GM Corn in USA! T-Rex!
Elephant Mimics? Songbirds!
Airborne SARS, Hugos & More!
EPA Bioterrorism Protection Faulted!

Take it seriously - it's happened before.

By John Heilprin
Associated Press

WASHINGTON March 25, 2005 (AP) — Cities are not getting all the protections President Bush ordered last year to detect a biological terrorism attack, the Environmental Protection Agency's internal watchdog said Thursday.

The report from EPA Inspector General Nikki L. Tinsley's office said the agency hasn't ensured the reliability, timeliness and efficiency of air sampling that Bush directed be part of a $129 million early warning system.

The Homeland Security Department, which pays for and oversees "BioWatch," relies on the help and expertise of EPA and other agencies to run it.

"The failure of EPA to completely fulfill its responsibilities raises uncertainty about the ability of the BioWatch program to detect a biological attack," Tinsley's report said.

Specifically, the report said EPA sometimes placed sensors too far apart, failed to make sure they were all in secure locations and didn't always factor in topography and seasonal wind pattern changes in some cities.

Bush signed an order last April directing agencies to help protect the country from an attack with biological agents. A classified version had 59 instructions for agencies to improve the nation's defenses, including improving the Biowatch system of sensors that continuously monitor and analyze the air in 31 cities.

In response to the report, Jeffrey Holmstead, EPA's assistant administrator in charge of air quality, wrote that the agency was already trying to improve the program along the lines of the inspector general's recommendations.

Holmstead attached the agency's point-by-point reply, which suggested it was natural for the "first of its kind" BioWatch program to need improvement since the monitors were set up "on an extremely tight schedule because of rising security concerns."

Using up to 50 sensors per city, the network is designed to provide coverage for 80 percent of the population in the cities in which it is used, including Washington, New York, Chicago, Houston, San Francisco, San Diego and Boston. The intent is to detect a biological agent within 36 hours of release and give authorities time to react properly.

The system was created in 2003 because of concern that terrorists might aerosolize a biological agent and spread deadly biological pathogens, including anthrax, smallpox and plague, that could kill thousands of people and also harm animals and plants.

EPA uses aerosol monitors that draw in air and pass it through disposable filters, which are collected once a day throughout the year. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is in charge of the lab analysis of the filters.

The program is among the Bush administration's most aggressive anti-terrorism efforts. It is a companion to the programs "BioSense," which tracks disease outbreaks; "BioShield," which provides vaccines, and the "National Biosurveillance Integration System," which coordinates information from the federal government, states, communities and industry.

EPA also was criticized for not doing more to help cities develop plans for dealing quickly with the consequences of a bioterrorism attack.

That lack of planning was highlighted in October 2003 when two BioWatch sensors in Houston on three consecutive days detected fragments of tularemia, a bacteria common among rabbits, prairie dogs and rodents that sometimes spreads to humans.

It turned out to be naturally occurring, not a terrorist attack, and no one became ill. But the incident marked the first time the network detected such a serious airborne threat. The U.S. military stockpiled tularemia as a bioweapon in the 1960s.

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Faces of the Fallen

A woman in a rain poncho walks by part of a collection of portraits of more than 1,300 U.S. military men and women killed in Iraq and Afghanistan on display at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial at Arlington Nation Cemetery, March 23, 2005. The exhibit, 'Faces of the Fallen,' contains work of nearly 200 artists who worked from pictures of the dead. (REUTERS)

GM Corn in the USA!

US government has known about this
accident for months and together with
Syngenta decided to keep it a secret.

PARIS March 23, 2005 (AFP) - Genetically-modified food found itself in fresh controversy after the British science journal Nature reported that a giant biotech firm had accidentally distributed an unauthorized batch of GM corn in the United States.

The report was confirmed by the Swiss-based corporation Syngenta International AG, which said it had made an immediate disclosure to the US authorities after learning of the incident, and insisted the accident had caused no harm.

The foul-up concerns engineered "Bt" corn to which a soil bacteria gene is added to make the plant exude a protein that kills an insect called the corn borer.

Syngenta already markets a type of this corn, called Bt11, which is sold widely in the United States and is making regulatory headway in the European Union despite the fierce objections of green campaigners. Between 2001 and 2004, Nature said, Syngenta inadvertently produced and distributed several hundred tons of a Bt corn called Bt10.

It is genetically very similar to Bt11, differing only by a few sections of DNA code on a gene that does not code for the pesticide protein.

However, Bt10 had not received approval from US authorities which vet GM crops to ensure they cause no risk to humans or damage the environment.

The mistake came to light when the company was tipped off late last year by one of its seed manufacturers, which noted the difference while it was carrying out plant-breeding experiments.

In a statement posted on its website on Wednesday, Syngenta said it "immediately informed" the US Environmental Protection Agency, Food and Drug Administration and US Department of Agriculture (USDA) of the incident.

"The Bt protein produced by (Bt10) lines is identical to that produced by the commercialized, fully approved Bt11 protein. Therefore there is no change to the food, health and environmental profile of the corn," it contended.

The three US regulatory agencies "have also confirmed the food, feed and environmental safety of Bt10. All current plantings and seed stock containing this material have been identified and destroyed or otherwise contained," it said.

GM wheat - So far, there aren't any benefits to
consumers. (Reuters)

Nature, quoting a spokeswoman for Syngenta in Washington, said that 150 square kilometers (57 square miles) of fields had been planted with Bt10 over the four years, equivalent to only 0.1 percent of all corn planted in the United States.

The company refused to say whether other countries had received the unauthorized seed, it said.

