.

Visitors are allowed, but they must understand that the Great Ape Trust is not a zoo, she said.

Using a network of cameras and computers, the bonobos can see visitors who ring the doorbell -- and will be able to choose through a computer touchscreen who will be permitted into a secured viewing area.

"Only if they want to open the door can you enter," Savage-Rumbaugh said.

Karen Killmar, an associate curator at the San Diego Zoo, said the Great Ape Trust is unlike other research programs.

"There's studies all over the place in terms of intelligence and learning ability and behavior," she said, "but to be able to sort of pull it all together in one place I think is a wonderful opportunity to give us a much clearer picture of what our closest relatives are."

HyperSonic Sound System
By TYPH TUCKER
Associated Press Writer

American Technology Corporation's
HyperSonic Sound directional speakers

PORTLAND OR April 22, 2005 (AP) - Elwood "Woody" Norris pointed a metal frequency emitter at one of perhaps 30 people who had come to see his invention. The emitter — an aluminum square — was hooked up by a wire to a CD player. Norris switched on the CD player.

"There's no speaker, but when I point this pad at you, you will hear the waterfall," said the 63-year-old Californian.

And one by one, each person in the audience did, and smiled widely.

Norris' HyperSonic Sound system has won him an award coveted by inventors — the $500,000 annual Lemelson-MIT Prize. It works by sending a focused beam of sound above the range of human hearing. When it lands on you, it seems like sound is coming from inside your head. Norris said the uses for the technology could come in handy — in cars, in the airport or at home.

"Imagine your wife wants to watch television and you want to read a book, like the intellectual you are," he said to the crowd. "Imagine you are a lifeguard or a coach and you want to yell at someone, he'll be the only one to hear you."

Norris holds 47 U.S. patents, including one for a digital handheld recorder and another for a handsfree headset. He said the digital recorder made him an inventor for life.

"That sold for $5 million," Norris laughed. "That really made me want to be an inventor."

He demonstrated the sound system at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry, also called OMSI, on Thursday. Norris began tinkering as an inventor at a young age — taking apart the family radio and putting it back together again. He said ideas come to him when he's driving around or talking with friends.

"I don't know how I got to be an inventor, but I guess some kids can play the piano, and I can invent."


The AirScooter II - No license, Mr. Bond

Norris will receive the Lemelson-MIT Prize at a ceremony here on Friday. One of his most recent patents is for the AirScooter, a personal flying machine designed for commuting. It reaches speeds up to 55 mph and is light enough — under 300 pounds — to not require a license to fly.

The AirScooter was also on display at OMSI, although Norris didn't fly it. The machine has a single seat, a four-stroke engine and is barely 10 feet tall. Its pontoons allow it to land on water. The machine's fiberglass and aluminum construction keeps its weight down. Bike-style handle bars move two helicopter blades, which spin in opposite directions.

Norris' AirScooter was shown on "60 Minutes" last Sunday. He said since the airing of the show, more than 7 million people have visited the AirScooter's Web site.

Norris said he and his crew have tested the AirScooter for four years, and he couldn't have created the machine without a skilled group of aeronautics engineers around him.

AirScooter - http://www.airscooter.com

Popular Science article - http://www.popsci.com/popsci/bown/article/0,16106,388134,00.html

Fast Solar Wind

The fast solar wind seems to originate in coronal funnels with a speed of about
10 km/s at a height of 20,000 kilometers above the photosphere. (NASA photo)

Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research News Release

April 22, 2005 - A Chinese-German team of scientists have identified the magnetic structures in the solar corona where the fast solar wind originates. Using images and Doppler maps from the Solar Ultraviolet Measurements of Emitted Radiation (SUMER) spectrometer and magnetograms delivered by the Michelson Doppler Imager (MDI) on the space-based Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO) of ESA and NASA, they observed solar wind flowing from funnel-shaped magnetic fields which are anchored in the lanes of the magnetic network near the surface of the Sun.

These observations are presented in the April 22 issue of Science magazine. The research leads to a better understanding of the magnetic nature of the sources of the solar wind, a stream of tenuous and hot plasma (electrically conductive gas) that affects the Earth's space environment.

The solar wind consists of protons, alpha particles (two-fold ionized helium), heavy ions and electrons flowing from the surface of the Sun with speeds ranging from 300 to 800 km/s. The heavy ions in the coronal source regions emit radiation at certain ultraviolet wavelengths.

When they flow towards Earth, as they do when tracing the nascent solar wind, the wavelengths of the ultraviolet emission become shorter, a phenomenon called the Doppler effect, which is well known in its acoustic variant, for example, from the change in tone of the horn of a police car while approaching to or receding from the listener. In the solar case, plasma motion towards us, which means away from the solar surface, is detected as blue shift in the ultraviolet spectrum, and thus can be used to identify the beginning of the solar wind outflow.

