Blue Origin?
Rich Get Richer
, NASA Pokémon,
Titan Earthlike,
Meteor Crater,
Got Soap?
Sticky Ice & More!
Blue Origin?

An Amazon spaceport? (Pix from the classic TV
show Space Patrol .)

Associated Press Writer

VAN HORN TX March 12, 2005 (AP) - Even skeptical locals, who've become wary over the years of city slickers with big ideas for their town, perked up when founder Jeff Bezos made his pitch — a spaceport for commercial travel into the beyond.

Bezos flew into this West Texas town a few weeks ago to tell key leaders how he planned to use his newly acquired 165,000 acres of desolate ranch land. He also gave his only interview so far on the spaceport to the Van Horn Advocate, the weekly newspaper Larry Simpson runs from the back of his Radio Shack store.

"He walked in and said: 'Hi, I'm Jeff Bezos,' and sat down right in that chair there," Simpson said, pointing to spot in his small cluttered office.

Over the next 30 to 40 minutes, Simpson said Bezos told him the goal of his venture — known as Blue Origin — was to send a spaceship into orbit that launches and lands vertically, like a rocket.

"He told me their first spacecraft is going to carry three people up to the edge of space and back," Simpson said. "But ultimately, his thing is space colonization." founder Jeff Bezos

Bezos, 41, was accompanied by Rob Meyerson, Blue Origin's program manager, whose history includes stints as a manager on the space shuttle emergency return vehicle project and lead aerodynamics engineer developing the shuttle's parachute landing system.

Bezos said Blue Origin would first build basic structures at the Texas site, such as an engine test stand, fuel and water tanks and an office building, then begin flight tests in six to seven years, Simpson said.

He said most of its initial research and development would be done in Seattle, where Bezos and his companies are based.

Bezos has said nothing else publicly about his project, and did not grant an interview request made by The Associated Press.

A Houston-based spokesman for Blue Origin, which was incorporated in September 2000 in Washington state, said there was "not much to see or tell" and that the project "won't go anywhere any time soon."

The spokesman, Bruce Hicks, provided a short news release and a company fact sheet, which included Blue Origin's mission statement — to "facilitate an enduring human presence in space."

Bezos isn't the only tech industry billionaire with stars in his eyes and ties to Texas, where Bezos attended elementary school for three years in Houston while his stepfather was an engineer at Exxon.

SpaceX, started by PayPal founder Elon Musk, plans to launch and deploy a military satellite this year using a rocket. The California-based company has conducted much of its testing in McGregor, Texas, near the Fort Hood military base.

John Carmack, who made a fortune on "Doom" and "Quake" through his video game company ID Software, owns Armadillo Aerospace based in suburban Dallas. The venture also hopes to launch its own brand of space rockets.

A spaceship into orbit that launches and lands
vertically, like a rocket (ESA)

Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen spent $20 million to fund the SpaceShipOne rocket plane that last fall successfully reached the edge of space and returned. It was dropped from beneath a flying craft and landed like a plane. (The NASA space shuttle, which takes off vertically, also lands like a plane.)

Winning the space race takes talented people, and Blue Origin's Web site lists several job ads for engineers — "highly qualified and dedicated individuals ... among the most technically gifted in his or her field."

That's a tall order for the 3,000 or so residents of Van Horn, many of whom believe the biggest thing to happen in recent years was construction of a new truck stop on Interstate 10.

About 120 miles east of El Paso, Van Horn primarily is a rest stop for travelers along I-10, the nation's southernmost cross-country highway. About 50 miles to the north is Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which contains many of the highest mountains in Texas, including the signature 8,085-foot El Capitan. It can be seen from a distance on Bezos' property amid desert and cattle-grazing terrain and salt lake beds.

Broadway, Van Horn's main street which parallels the freeway, is dotted with long-abandoned businesses, many of them flat-roofed adobe-style buildings, and two vehicles waiting at the street's lone stop light constitute a traffic jam.

Bill Talley, whose Van Horn Pharmacy is the only place to get a prescription filled within a 90-mile radius, said he was surprised by Bezos' project but was withholding judgment until he knew more. His wife, Mary, was more blunt.

"We're used to it," she said of "exploiters" who have raised residents' hopes and then fled.

More than a decade ago, some businessmen touted a mica mining venture that created a buzz but went nowhere. Fields along I-10 heading east toward Midland and Odessa are littered with rusting oil field equipment, monuments to the oil industry crash of the 1980s.