In Brussels, the environmental group Friends of the Earth blasted the GM food sector as "an industry out of control" and called on the EU's executive Commission to see whether the corn may have been illegally imported into Europe.

"This case makes a complete mockery of the US regulatory system for GM crops," it said. "To make matters worse, the US government has known about this accident for months and together with Syngenta decided to keep it a secret until now."

The latest incident comes after a scandal that erupted in 2000, when a Bt corn known as StarLink, approved for use only in animal feed, was accidentally sown for human consumption.

Because of the risk of possible allergic reactions, StarLink corn was recalled, an operation that by some estimates cost the food industry one billion dollars and fuelled green opposition to GM food.

Critics of GM crops say they pose a threat to human health and the environment, including the putative risk of creating "superweeds" resistant to farm chemicals.

US GM Food Questions and Answers
Associated Press

USA March 24, 2005 (AP) — What foods are genetically modified? Are they safe? Here are the basics:

Q: How can I tell if foods in the grocery store have genetically modified ingredients?

A: Usually you can't be certain. However, some makers of organic foods label their products as being free of genetically modified ingredients.

Q: What foods are most likely to have genetically modified ingredients?

A: Cooking oils -- mostly corn and soy -- and boxed, bagged and other processed foods, such as cereals and snacks, probably have some GM ingredients. That's because they usually contain high-fructose corn syrup or other corn or soy products. Free from genetic engineering: uncooked, unprocessed meats and fish, and fresh fruits and vegetables, with the exception of Rainbow brand papaya and some squash. Ditto for dairy products, except processed cheeses.

Q: Are there any health risks from genetically modified foods?

Greenpeace activist walks through a field of 200
Halloween masks 10 October 2003 planted in
front of the German Reichstags in Berlin during
an action against genetically modified organisms.
(AFP/ Johannes Eisele)

A: Proponents of GM foods say there have been no reports of those foods making people sick. But some health, environmental and consumer groups urging government regulation and labeling of these foods say gene-swapping can introduce allergens or toxins. They say there is no system to monitor such illnesses.

Q: What are the benefits of genetically modified crops?

A: So far, there aren't any benefits to consumers in terms of better-tasting, more nutritious or cheaper foods, although researchers say that could come within several years. Most GM changes to corn and soybeans have allowed farmers to cut down on chemicals used to kill weeds and pests, boosting crop yields and cutting costs and potential harm to the environment.

Q: Why are Europeans and others more suspicious than Americans when it comes to GM foods?

A: Europeans lost trust in their governments over the meat supply. First they were told repeatedly that they were not at risk from the human form of mad cow disease. Then, concerns were reignited in 1999 when the European Commission said dangerous levels of cancer-causing dioxin were widespread in meat from animals raised on farms near industrial polluters.

Q: How long have GM processed foods been available in the United States?

A: The first product, the now-defunct Flavr Savr tomato, was sold from 1994-97. Processed foods containing GM corn and soy ingredients began appearing late in the 1995 growing season.

Where's Clocky?

LONDON March 23, 2005 (Reuters) - Can't get out of bed in the morning?

Scientists at MIT's Media Lab in the United States have invented an alarm clock called Clocky to make even the doziest sleepers, who repeatedly hit the snooze button, leap out of bed.

After the snooze button is pressed, the clock, which is equipped with a set of wheels.

While you procrastinate, Clocky rolls off the table to another part of the room.

"When the alarm sounds again, simply finding Clocky ought to be strenuous enough to prevent even the doziest owner from going back to sleep," New Scientist magazine said Tuesday.

[If you had to look up "procrastinate" you're doing it wrong! Ed.]

T-Rex Tissue Intact!

David Hanke, an officer from the Chicago Field Museum,
makes final touches on the skull of the world's largest
Tyrannosaurus Rex, Sue, on display at the Dinosaur
Expo 2005 at the National Science Museum in Tokyo,
March 2005. (AFP / Toshifumi Kitamura)

North Carolina State University News Release

March 24, 2005 - Conventional wisdom among paleontologists states that when dinosaurs died and became fossilized, soft tissues didn’t preserve – the bones were essentially transformed into “rocks” through a gradual replacement of all organic material by minerals. New research by a North Carolina State University paleontologist, however, could literally turn that theory inside out.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, assistant professor of paleontology with a joint appointment at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, has succeeded in isolating soft tissue from the femur of a 68-million-year-old dinosaur. Not only is the tissue largely intact, it’s still transparent and pliable, and microscopic interior structures resembling blood vessels and even cells are still present.

In a paper published in the March 25 edition of the journal Science, Schweitzer describes the process by which she and her technician, Jennifer Wittmeyer, isolated soft organic tissue from the leg bone of a 68-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex.

Schweitzer was interested in studying the microstructure and organic components of a dinosaur’s bone. All bone is made up of a combination of protein (and other organic molecules) and minerals. In modern bone, removing the minerals leaves supple, soft organic materials that are much easier to work with in a lab. In contrast, fossilized bone is believed to be completely mineralized, meaning no organics are present. Attempting to dissolve the minerals from a piece of fossilized bone, so the theory goes, would merely dissolve the entire fossil.

But the team was surprised by what actually happened when they removed the minerals from the T. rex femur fragment. The removal process left behind stretchy bone matrix material that, when examined microscopically, seemed to show blood vessels, osteocytes, or bone building cells, and other recognizable organic features.

Since current data indicates that living birds are more closely related to dinosaurs than any other group, Schweitzer compared the findings from the T. rex with structures found in modern-day ostriches. In both samples, transparent branching blood vessels were present, and many of the small microstructures present in the T. rex sample displayed the same appearance as the blood and bone cells from the ostrich sample.