A SUMER ultraviolet spectrum is similar to what is seen when a prism separates white light into a rainbow of distinct colors. The ultraviolet radiation is however invisible to the human eye and cannot penetrate the Earth's atmosphere. By analyzing ultraviolet emission obtained by SUMER on the space observatory SOHO from space, solar physicists can learn a great deal about the Sun and infer the gas temperature, chemical composition, and motion in the various atmospheric layers.

"The fine magnetic structure of the source region of solar wind has remained elusive" said first author Prof. Chuanyi Tu, from the Department of Geophysics of the Peking University in Beijing, China. "For many years, solar and space physicists have observed fast solar wind streams coming from coronal regions with open magnetic field lines and low light intensity, the so called coronal holes. However, only by combining complex observations from SOHO in a novel way have we been able to infer the properties of the sources inside coronal holes. The fast solar wind seems to originate in coronal funnels with a speed of about 10 km/s at a height of 20,000 kilometers above the photosphere".

"The fast solar wind starts to flow out from the top of funnels in coronal holes with a flow speed of about 10 km/s", states Prof. Tu. "This outflow is seen as large patches in Doppler blue shift (hatched areas in the above figure) of a spectral line emitted by Ne+7 ions at a temperature of 600,000 Kelvin, which can be used as a good tracer for the hot plasma flow. Through a comparison with the magnetic field, as extrapolated from the photosphere by means of the MDI magnetic data, we found that the blue-shift pattern of this line correlates best with the open field structures at 20,000 km."

The SUMER spectrometer scrutinized the sources of the solar wind by observing ultraviolet radiation coming from a large area of the northern polar region of the Sun. "The clear identification of the detailed magnetic structure of the source, now being revealed as coronal funnels, and the determination of the release height and initial speed of the solar wind are important steps in solving the problems of mass supply and basic acceleration. We can now focus our attention on studying further plasma conditions and physical processes that occur in the expanding coronal funnels and in their narrow necks anchored in the magnetic network", says Prof. Eckart Marsch, co-author of the Science paper.


A solar flare (NASA)

Solving the nature and origin of the solar wind is one of the main goals for which SOHO was designed. It has long been known to the astronomical community that the fast solar wind comes from coronal holes. What is new here is the discovery that these flows start in coronal funnels, which have their source located at the edges of the magnetic network.

Just below the surface of the Sun there are large convection cells. Each cell has magnetic fields associated with it, which are concentrated in the network lanes by magneto-convection, where the funnel necks are anchored. The plasma, while still being confined in small loops, is brought by convection to the funnels and then released there, like a bucket of water is emptied into an open water channel.

"Previously it was believed that the fast solar wind originates on any given open field line in the ionization layer of the hydrogen atom slightly above the photosphere", says Prof. Marsch.

"However, the low Doppler shift of an emission line from carbon ions shows that bulk outflow has not yet occurred at a height of 5,000 km. The solar wind plasma is now considered to be supplied by plasma stemming from the many small magnetic loops, with only a few thousand kilometers in height, crowding the funnel. Through magnetic reconnection plasma is fed from all sides to the funnel, where it may be accelerated and finally form the solar wind."

The SUMER instrument was built under the leadership of Dr. Klaus Wilhelm, who is also a co-author of the paper, at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research (formerly Max Planck Institute for Aeronomy) in Lindau, Germany, with key contributions from the Institut d'Astrophysique Spatiale in Orsay, France, the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland,the University of California in Berkeley, and with financial support from German, French, USA and Swiss national agencies.

SOHO has been operating for almost ten years at a special vantage point in space 1.5 milion kilometers from the Earth, on the sunward side of the Earth. SOHO is a project of international collaboration between the European Space Agency and NASA. It was launched on an Atlas II-AS rocket from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida, in December 1995 and is operated from the Goddard Space Flight Center.

Max Planck Institute - http://www.mpg.de/english

Our Lady of the Underpass
CHICAGO April 22, 2005 (Reuters) - A wall stain that some believe depicts the Virgin Mary drew scores of faithful on Thursday to a gritty highway underpass that has become a shrine with flowers, candles and prayers.

The image, which highway engineers said was probably formed by leaking water and winter road salt from the highway above, first began drawing visitors last week. Their numbers grew daily, causing traffic tie-ups in the vicinity and police later blocked-off part of the area.

Some visitors said the yellow, white and gray mark resembles Mexico's Virgin of Guadalupe, a figure popular in the neighborhood northwest of downtown Chicago where the Kennedy Expressway crosses Fullerton Avenue.

"It's a miracle," said one woman, claiming she could see the face of the woman many Christians revere as the mother of Jesus Christ. Some knelt in prayer, others touched the image on the wall and many took pictures using cellular phones.

The Virgin of Guadalupe has been venerated by successive generations of devout Mexicans since she is said to have first appeared to a shepherd in 1531. She is generally depicted in a gown fringed by rays of light.