Branching vessels found in bone matrix of T. rex (A) and the
ostrich (B). (NCSU)

Schweitzer then duplicated her findings with at least three other well-preserved dinosaur specimens, one 80-million-year-old hadrosaur and two 65-million-year-old tyrannosaurs. All of these specimens preserved vessels, cell-like structures, or flexible matrix that resembled bone collagen from modern specimens.

Current theories about fossil preservation hold that organic molecules should not preserve beyond 100,000 years.

Schweitzer hopes that further research will reveal exactly what the soft structures isolated from these bones are made of.

Do they consist of the original cells, and if so, do the cells still contain genetic information?

Her early studies of the material suggest that at least some fragments of the dinosaurs’ original molecular material may still be present.

“We may not really know as much about how fossils are preserved as we think,” says Schweitzer. “Our preliminary research shows that antibodies that recognize collagen react to chemical extracts of this fossil bone. If further studies confirm this, we may have the potential to learn more not only about the dinosaurs themselves, but also about how and why they were preserved in the first place.”

The research was funded by NC State, the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences and the National Science Foundation.

North Carolina State University -

Dona Tica's Dinosaur

Sauropods (Queensland Museum)

BUENOS AIRES March 23, 2005 (AFP) - Remains of a new species of dinosaur, christened 'bonitasaura', was discovered in southern Argentina after scientists were led to them by a 98-year-old woman, who said she was aware of the bones since her childhood.

Scientists were taken to the bones of the nine meter (30 feet) giant, by Filomena Avila, also called Dona Tica, after convincing her they were not fossil thieves.

"Dona Tica believed were were fossil traffickers and, at first, she lied to us, saying that there are not any bones here," said Sebastian Apesteguia, leader of the paleontologists who made the discovery.

Eventually she led them to the site in the semi-desert Patagonian steppes, where they recovered enough bones to reconstitute 70 percent of the animal's skeleton.

Christened 'bonitasaura salgadoi', after the Bonita Mountains near the discovery site, the dinosaur is a sauropod, a plant-eater related to the brontosaurus, and lived 83 million years ago, in the Late Cretaceous period. It was classified in the titanosaurids family, all of which have long necks, long tails and small heads.

Its unique characteristic is the sharp ridge which runs behind its teeth which allows it to sever tree branches without damaging its frontal teeth.

The scientists hypothesize that the bonitasaura, the adults of which reached 20 tons, lived in herds to protect themselves from predators in the region such as the carnotaurus.

The existence of the fossil beds in the general area was known since the 1922 expedition of geologist Walter Shiller and paleontologist Santiago Roth. But the precise location was lost and remained unknown except to Dona Tica, who as a young girl had assisted the early expedition.

Elephant Mimics?

One imitated truck noises heard from a nearby
highway (AFP)

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution News Release

March 24, 2005 - Elephants learn to imitate sounds that are not typical of their species, the first known example after humans of vocal learning in a non-primate terrestrial mammal. The discovery, reported in today’s Nature, further supports the idea that vocal learning is important for maintaining individual social relationships among animals that separate and reunite over time, like dolphins and whales, some birds, and bats.

Researchers from the Amboseli Trust for Elephants in Kenya, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and the University of Vienna studied sounds made by two African elephants, one living among semi-captive orphaned elephants and the other with two Asian elephants in a zoo.

One imitated truck noises heard from a nearby highway, the other the chirps of another elephant species.

In both cases, the sounds were totally different from sounds made by other normal calf, adolescent and adult African elephants and very similar to recorded sounds that were common in the auditory environment of the subjects of this study. Spectrogram analyses of the audio frequency of the imitations were nearly perfect matches to the original sounds.

Mlaika, a ten-year-old adolescent female African elephant living in Kenya among a group of semi-captive orphans, mimicked noises she heard from trucks on a highway nearly two miles away. Her imitations of the trucks sounded much like recorded truck sounds and nothing like normal calls of African elephants. Mlaika did not appear to imitate particular trucks as she was hearing them, but rather seemed to use generalized truck sounds as the model for her imitation.


Calimero, a 23-year-old male African elephant who lived for 18 years with two female Asian elephants in a Swiss zoo, was a nearly perfect mimic for the chirp-like calls of his long-time zoo mates. The chirps are made by Asian elephants but not by African elephants. Calimero often mimicked the chirps but rarely made any other sounds.

“Many species with similar social systems as elephants use vocal imitation to maintain individual-specific relationships, “study co-author Stephanie Watwood of WHOI said. “Our study suggests that elephants may be using their vocal learning abilities in a similar manner, and opens a fascinating new area for research on how elephants use vocal learning.”

Vocal learning is important because it enables an open communication system in which animals and humans develop new signals with shared associations. Recent playback experiments conducted by Karen McComb of Sussex University have shown that elephants can remember the calls of a large number of other elephants. The new findings suggest that elephants, like parrots, bats, and dolphins, may use vocal learning to develop new communication signals for maintaining complex individual-specific social relationships, study co-author Peter Tyack of WHOI said. Tyack has studied the social behavior and acoustics signals of marine mammals, especially dolphins and whales, for decades.

“It is exciting to see that African savannah elephants follow a pattern we’ve seen in other terrestrial and aquatic species capable of vocal learning, “Tyack said. “Vocal learning should also occur in other species where long-lived social bonds are based on individual relationships and where members of a group separate and reunite over time.”

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution -

LONDON March 22, 2005 (Reuters) - A London man trying to coax his cat back into the house before he went to bed got more than he bargained for. Instead of a tame pussy, the cat-like creature that emerged from the bushes in response to his calls was nearer the size of a Labrador dog.