Highway officials said they planned to leave the wall as it is.
2.1 Million Americans in Jail
WASHINGTON April 25, 2005 (AFP) - The US prison population, already the largest in the world, reached a new high of more than 2.1 million last year, with one in every 138 residents of the country now behind bars, according to new government statistics.

The data, made public by the Bureau of Justice Statistics on Sunday, put the United States far ahead of countries like China and Russia, whose combined population is about five times that of America.

"The numbers are pretty consistent with what they have been in the last few years," Justice Department statistician Paige Harrison, a co-author of the report, told AFP. "We are seeing continued growth in prisons and jails, but at a lower rate than we had about 10 years ago."

The study shows the number of inmates across the country rose an estimated 48,452 people, or 2.3 percent, in the 12-month period ending on June 30, 2004.

The sun sets on a US federal prison. The US prison population,
already the largest in the world, reached a new high last year
 (AFP/ Tannen Maury)

In other words, the system was adding to its ranks on average 932 individuals every week.

The rate of incarceration reached a record of 726 inmates per 100,000 residents -- up from 716 a year earlier.

By comparison, the current incarceration rate in Britain is 142 per 100,000 citizens, in China 118, in France 91, in Japan 58, and in Nigeria 31, according to the Justice Policy Institute, an independent research organization here.

US federal prisons that house most drug offenders accounted for the largest increase of the prison population -- 6.3 percent.

Thirteen states reported increases in the number of those incarcerated of at least five percent, led by Minnesota, which boosted its prison roll by 13.2 percent, Montana, up by 10.5 percent, and Arkansas, up by 8.9 percent.

While the number of female prisoners increased by 2.9 percent, American men were overall 11 times more likely to end up behind bars than women: the incarceration rate among the male population was 1,348 per 100,000 residents.

But the situation was even more startling in the African-American community. A total of 12.6 percent of black males in their late twenties were now officially in prison, compared to 3.6 percent of Hispanics and about 1.7 percent of whites, the report showed.

Although incarceration rates dropped with age, the percentage of jailed black males aged between 45 and 54 was an estimated 4.5 percent -- more than twice the highest rate among white males.

The number of foreigners held in state or federal prisons increased 1.4 percent, reaching 91,789, according to the study.

The report follows the release by the Federal Bureau of Investigation of new statistics indicating that violent crime went down two percent in the United States in the first six months of last year, with murders dropping 5.7 percent.

The two sets of data have immediately prompted members of the administration and other supporters of President George W. Bush to assert that the main reason crime was going down was because more criminals were being taken off the streets.

"We have also had a change in parole release and revocation policies, which increase the chance of parole violators coming back," Harrison noted.

But Jason Ziedenberg, executive director of the Justice Policy Institute, pointed to the need to address the underlying issues of unemployment, poverty and education in order to reduce the number of inmates while also keeping crime down.

"Unless we promote alternatives to prison, the nation will continue to lead the world in imprisonment," he said in a statement.

Bush Wants Wired Earth for Vital Signs

(AFP photo)

By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON April 19, 2005 — Imagine the planet wired for a nearly continuous readout on its vital signs, shared by all. That's the essence of a White House plan announced Monday.

The new "Strategic Plan for the U.S. Integrated Earth Observation System" envisions linking nearly 60 nations within a decade to gather and share information from satellites, ocean buoys, weather stations and other surface and airborne instruments.

"Whether it's agriculture, or land use, or water planning, or transportation, or energy, there's a lot of data about the environment that has to be collected," said John Marburger III, President Bush's top science adviser.

Marburger said "a surprisingly successful enterprise" at collecting and sharing data already is under way as the result of a United Nations summit on sustainable development in South Africa in 2002.

Many of the measurements already are being gathered. The new effort will focus on linking them in what Marburger called a planetary "system of systems." He released a 150-page plan that cites benefits such as improved weather forecasting and climate modeling, better estimates of crop yields and energy resources, and more knowledge about air and water quality.

As an examples of benefits, officials said better and shared data could save the United States as much as $1 billion in electricity costs each year if winter forecasts prove to be just 1 degree more accurate. As much as $1.7 billion of the annual $4 billion cost of weather-related aviation delays could be saved with better information, they added.

Data tracking disease outbreaks such as malaria or West Nile virus would enable officials to minimize their impact as they spread.

Retired Navy Vice Admiral Conrad C. Lautenbacher, a Commerce Department undersecretary who heads the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said a key step is getting more businesses involved in the project.

"This depends on a lot more people than just the government," he said.

White House strategic plan - http://iwgeo.ssc.nasa.gov

Bartholomew Gosnold - American's Founding Father?

By David Sanderson
The Times

Suffolk England April 21, 2005 (The Times UK) - A sample from the bones of a Suffolk woman buried 400 years ago is to be exhumed by scientists seeking to discover more about an English explorer who is the unsung founding father of America.

Archaeologists are to crosscheck DNA from remains they believe belong to the explorer Bartholomew Gosnold with samples from his sister, who was thought to have been buried in a Suffolk churchyard in the 1600s.

Church officials have given their backing to the project, which is thought to be the first of its kind in Britain. It will involve remains being taken from a narrow shaft in the grave of his sister Elizabeth Gosnold Tilney, who records show lies in the chapel of Shelley All Saints Church in Suffolk.

Although Captain Gosnold died within three months of arrival on American soil in 1607, he is credited with laying the foundations for the American legal system and government that remain to this day. He is also credited with naming Cape Cod after the fish that he found there and Martha’s Vineyard, the island off the southern Cape coast, in remembrance of his daughter, who died in infancy.

It is argued that had he not assembled and funded his crew of adventurers, who set off on the Godspeed 13 years before the Pilgrim Fathers set sail, the United States of America would now be a Spanish- speaking nation.

Two years ago the Association for the Preservation of Virginia Antiquities (APVA), the driving force behind the project to give Captain Gosnold his due credit, discovered the remains of a 17th-century sea captain at what is believed to be the site of the Jamestown settlement founded by him in Virginia.


The Concord, Gosnold’s ship, arrived
in America May 15, 1602. It is said
that "The Tempest", Shakespeare’s
final play, was inspired by reports
of the voyage.

William Kelso, the APVA director of archaeology, said: “Based on the archaeological evidence and forensic analysis, we are confident that the remains excavated at Jamestown are those of Bartholomew Gosnold. If we can find matching DNA, we will have done everything possible to confirm the identity of this great man and raise awareness about his contribution to the founding of the United States.” The site of the colony had been thought to have been swept into the James River. But artefacts uncovered from 1994 confirmed its location on dry land.

A spokeswoman for the APVA said that Gosnold was the “most overlooked of the country’s founders . . . Gosnold was the principal promoter, vice-admiral and one of the most influential leaders of the Jamestown colony, which eventually gave birth to the development of the United States. America’s English language, rule of law and representative government all evolved from the pioneering efforts of Gosnold and others at Jamestown”.

Yesterday the Diocese of St Edmondsbury and Ipswich gave its backing to the DNA- matching project. A spokesman for the diocese said that it was an exciting development and added: “For the first time a scientific project has been given the go-ahead to seek to extract DNA material to establish the identity of a family member.

“It has taken a lot of work and co-operation between the parish, diocese and national church authorities in Britain and American scientists.

“The experts say that it will not be necessary to exhume remains, but that samples can be taken after digging a narrow shaft in specific areas.

“That means that there would be no need for reburials or religious services.”

Permission needed to be granted by the Council of the Care of Churches to approve the excavation and extraction of fragments of the remains, and from the Home Office.

Genre News: Serenity, Trinity, Superman, Batman, Charmed, Dragnet 1967 and Sir John Mills

Joss Whedon directing Serenity actress Summer
Glau (River)

Serenity - The Trailer?

Hollywood April 23, 2005 (eXoNews) - In an email from the official Serenity fan site, writer-director Joss Whedon announced the release of the first trailer for his upcoming Universal film Serenity, which picks up from where his 13-episode Fox TV series Firefly left off when Evil Network Executives at Fox canceled it.

Whedon, for those who have been living in an alternate demon dimension for the last ten years, is the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer and co-created Buffy's successful spin-off Angel. He also writes comic books and contributed to several major motion pictures before Buffy found her stake.

Mr. Whedon warns Browncoats (Serenity fans are called Browncoats after the rebel faction who lost the big war 500 years from now in the Firefly-Serenity 'verse) that the trailer will not be spoiler-free. Here's exactly what Joss said:

Hey guys.

I'm here on the official site, so that can only mean one thing: somebody finally told me my password! (Again.) It probably also means that I have some big-ass announcement or other. Well tops on the announcement list is this: after months of intensive yoga, i can finally touch my toes! (They feel round and bunion-y.)

But there's more! I'm talkin' movie news, peeps, so no more drumroll: Trailer. Serenity. Tuesday.

Yeah, kids, the haps is hap'nin', and it runs thus: EXCLUSIVELY on Apple movie trailers (and linked through this site as well of course) will be a small, medium, large or FULLSCREEN trailer for Serenity the major motion movie. Yeah, THE trailer. And the following Friday said trailer hits theaters. Which theaters? Until I get confirmation you'll have to guess, but I'm betting you can.

Now, here's a word of warning: this trailer ain't shy. If you're looking to live totally spoiler-free, know that there's plenty of key dialogue and images running through this bad boy. It's pretty tasty, though, and it doesn't give everything away. But close scrutiny will definitely learn you much of what's to come. (Anakin TOTALLY goes evil.) It's a nice piece to while away the time till September, and hopefully should intrigue th' peeps that don't have coats of brown.

The only thing more exciting than y'all finally seeing this was showing it to Nathan. Like a schoolboy giggled he.