Neither was the snarling beast in the mood for a quiet bowl of milk. It flew at the man, giving him the fright of his life, and several nasty scratches.

The man alerted police after scrambling back into his house. Officers who visited the scene soon afterwards believe they saw the culprit.

"One police officer believes they saw a large black cat-like animal approximately the same size as a Labrador dog," a police spokesman said. London Zoo was contacted for advice later on Tuesday morning and schools were alerted.

So far, no further sightings have been reported.

The mockingbird

University of Washington News Release

March 24, 2005 - A pair of leading scientists who study songbirds as models for understanding the human brain and how humans acquire language say it's time for the burgeoning field to begin singing a different tune and study a wider variety of species.

Michael Beecher and Eliot Brenowitz, University of Washington professors of psychology and biology, say that while a great deal of knowledge has been gleaned by studying songbirds over the past three decades, a narrow focus on just a few species only provides a fragmentary picture of how the brains of nearly 4,000 songbird species function.

Writing in companion papers in the March issues of the journals Trends in Neurosciences and Trends in Ecology and Evolution, the two UW scientists argue that there is much greater diversity in how and when birds learn to sing than is generally recognized. They say the value of the birdsong system as a model for studying how the brain controls the learning of language would be greatly enhanced by taking into account the diversity seen among different bird species.

"We are interested in comparative approaches," said Beecher, who is an animal behaviorist. "There are many patterns of learning, but most studies are on zebra finches or white-crowned sparrows, in which song learning is restricted to the first year of life. People are not taking advantage of the wide spectrum of bird species. There probably are more species learning songs into their third and fourth years than those who only learn in the first few months or first year."

"One of the great things about songbirds is there is great variety in the manner in which different species learn to sing," said Brenowitz, a neurobiologist. "They are great models, but we should take advantage of the diversity of what they have to offer."

Brenowitz noted that the often-studied zebra finch is sexually mature in just 90 days.

The starling (Eduardo Sabal)

"They learn song quickly so it is hard to say this change in the brain is related to this aspect of song development. We can understand these kinds of things better in other species that mature more slowly. We can learn, for example, how the brain controls learning new songs as an adult, or to mimic the songs of other species. With different species, you get to ask all kinds of questions and get all kinds of answers that you can't with any single species."

The researchers said scientists need to be cautious about regarding the behavior of one or two species as typical of all songbirds in general.

"Settling on one species is risky," said Brenowitz, "because it depends on which species you began with. If you started with the starling, which learns throughout its life, rather than the zebra finch, our view of the basic or norm for birds would be very different."

The UW scientists said that previous research tended to label songbirds as either closed-end or open-ended learners, depending on when they learned their song repertoires. The assumption has been that most species, with a few exceptions, learned their songs early in life. More recent research, Beecher and Brenowitz said, has shown that there is a continuum of learning, with some species acquiring a fixed repertoire early in life, others whose song changes over the course of a year, others that add new songs from year to year and still others who learn an entirely new group of songs each year.

"We want to set an agenda for the next generation of studies and focus on comparative work beyond the standard species that have been examined," said Beecher. "Researchers would benefit from looking at species that do things differently because there are very different learning patterns. There is no one typical way in which songbirds learn."

"Some birds stick with what they learned the year before, others change," added Brenowitz. "There is a pool of plasticity in the bird brain that such species as mockingbirds and starlings take advantage of but white-crowned sparrows don't. There is a parallel in human language learning – factors that limit most people in learning a second language to childhood, while a few have no problem, even as adults."

University of Washington -

Owning Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu (AP)

LIMA, Peru March 22, 2005 (Reuters) - Peru's poor Zavaleta family has only one thing to say to the thousands of tourists who trek along the Inca trail to the renowned citadel Machu Picchu every year: "Hey you, get off our land!"

The family says it is the lawful owner of a large part of the Machu Picchu sanctuary, Peru's most famous national treasure, and will start proceedings next week to sue the state for recognition of its ownership rights.

"The Zavaletas bought the land in 1944 and have title deeds that date from 1898," their lawyer Fausto Salinas told Reuters Monday. "But I have checked and the site has been private property since 1657," he said, adding he had proof in the form of parchment documents wrapped in goatskin.

American explorer Hiram Bingham discovered Machu Picchu in Peru's southern Andes under thick forest in 1911.

The pre-Columbian ruins of an entire city are perched on a mountain saddle 8,400 feet above sea level near the modern city of Cuzco. It was probably the sanctuary of Inca emperor Pachacutec and lay at the heart of the Inca empire, which at the start of the 15th century stretched from Colombia to northern Argentina.

Machu Picchu has become South America's best-known archeological site and attracts almost half a million tourists every year.

The Zavaletas plan to sell the land if their title is recognized. "There is a lot of foreign interest," Julio Zavaleta said.

Peru's National Culture Institute, which runs and maintains Machu Picchu, declined to comment.

Airborne SARS Possible?

Scientist studies model of the SARS virus (AFP)

Infectious Diseases Society of America News Release

March 23, 2005 - Two new studies present evidence that the virus causing severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) may spread through the air, not just through direct contact with contaminated water droplets as previous research had shown.

SARS coronavirus was detected in the air in a patient's room during the 2003 outbreak in Toronto, according to a new study published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases. Another study, from Hong Kong, shows patients in hospital bays near a SARS patient had a much higher infection rate than patients in distant bays, consistent with the possibility of airborne SARS transmission, according to an article in Clinical Infectious Diseases. Both articles are published in the journals' May 1 issues, and are now available online.

The Toronto research was conducted by Timothy F. Booth, PhD and colleagues during the SARS outbreak there in March 2003. Their results mark the first experimental confirmation of the presence of the SARS virus in the air of an infected patient's hospital room.