Bye-ee!

Joss "You can't take my toes from me" Whedon.

[I'm a Browncoat myself and if you aren't, well, don't be askin' me for no data, spacetrash. Join up today - it's free - to get yer own emails from Joss. Ed :o)>]

Official Browncoat Serenity Fan Site - http://browncoats.serenitymovie.com

***UPDATE*** April 28, 2005

On April 27th, Joss Whedon sent the Browncoats a second email announcing official Universal sneak previews of Serenity at 10 theaters in 10 major US cities on May 5th. Within an hour of the email, the Browncoat message boards reported that most of the shows were sold out. How the sneaks came about is interesting. Mr. Whedon said, "...some clown put a bunch of Universal execs in a theater full of Browncoats and dude, they came out SWEATING, they never seen energy like that. They loved it, and even though they were already wicked supportive of the movie... they simply weren't ready for you guys. When I whinged on about pushing the date and everyone here was posting about "what do we do till September", they agreed to let me sneak it out...."

The most excellent Serenity web trailer can be found at http://www.apple.com/quicktime  and is definitely worth the download!

Johnny's Microphone?
By LISA FALKENBERG
Associated Press Writer


The late Mr. Carson and wig as
Aunt Blabby (NBC)

DALLAS April 23, 2005 (AP) - An anonymous bidder Friday snatched a piece of TV history, offering $50,787 for the microphone that sat prominently on the desk of late-night king Johnny Carson until the 1980s. The offer was about twice that expected at auction.

The label on the 10-pound Shure model SM33 ribbon microphone bluntly declares: "Johnny's Mic... Not Ed's... Not Fred's" — a reference to announcer Ed McMahon and producer Fred DeCordova.

"That's an unbelievable price, that's a fabulous price," said Heritage Galleries auctioneer John Petty. "A mic like this has never come to auction before. We were thinking 'Gee, what would a Carson fan pay for this?'"

The microphone was saved from a trash bin two decades ago by "The Tonight Show" chief boom operator Stan Sweeney. It was taken out of retirement Friday to call the final session of a two-day auction of entertainment memorabilia. Petty said it still worked great.

Carson, who died in January at age 79, was "The Tonight Show" host from 1962 to 1992, when he retired. He began using the microphone in the late 1960s.

In late summer or early fall, the auctioneer plans to offer Carson's desk, said Doug Norwine, director of music and entertainment memorabilia.

The desk is complete with a trash bin and a lining of green shag carpet, which still bears a burn mark from the time Carson set fire to his index cards after his jokes kept tanking. "After getting the mic, the only thing we could follow it up with was his desk," Norwine said.

[I wonder how much Aunt Blabby's wig is going for? Ed.]

Wesley Snipes Sues Trinity?

Hollywood April 21, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Blade: Trinity star Wesley Snipes has sued New Line Cinema, writer-director David Goyer and executive producer Toby Emmerich in a wide-ranging federal lawsuit seeking more than $5 million in damages, Variety reported.

In the suit, filed April 18 in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, Snipes alleges that, in violation of his contract, the director, screenplay and supporting cast of Blade: Trinity were forced on him.

He also claims he's still owed a portion of his fee and that he was harassed and defamed because of his race, the trade paper reported. New Line declined to comment to Variety.

Goyer wrote all three Blade scripts. According to the complaint, however, Snipes had concerns about his directing the third film in the trilogy and was not informed until six weeks before filming began that Goyer would direct.

Similarly, he was not given an opportunity to object to the "juvenile level of humor" in the screenplay and the change in focus from the Blade character to two sidekicks, played by Ryan Reynolds and Jessica Biel. Snipes claims the real purpose of Blade III was to set the stage for spinoffs featuring other cast members, the trade paper reported.

Snipes blames Goyer for the critical response to the film, citing reviews describing Goyer as a "disastrous choice" and calling the film a "bloody mess." Blade: Trinity, released last December, has grossed $52 million at the domestic box office.

Snipes alleges that he is still owed over $3 million of his fee.

[Ads promoting the DVD of this film began a week or so back. I always wondered why Wesley did a third one. Money talks, fans. Ed.]

Superman - The New Body and The Old Look?
By Anthony Breznican
USA TODAY

Australia April 22, 2005 (USA Today) - The look of Superman literally rests on the broad and buff shoulders of newcomer Brandon Routh.

This first look at Superman Returns- due in theaters in June 2006 - shows that the skin-tight costume stretches over only the actor's muscles and frame, without the augmented armored pecs or abs of recent movie superheroes.


The new Superman

Director Bryan Singer famously changed the fluorescent spandex suits of the X-Men into dark, leather-like uniforms for those movies - both of them smashes that sold more than $364 million in tickets. But on Superman Returns, he says, he wanted "something classic."

Tinkering too much with a hero's suit can aggravate traditionalist comic fans, who grumbled that Jennifer Garner's Elektra wasn't wearing her midriff-baring red suit in Daredevil or that Batman's armor had nipples in Batman Forever. They aren't likely to have much to carp about with Superman Returns.

Instead of reinventing the character's appearance, Singer - via e-mail from Australia, where he's shooting the film - says he wanted to remain faithful to the previous incarnations of Superman, from the Max Fleischer cartoons of the 1940s to the black-and-white George Reeves TV show to the Christopher Reeve movies of the 1970s and '80s.

Singer decided to keep the cape, the blue body suit, the red tights - even the V-cut opening of Superman's boots.

But Superman Returns makes a few subtle changes to the suit:

The character's S insignia is slightly smaller and higher on his chest, and instead of being painted on, it's more of a three-dimensional plate.

The insignia is added to Superman's belt buckle.

Costume designer Louise Mingenbach preserved the blue, red and yellow motif, but the shades are slightly darker than the bright primary colors of the comics. Superman's yellow belt is more golden, and his cape is a deep scarlet.

The key to filling it out, however, depends entirely on the physique of Routh, 25, the Iowa native who was briefly on the soap opera One Life to Live in 2001. Singer says the Superman costume wasn't complete without Routh.


Smallville - grown up too soon (WB)

"I always had the general idea of the suit. However, when the conceptual art was evolving around the same time that I cast Brandon, I privately had paintings rendered with Brandon's face, which certainly brought it to life."

Superman's body is the key to his power, Singer says.

"With X-Men, although they had extraordinary powers, they also had physical weaknesses," he says.

"The suits were for protection as well as costume. Superman is the Man of Steel. Bullets bounce off him, not his suit."

What does the movie's costume say about this Superman's personality?

"He's not afraid," Singer says.

[I wonder what Smallville fans will have to say about that, Mr. Singer? Are we really ready for a substitute Superman when Clark and Lana and Lois and Chloe - and Lex and even Krypto - are still waiting to grow up on The WB? Ed.]

Batman Meets Smallville - Sort Of?

LOS ANGELES April 19, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - The Time Warner empire will deploy its synergistic superpowers in May to offer fans of "Smallville" an extensive look at the summer movie "Batman Begins."


Christian Bale as the Caped
Crusader (WB)

The WB will show an eight-minute preview of the film, which opens June 17, during the season finale of "Smallville" on Wednesday, May 18. The network and studio aren't calling the sneak a trailer; instead, it's a "special footage preview," which means viewers will see a "compilation of scenes" prepared for the episode rather than just what's been in theaters for the past few months.

Warner Bros., which like The WB is part of the Time Warner conglomerate, is releasing the film. Both the movie and the series are based on the two most enduring DC Comic characters, Batman and Superman (DC is also a Time Warner subsidiary).

"Superman and Batman have always been inextricably linked to each other, so it seems fitting that a show chronicling the Man of Steel's youth give you the first look at the birth of the Dark Knight," "Smallville" co-creator Al Gough says.

The "Smallville" finale, titled "Commencement," will run 90 minutes and revolve around graduation day at Smallville High. The network also mentions "murder" and "betrayal" in its description of the episode, but little else.

"Batman Begins," which stars Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader, follows a younger Bruce Wayne as he begins to take on his alter ego and fight crime in Gotham City. Christopher Nolan ("Memento") is the movie's director and co-screenwriter (with "Blade's" David S. Goyer).

Smallville Official - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||126,00.html

Charmed Ones - Prepared To Die?

Hollywood April 19, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Brad Kern, longtime executive producer of The WB's Charmed, told SCI FI Wire that the upcoming season finale, "Something Wicca This Way Goes?" could also serve as the series finale—with a big surprise—should the show not get picked up for an eighth season. The finale builds on the events of "Death Becomes Them," the penultimate seventh-season episode, Kern said in an interview.


Holly Marie Combs, Rose McGowan and Alyssa Milano

"The girls [Alyssa Milano, Holly Marie Combs and Rose McGowan] have to figure out how to get the book back before Zankou [Oded Fehr] can use it to be able to tap into the power of the spiritual nexus and then become unstoppable," Kern said. "Over the course of the episode the girls have to wrestle with whether the fight [to protect innocents] has been worth it, whether they want to carry on or not, what they're willing to give up."

Kern added: "But they also realize that if they don't stop Zankou then all of the good they've done over the past seven years will have been for naught.

"That's just not acceptable, but the more they try to stop him, one by one he takes their powers. Halfway through the show they end the act by saying, 'I don't think we're going to get out of this one alive.' And that sets up a surprising ending that is so surprising and so top-secret that even in the episode outline that I've sent to the studio and the network, I've not included that scene. It will only be distributed on the day we shoot it. The idea is to not let spoilers spoil things for the loyal fans."