The authors cautioned that their results do not document any cases of airborne transmission of the SARS virus from one person to another, only the dissemination of the virus from an infected patient to the air, via breathing or coughing.

During the outbreak in Toronto hospitals, health care workers became infected with the virus despite observance of strict infection control precautions. The investigators wondered whether environmental contamination of hospital air or surfaces could explain the ongoing risk of SARS coronavirus transmission to health care workers. To answer this question, they collected patient information and environmental samples from the SARS units of four Toronto hospitals.

SARS coronavirus was detected in the air in one of the four rooms tested. The researchers also detected virus in four of 85 surface samples taken from frequently touched surfaces, highlighting the importance of strict adherence to infection control precautions to prevent SARS coronavirus transmission in the health care setting.

In the Hong Kong study, which focused on the 2003 SARS outbreak at the Prince of Wales Hospital, 41 percent of patients admitted to the ward in which the first SARS patient was staying became infected. Proximity to the bed of the first case seemed to be strongly linked with incidence of infection-two-thirds of patients in the same bay and half of patients in an adjacent bay were infected with SARS, while only 18 percent of patients in distant bays were infected.

The Hong Kong researchers, led by Ignatius T.S. Yu, MBBS, MPH, of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, speculate that the increased risk of infection with closer proximity to the index SARS case suggests airborne transmission. Although they do not have "direct proof" of airborne transmission, according to Dr. Yu, "no other known routes of infectious diseases transmission could adequately explain the spread of the disease in the outbreak, and hence we feel that the evidence is quite strong."

An editorial accompanying the Toronto study, by Tommy Tong, MBBS, of Princess Margaret Hospital in Hong Kong, emphasized the scientific significance of discovering SARS coronavirus in the air in a patient's room. "Although the possibility of airborne dissemination of SARS coronavirus has been controversial," said Dr. Tong, "this important work shows beyond doubt that SARS coronavirus aerosol generation can occur from a patient with SARS." The Hong Kong study provides additional, complementary evidence that the virus may be capable of spreading through the air.

Infectious Diseases Society of America -

Who Thief Sacked

The new Dr. Who (BBC)

London March 24, 2005 (BBC) - The person who allegedly leaked the first episode of Doctor Who onto the internet has been sacked. The 45-minute episode called Rose appeared on the internet on 7 March - three weeks before the series was due to start on BBC One.

BBC Worldwide said their broadcast partner in Canada tracked down the source, who had access to an early preview copy.

The first episode of the new series is on BBC One on Saturday at 1900 GMT. The BBC did not provide details about the individual, saying only that the person worked for a "third-party company in Canada".

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) - one of the BBC's international production partners - investigated the leak and found the person responsible.

In a statement, BBC Worldwide said: "After a thorough investigation by BBC Worldwide's Canadian broadcast partner, the source of the leak of episode one of the new Doctor Who series has been traced to a third party company in Canada which had an early preview copy for legitimate purposes. The individual responsible for the leak has had their employment terminated by that company as a result.

"BBC Worldwide is considering further legal remedies and takes extremely seriously any unlawful copying or misuse of its copyright material."

Genre News: Hugo Nominations, Sin City, Enterprise, Tru Calling, King Kong, Invasion Iowa & More!

Sky Captain gets the nod (Paramount)

2005 Hugo Award Nominations - Angel Gets Two
World Science Fiction Convention Press Release

GLASGOW March 26, 2005 - The shortlist for the Hugo Awards recognizing achievement in Science Fiction during the year 2004 has been released. The Hugo Awards, named in honor of writer, publisher and inventor Hugo Gernsback, are science fiction’s highest honors for professional and fan work.

Voting for the Hugo Awards is open to all adult attending and supporting members of Interaction, the 63rd World Science Fiction Convention, which takes place in Glasgow from 4 to 8 August 2005. Ballots will be mailed to existing members with Progress Report 4 during April 2005. Eligible member will be able to vote online and printable ballots will be made available from the convention web site.

[A supporting membership is $45 US or £30 UK, Angel fans. Includes everything except convention admission. Ed.]

Information about joining Interaction and voting for the Hugo Awards, may also be found there. The closing date for receipt of ballots is 23:59 British Summer Time on 8 July 2005. (7pm EDT/4PM PDT, 8 July 2005)

The winners will be announced at a ceremony on 7 August 2005 in Glasgow as part of the Convention.

The 2005 Hugo Awards nominations listed below include finalists in 14 categories, plus the John W. Campbell Award (not a Hugo).

Best Novel (424 nominating ballots)

The Algebraist by Iain M. Banks (Orbit)
Iron Council by China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan)
Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross (Ace)
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury)
River of Gods by Ian McDonald (Simon & Schuster)

Best Novella (249 nominating ballots)

"The Concrete Jungle" by Charles Stross (The Atrocity Archives, Golden Gryphon Press)
"Elector" by Charles Stross (Asimov’s 09/04)
"Sergeant Chip" by Bradley Denton (Fantasy & Science Fiction 09/04)
"Time Ablaze" by Michael A. Burstein (Analog 06/04)
"Winterfair Gifts" by Lois McMaster Bujold (Irresistible Forces NAL)

Best Novelette (215 nominating ballots)

"Biographical Notes to 'A Discourse on the Nature of Causality, with Air-Planes' by Benjamin Rosenbaum" by Benjamin Rosenbaum (All-Star Zeppelin Adventure Stories Wheatland)
"The Clapping Hands of God" by Michael F. Flynn (Analog 07-08/04)
"The Faery Handbag" by Kelly Link (The Faery Reel Viking)
"The People of Sand and Slag" by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fantasy & Science Fiction 02/04)
"The Voluntary State" by Christopher Rowe (Sci Fiction, 5/5/04)

Best Short Story (269 nominating ballots)

"The Best Christmas Ever" by James Patrick Kelly (Sci Fiction, 5/26/04)
"Decisions" by Michael A. Burstein (Analog 01-02/04)
"A Princess of Earth" by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 12/04)
"Shed Skin" by Robert J. Sawyer (Analog 01-02/04)
"Travels with My Cats" by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s 02/04)

Best Related Book (263 nominating ballots)

The Best of Xero by Pat and Dick Lupoff (Tachyon Publications)
The Cambridge Companion to Science Fiction ed. by Edward James and Farah Mendlesohn (Cambridge University Press)
Dancing Naked: The Unexpurgated William Tenn, Volume 3 by William Tenn (NESFA Press)
Futures: 50 Years in Space: The Challenge of the Stars by David A. Hardy and Patrick Moore (AAPPL; Harper Design International)
With Stars in My Eyes: My Adventures in British Fandom by Peter Weston (NESFA Press)

Best Dramatic Presentation - Long Form (340 nominating ballots)

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Focus Features) Story by Charlie Kaufman & Michael Gondry & Pierre Bismuth; Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman; Directed by Michael Gondry.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Warner Brothers) Written by Steve Kloves; Based on the novel by J.K. Rowling; Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
The Incredibles (Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios) Written & Directed by Brad Bird
Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow (Paramount Pictures) Written & Directed by Kerry Conran
Spider-Man 2 (Sony Pictures Entertainment / Columbia Pictures) Screen Story by Alfred Gough & Miles Millar and Michael Chabon; Screenplay by Alvin Sargent; Based on the comic book by Stan Lee & Steve Ditko; Directed by Sam Raimi

Angel's puppet nominated for Hugo (WB)

Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form (161 nominating ballots)

Heroes Part 1 & 2 - Stargate SG-1 (MGM Television / The Sci Fi Channel) Written by Robert C. Cooper; Directed by Andy Mikita
Not Fade Away - Angel (20th Century Fox Television / Mutant Enemy) Written by Jeffrey Bell & Joss Whedon; Directed by Jeffrey Bell
Pilot Episode - Lost (Touchstone Television / Bad Robot) Story by Jeffrey Lieber and J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof; Teleplay by J.J. Abrams & Damon Lindelof; Directed by: J.J. Abrams
Smile Time – Angel (20th Century Fox Television / Mutant Enemy) Story by Joss Whedon & Ben Edlund; Teleplay by Ben Edlund; Directed by Ben Edlund
33 - Battlestar Galactica (NBC Universal Television / The Sci Fi Channel) Written by Ronald D. Moore; Directed by Michael Rymer

Best Professional Editor (296 nominating ballots)

Ellen Datlow
Gardner Dozois
David G. Hartwell
Stanley Schmidt
Gordon Van Gelder

Best Professional Artist (232 nominating ballots)

Jim Burns
Bob Eggleton
Frank Kelly Freas
Donato Giancola
John Picacio

Best Semiprozine (238 nominating ballots)

Ansible ed. by David Langford
Interzone ed. by David Pringle and Andy Cox
Locus ed. by Charles N. Brown
The New York Review of Science Fiction ed. by Kathryn Cramer, David G. Hartwell and Kevin J. Maroney
The Third Alternative ed. by Andy Cox

Best Fan Writer (241 nominating ballots)

Claire Brialey
Bob Devney
David Langford
Cheryl Morgan
Steven H Silver

Best Fanzine (218 nominating ballots)

Banana Wings ed. by Claire Brialey and Mark Plummer
Challenger ed. by Guy H. Lillian III
Chunga ed. by Randy Byers, Andy Hooper and Carl Juarez
Emerald City ed. by Cheryl Morgan
Plokta ed. by Alison Scott, Steve Davies and Mike Scott

Best Fan Artist (179 nominating ballots)

Brad Foster
Teddy Harvia
Sue Mason
Steve Stiles
Frank Wu

Best Web Site (311 nominating ballots)

eFanzines (  ) ed. by Bill Burns
Emerald City ( ) ed. by Cheryl Morgan
Locus Online ( ) ed. by Mark R. Kelly
SciFiction ( ) ed. by Ellen Datlow, Craig Engler, general manager
Strange Horizons ( ) Susan Marie Groppi, editor-in-chief

John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (187 nominating ballots) (Not a Hugo Award – an award for best new science fiction writer of the past two years, sponsored by Dell Magazines and administered by the current Worldcon committee.)

Elizabeth Bear (second year of eligibility)
K.J. Bishop (second year of eligibility)
David Moles (second year of eligibility)
Chris Roberson (second year of eligibility)
Steph Swainston (first year of eligibility)

The 2005 World Science Fiction Convention, known as Interaction, will take place in Glasgow, UK from 4-8 August 2005.

More information about Interaction, including current membership rates, is available from its web site at or by writing to

Bruce Willis as Hartigan and Jessica
Alba as Nancy in Dimension Films'
Sin City.

Miller Talks Sin City

Hollywood March 24, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Frank Miller, who created the noir comic-book series Sin City and received a writing and co-directing credit on the upcoming film adaptation, told SCI FI Wire that co-director Robert Rodriguez wanted the film images to be as evocative of Miller's drawings as possible.

"They're amazingly close," Miller said in an interview. "I mean, we actually had a camera setup that would feature my drawings, and then we'd superimpose the filmic image on top of it, and we'd adjust the shot to match the composition. It's as faithful as anything can ever be."