Still, Kern isn't giving up hope for another year of the show about the Halliwell sisters. "The network loves Charmed creatively and have been especially happy with it this season," he said. "But whether we come back or not still all boils down to ratings—which means it's up to the fans. If they all tune in and watch the last couple of episodes, I believe that'll raise our numbers enough to push us over the edge and force The WB to pick us up for an eighth season."

The WB will announce in May whether or not they'll pick up Charmed for another, presumably final, season.

The season finale will probably air May 22nd on The WB.

Charmed Official - http://www.thewb.com/Shows/Show/0,7353,||156,00.html

Lucas & Spielberg & Sopranos on A&E


Steven Spielberg, George Lucas and Harrison Ford

LOS ANGELES April 22, 2005 (Zap2it.com) - Original movies on subjects ranging from the events of Sept. 11, 2001, to the careers of two of Hollywood's most powerful directors are on tap at cable network A&E.

The network, which will become home to syndicated reruns of "The Sopranos" next year, announced a number of movie and series projects for 2005-06 at its upfront presentation this week. Among the movie projects is "Flight 93," which will reconstruct events on the hijacked plane that passengers sacrificed their lives to bring down on 9/11 before it reached its target, the Hollywood trade papers report.

"Flight 93" is at least the third Sept. 11-related project in the works at a network. ABC and NBC are both planning larger-scale miniseries based on the 9/11 Commission's report.

Also on A&E's slate is "Celluloid Titans," which will track the rise of directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. It will also focus on the friendly rivalry between the two men who helped usher in the blockbuster era of the past 30 years.

Other movie projects in the works include a biography of country-music legend Johnny Cash and "Touch the Top of the World," based on a memoir by world-class mountain climber Erik Weihenmayer, who has been blind since age 13.

On the series front, A&E is working on a show called "Random 1," in which a production team travels across the country to find people in need and tries to help them with their problems.

Dragnet 1967, Dynasty, Quincy on DVD
By Kimberly Speight


Harry Morgan and Jack Webb
in Dragnet 1967

LOS ANGELES April 21, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - The TV-to-DVD boom is showing no signs of slowing down, with several more classic series hitting DVD shelves.

Universal is bringing out the third season of "Law & Order," the first season of the 1960s incarnation of "Dragnet" and the first two seasons of "Quincy, M.E.," timed for release just before Fathers Day.
Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment is offering up the first seasons of "Dynasty" and "The Bob Newhart Show."

"Law & Order: Season 3" is set for release May 24 at a price of $59.98.
The three-disc set features 22 episodes of the venerable NBC series, which debuted in 1990, along with a tribute to cast member Jerry Orbach, who died last year, and commentaries from once and future cast members including Chris Noth, Jesse L. Martin and S. Epatha Merkerson.

"Dragnet 1967" is coming to DVD on June 7 in a two-disc set featuring all 17 episodes of the first season of the cop show's 1967-70 run on NBC. A bonus CD will feature a recording from an original "Dragnet" radio show. The set is priced at $39.98.


The cast of Dynasty

Also hitting DVD on June 7 is "Quincy, M.E.: Season 1 & 2," carrying a price of $39.98. Three double-sided discs will include 16 episodes of the show, which starred Jack Klugman in the title role. "Quincy" aired from 1976-83 on NBC.

The "Dynasty Season One DVD Collection" hit shelves Tuesday in a four-disc set featuring 15 episodes. Special features include commentary from show creator Esther Shapiro and original cast members Al Corley and Pamela Sue Martin, a special "Dynasty" overview, family-tree profiles and outtakes.

"Dynasty," focusing on the saga of the wealthy oil-business family the Carringtons, aired on ABC for nine years starting in 1981. The DVD set is available for a suggested retail price of $39.98.

The three-disc set "The Bob Newhart Show -- The Complete First Season" features 24 episodes of the series, which ran on CBS from 1972-79 and starred Newhart as a successful Chicago psychologist. The DVD set, released April 12, carries a price of $29.98.

The TV-to-DVD market was an untapped revenue stream until recent years, when studios began releasing more and more current and classic series to DVD. Last year, the TV-to-DVD phenomenon experienced a whopping 75% growth rate.

Inside TV?

LOS ANGELES April 21, 2005 (AP) - The publishers of TV Guide have launched a new weekly magazine aimed at young female television viewers. The first edition of "Inside TV" hit newsstands Thursday, featuring a cover photo of "Desperate Housewives" star Eva Longoria.

The full-sized, glossy magazine will be sold primarily at newsstands, competing alongside such celebrity-driven titles as "People" and "US."

It includes a selection of program picks organized around such categories as drama, comedy and reality, rather than the familiar time and network grid featured in TV Guide.

The magazine launch comes at a time when parent company Gemstar-TV Guide is focused on expanding its electronic offerings, including the TV Guide channel and its interactive program guide.

But the company said it saw an opportunity to target younger female TV viewers who have incorporated such programs as HBO's "Sex and the City" into their lifestyle.