Miller said that he never intended to make a film version of his dark series, about a crime-ridden city and its unlikely heroes. But Rodriguez's persistence and dedication eventually won him over.

Frank Miller

"Robert pursued me about it," he said. "He really wanted to make this movie. And he convinced me that technically it was possible, but then he had to convince me that creatively it could be done, because I was still convinced that people would try to slap happy endings on my stories and soften them and focus-group test them and all that nonsense. And it took him quite a while to convince me. I was a tough customer."

Ultimately, Miller said that he feels Rodriguez was the perfect choice to bring his creation to life.

"He's a very bold man," Miller said.

"And he's a man who could hold a position, which is actually very rare. Also, because [he works in] Austin, Texas, because it's not in Hollywood, and he has his own world here. And in this world, you make the movies that you want to make."

Sin City opens April 1.

Sin City Official -

Riker and Troi and Enterprise Fans

Married Next Gens Riker and Troi (Paramount)

LOS ANGELES March 23, 2005 ( Two stars of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" will help bring the four-season voyage of the current "Trek" series, "Enterprise," to an end.

The final two episodes of the show are scheduled for Friday, May 13, and will focus on the forming of the Federation and the role the Enterprise plays in it. "Next Generation" regulars Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis will appear as their characters from that series, William Riker and Deanna Troi.

The network announced in February that this season of "Enterprise" would be its last, resulting in howls of protest from "Trek" fans and a drive to raise enough money to finance another season of the series. Thus far the effort, organized at and, has raised just over $3.1 million, with $3 million of that coming from a trio of deep-pocketed anonymous donors.

The group hopes to raise $32 million, the cost of production for a full 22-episode season.

Enterprise fans thinking to invest should read this two-part interview with Bill Hamm (Gene Roddenberry's Andromeda) explaining why they should just save their money. Tribune Entertainment's head honcho says dividing up the rights to a series after the original deal is struck makes late blooming independent investors a bad idea. Ed.

Bill Hamm Interview -

The final episodes will explore how the United Federation of Planets came to be. The first, which concludes a two-episode arc, finds the Enterprise trying to stop a human isolationist leader (guest star Peter Weller, "RoboCop") who's threatening to destroy Starfleet Command.

The finale will flash ahead six years, as Capt. Archer (Scott Bakula) and his crew return to Earth for the decommissioning of the ship and the signing of the Federation charter. Frakes and Sirtis will appear in a sequence set on the holodeck.

[Jolene (T'Pol) Blalock's advance review of the finale: "Appalling..." Ed.]

Enterprise Official -

Tru Calling Returns

Hollywood March 24, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Fox will bring back the remaining six new episodes of its canceled supernatural series Tru Calling with a two-hour episode on March 31, after which it will air in the 9 p.m. ET/PT Thursday timeslot of the soon-to-be pulled Point Pleasant, the Zap2it Web site reported.

Tru Calling was pre-empted earlier this year to make way for North Shore and then Point Pleasant, both of which fared poorly enough in the ratings to warrant being pulled from Fox's schedule. It's unclear whether Point Pleasant will return after that.

The remaining new episodes of Tru Calling will feature star Eliza Dushku as Tru Davies, who can relive a 24-hour period when called upon to save a recently deceased person.

Tru Calling Official -

King Kong Wraps Filming

Jackson and Kong cast

WELLINGTON New Zealand March 21, 2005 (AP) - Peter Jackson was one of those monkeying around during a party for the film crew remaking the classic movie "King Kong."

The remake of the 1933 classic by New Zealander Jackson, who directed the fantasy trilogy "Lord of the Rings," was likely to go into post-production within a couple of weeks, publicist Melissa Booth said Monday.

The weekend crew party on a back lot set built to replicate 1930s New York "was essentially our wrap party," she told The Associated Press. Everyone involved in the movie — from Hollywood stars to construction staff — was invited.

The party was "just like a proper carnival" with giant fairy tale characters wandering the streets and a Ferris wheel and merry-go-round for children, partygoers said.

A never-ending supply of bananas was on hand as a tribute to the giant primate.

Filming of the $145 million remake, funded by Universal Pictures, began Sept. 6. The movie is due for release in December.

The cast includes Australian actor Naomi Watts, who plays damsel in distress Ann Darrow; Oscar winner Adrien Brody, the movie's romantic hero Jack Driscoll; and offbeat comedy actor Jack Black, who plays raconteur and filmmaker Carl Denham.

Blake Jurors Disgusted By Prosecutor Remarks

Bobby Blake reacts to the verdict (Nick Ut / Pool)

Los Angeles March 24, 2005 (AP) - Jurors who acquitted actor Robert Blake of murder — and were later called "incredibly stupid" by District Attorney Steve Cooley — want an apology.

"I'm just disgusted," Blake jury foreman Thomas Nicholson said Thursday. "It appears to me he has no faith in the jury selection. After all, it was his people who helped choose us."

Loyola University law professor Laurie Levenson called Cooley's comment a major lapse in judgment — and "much more of an embarrassment for him than the jurors."

"At a time when it's hard enough to have juries come forward, it doesn't help to start insulting them," she added.

On Tuesday, Cooley defended the prosecutor who lost the Blake case and said he was stunned jurors found the actor not guilty of killing his wife and of one count of soliciting her murder.

"Quite frankly, based on my review of the evidence, he is as guilty as sin. He is a miserable human being," Cooley said.

Jurors said the comments were unfair.

"If Mr. Cooley ... thinks there was enough evidence to convict, then he should spend more time doing his job and less time trying to make excuses," said juror Roberto Emerick.

Sandi Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, said officials had no further comment.