"There is a sea change occurring in the way younger women watch television today," said John Loughlin, president of the TV Guide Publishing Group. "TV is social currency and has become an arbiter of what they wear, where they go, how they measure their relationships."

The magazine will cost $1.99 and is edited by Steve LeGrice, a former editor of "In Touch Weekly" and "Star."

Loughlin expects the magazine to be a newsstand impulse buy — the opposite of the company's flagship TV Guide, which is sold mainly through subscriptions.

Inside TV - http://www.insidetv.com

[$1.99? Remember fans, our eXoNews Weekly Genre Report is Absolutely Free and the ink doesn't make you sneeze! Ed.]

John Mills


Actor Sir John Mills (Reuters)

LONDON April 23, 2005 (AP) - Actor Sir John Mills, the quintessential British officer in scores of films, died Saturday after an Oscar-winning career spanning more than 50 years that included roles in "Gandhi" and "Ryan's Daughter." He was 97.

Mills died at home in Denham, west of London, after a short illness, a statement from his trustees said.
Details of the illness were not given.

Mills' roles ranged from Pip in David Lean's "Great Expectations" to the village idiot in Lean's "Ryan's Daughter," for which he won his Academy Award as best supporting actor in 1971. But he took his place in film history as soldier, sailor, airman and commanding officer, embodying the decency, humility and coolness under pressure so cherished in the British hero.

On Mills' 80th birthday in 1988, historian Jeffrey Richards called him "truly an English Everyman. His heroes have been on the whole not extraordinary men but ordinary men whose heroism derives from their levelheadedness, generosity of spirit and innate sense of what is right."

Small, fair-haired, with a boyish face and very blue eyes, he was the son, the brother, the boy next door who went off to fight the Germans and only sometimes came back.

In "Forever England" he was the ordinary seaman who pins down a German battleship. In "Waterloo Road" he played an AWOL soldier. In Noel Coward's 1942 classic "In Which We Serve" he was a Cockney able seaman, and in Anthony Asquith's "The Way to the Stars," one of the most popular films of the war, he was a schoolmaster-turned-RAF pilot.

These performances were touching and restrained, within the wartime bounds of acceptable sentimentality, and they made his name.


British actor John Mills, and his family in 1960. From
left to right, son Jonathon, 10, daughter Hayley, 16,
John, daughter Juliet, 18, and his wife Mary Haley Bell.
(AP Photo)

Age seemed hardly to touch him and he carried on in military roles for decades, eventually becoming the commander, as in "Above Us the Waves" in 1955. He was trapped in a submarine in 1950's "Morning Departure," toiled through the desert in "Ice Cold In Alex" (1958), and in "Tunes of Glory" (1960) he was the commander of a Scottish regiment, tormented by a fellow officer.

In a recent survey of British film legends by Sky television, voters puts Mills in 8th place all-time among British male actors. But Mills started his career as a hoofer, a song and dance man in old Fred Astaire roles, far from the trenches.

Born Lewis Ernest Watts, the son of a Suffolk schoolmaster, he started work at 17 as a grain merchant's clerk but longed for the stage. His older sister Annette, part of a dancing duo at Ciro's, the London nightclub, encouraged his ambitions and he moved to the capital and changed his name.

Mills recalled how he spent the mornings selling disinfectants and toilet paper to pay the rent, and his afternoons at tap dancing lessons.

"Then I got into a very tatty double act with a man called George Posford who played the balalaika while sang 'Sonny Boy' and that was how it all started," he added.

He was acting with at traveling troupe called The Quaints, in Singapore in 1929 when Noel Coward saw the show and suggested Mills look him up in London. That led to parts in Coward's revues and eventually his war movies, where Mills swapped dancing shoes for uniform.

Mills' own military career in the Royal Engineers lasted little more than a year after the outbreak World War II, until he was declared unfit because of an ulcer.


Sir John Mills

Mills was married first to actress Aileen Raymond, then in 1941 to Mary Hayley Bell, an actress-turned-playwright. Their son Jonathan is a screenwriter and daughters Juliet and Hayley are actresses.

Among Mills' many non-military films were "Great Expectations," "Hobson's Choice," "The Wrong Box," "Tiger Bay" with his daughter Hayley, and "Gandhi" in which he played the viceroy of India.

He was made a CBE, or Companion of the Order of British Empire, in 1960 and knighted in 1976. Mills was wiry, fit and remarkably youthful in to old age, which his daughter Hayley attributed to "joie de vivre."

"Maybe what attracts people is that exuberant spiritual quality that they recognize is still present," she said in 1986. At 80, Mills rejected any idea of giving up acting.

"I've never considered myself to be working for a living; I've enjoyed myself for a living instead," he said.

Mills is survived by his wife and their children. The funeral service will be held on April 27 in Denham.

Click here for last week's Genre News!

Paperback books by Rich La Bonté - Free e-previews!