On Thursday night, Cooley stood by his comments.

"There was a failure in this case. It was not my prosecutor. It was not the work of LAPD. It was the jurors didn't quite get it," he said, conceding, however, "I could have phrased it differently."

"But bottom line it was the wrong verdict," he said. "Sometimes jurors should be held accountable for their mistakes."

Invasion Iowa
By Ray Richmond
Hollywood Reporter

Bill even sings the theme song (Spike)

LOS ANGELES March 24, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - The self-deprecating marvel that is William Shatner carries the day in "Invasion Iowa," a mock reality series-cum-improv comedy miniseries that brings to the testosterone-encrusted Spike TV a long overdue sense of style.

At once a Hollywood sendup and a spoof of the unscripted genre itself, the four-night, five-hour show (concluding with a two-hour finale April 1) starts out like a sardonic jab at Smalltown America.

But it quickly evolves into something of a lampoon of showbiz convention itself, one that revels in the stereotypes and excesses so prevalent on movie shoots while illustrating that hayseeds maybe aren't quite as dumb and sheltered as we expect them to be.

On the down side, if those who are cast as the butt of the joke aren't entirely clueless, the premise loses a bit of its irreverent steam.

"Invasion Iowa" carries off its mockumentary premise with deadpan aplomb, if not quite as brilliantly as, say, Christopher Guest in "Waiting for Guffman." The gambit: Descend on the town of Riverside, Iowa (population 978), because it's the future birthplace of "Star Trek's" Capt. James T. Kirk (Shatner) and something of a Trekkie convention hotbed. A Hollywood group arrives, allegedly to shoot a kitschy indie sci-fi flick starring Shatner, hiring locals as part of the cast and crew. Of course, there is no movie, only a TV show documenting one.

Only six people are in on it: Shatner and a handful of improv actors who portray his spiritual adviser, his assistant, his body double/nephew, his unstable and promiscuous leading lady and a ballbusting female studio exec.

Everybody is gloriously over the top, as they should be, and the local Iowans, while sensing something is a little off, go with the outrageous flow.

But in the first two episodes sent for review, it's really all about Shatner. At 74, he is bloated of face and expansive of belly. But he's also a man impressively in touch with his inner ham. Shatner obviously is comfortable with the idea that he's become a living joke because of his clipped, dramatic intensity, and he's taken that ball and run with it. The self-parody fits him like a glove.

Even Shatner's sincere moments in "Invasion Iowa" reek of cheese, making for diverting -- if decidedly unpolished -- theater.

Invasion Iowa premieres Tuesday, March 29 (9:00-10:00 PM, ET/PT) culminating on April Fool's Day, Friday, April 1.

Invasion Iowa Official -

Invasion Iowa Theme Song MP3 (Shatner sings it, of course) -

Teri Hatcher's $100,000 Lunch
Associated Press Writer

Teri Hatcher, star of the hit TV show
Desperate Housewives' arrives at the
Starlight Starbright gala event in
Beverly Hills, March 24, 2005.
(REUTERS/ Michael Buckner)

BEVERLY HILLS March 25, 2005 (AP) - While there's no such thing as a free lunch, especially in Hollywood, this may be a new budget-busting record: The tab for six, including "Desperate Housewives" star Teri Hatcher? $100,000.

That's what an anonymous female bidder shelled out Thursday night at The Beverly Hilton hotel in an auction to benefit the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. The $750-a-head fundraiser was part of an evening paying tribute to the charity's chairman emeritus, director Steven Spielberg.

Hatcher, in a red lace Dolce & Gabbana dress, kicked off her shoes and hopped on stage to help the auctioneer move the original offering of lunch for four, plus Hatcher.

When the bidding hit $35,000, the actress served up a bonus. "I'm gonna add Jamie Denton," she said, referring to the hunky "Housewives" actor who plays the Hatcher character's boyfriend, Mike.

"And he's gonna rub the shoulders of any woman at this lunch with me," Hatcher continued. "That's gotta be worth at least another 10."

The bidding went to $50,000, then jumped to and closed at $100,000, after which Hatcher promised, "It will be the best lunch of your life. I will make sure of it."

On the arrivals line, Hatcher told Associated Press Television News that she first became aware of Starlight Starbright because she had a friend on the charity's board of directors. "They really bring brightness — it is called, 'Starlight Starbright' — and they really do bring brightness into very ill children in the hospitals," the actress said.

Spielberg helped to start The Starbright Foundation 15 years ago. The plan was to connect ill children through a dedicated Web site with various forms of entertainment. It merged with the similar Starlight Foundation in 2004.

"I say no to a lot of things," Spielberg said. "I'm exposed to a lot of interesting philanthropic ideas that are good for people. But (Starbright founder Peter Samuelson) brought me this idea that was really going to be good for kids and their parents, and it just clicked. It was something that I felt that I was really born to be involved with."

This year's Oscar host, Chris Rock, was the evening's emcee. In his trademark irreverent manner, he attempted to boost auction bids by shaming the audience.

"I don't have as much money as you — fat, old white man!" Rock shouted to a prospective bidder, generating a roar of laughter. "I'm gonna start whipping out your ------- wallets and show people what you got, OK?"

Rock put his own money where his mouth was, paying $25,000 for a diamond ring from designer Johnathon Arndt. "My mother's gonna love this," he said.

Spielberg's next film is an adaptation of the H.G. Wells novel "The War of the Worlds," which arrives in theaters June 29 and stars Tom Cruise.

"If the movie's working the way I hope it'll work, people will be in the movie theater looking for somewhere to hide," the director said. "That would be good if that happened."

Starlight Starbright -

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