"We've had gentlemen come in here to change the world," said John Conoly, 76, the Culberson County judge for the past 30 years. "And nothing ever came of it."

But Bezos is different, Conoly said.

"After meeting and visiting with him, I have every confidence in the world he will do what he says he will do," the judge said. "I know he's going to have some of the best minds for this project. He doesn't do things halfway or second class."

NASA drawings of a future spaceport
at the Kennedy Space Center (NASA)

Bezos also told the Van Horn group that he wanted to give his family the opportunity to enjoy life on a ranch just as he did as a child. The Internet retailer chief executive spent summers at his grandfather's spread in Cotulla in South Texas.

While Bezos' spaceship plans were a surprise, his presence in Van Horn wasn't. His private jet had been seen a number of times in the past year at the local airstrip as he scouted the area and purchased three ranches.

On Bezos' new property, the only noticeable change, residents say, are the new "No Trespassing" signs posted every mile or so on the rusty barbed wire cattle fences bordering Texas Highway 54.

Conoly said people aren't real excited yet, but that could change once construction begins.

For Spanish-speaking residents like Manuel Baeaza, 47, who works at a marble mine in the mountains that adjoin Bezos' property, the project known as "El Estacion" or "the station," brings promise.

"More jobs, it would be a blessing," said Baeaza, who's lived in the area for 14 years.

Ricky Hutson, who works at used bookstore and resale shop where he also lives, was a bit more philosophical.

"With (Bezos) coming out here, this is going to force this town to change for the better," he said. "If you've lived a hard life, this is a place you can live in peace. But if you're used to the high-tech lifestyle, you might not want to come here.

"Maybe we'll actually get some business. As you can tell, this town is pretty behind the times."

Blue Origin:

NASA’s Spaceport Technology Center -

eXoNews Pix of the Week Dept.
Madam President?

WASHINGTON March 10 2005 (AFP) - It is still more than three years until the US presidential election but the talk is already whether Hillary Clinton or Dr. Condoleezza Rice could become the first woman to rule the White House.

Senator Clinton dominates the shortlist of potential Democratic contenders for the presidency.

"I think she'd be incredibly difficult to beat," Senator Joe Biden told US television of Clinton last month.

Rice has become a darling of the Republican Party since taking over as secretary of state in January, with at least one website "dedicated to generating excitement about the possibility of a run for the presidency by Dr. Condoleezza Rice -- and persuading her to run!"

Clinton and Rice finished one and two in a recent poll by Hearst Newspapers of women who respondents thought should run for president.

Rich Get Richer

American millionaire John D. Rockefeller

By Jenny Hogan
New Scientist

March 12, 2005 - The rich are getting richer while the poor remain poor. If you doubt it, ponder these numbers from the US, a country widely considered meritocratic, where talent and hard work are thought to be enough to propel anyone through the ranks of the rich.

In 1979, the top 1 per cent of the US population earned, on average, 33.1 times as much as the lowest 20 per cent. In 2000, this multiplier had grown to 88.5. If inequality is growing in the US, what does this mean for other countries?

Almost certainly more of the same, if you believe physicists who are using new models based on simple physical laws to understand the distribution of wealth. Their studies indicate that inequality in market economies may be very hard to get rid of.

Economists will join physicists to discuss these issues next week in Kolkata, India, at the first ever conference on the "econophysics" of wealth distribution.

"We are interested in understanding whether there is some kind of social injustice behind this skewed distribution," says Sudhakar Yarlagadda of the Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP) in Kolkata.

It is well known that wealth is shared out unfairly.

"People on the whole have normally distributed attributes, talents and motivations, yet we finish up with wealth distributions that are much more unequal than that," says Robin Marris, emeritus professor of economics at Birkbeck, University of London.

In 1897, a Paris-born engineer named Vilfredo Pareto showed that the distribution of wealth in Europe followed a simple power-law pattern, which essentially meant that the extremely rich hogged most of a nation's wealth (New Scientist, 19 August 2000, p22). Economists later realized that this law applied to just the very rich, and not necessarily to how wealth was distributed among the rest.

Now it seems that while the rich have Pareto's law to thank, the vast majority of people are governed by a completely different law. Physicist Victor Yakovenko of the University of Maryland in College Park and his colleagues analyzed income data from the US Internal Revenue Service from 1983 to 2001.

They found that while the income distribution among the super-wealthy - about 3 per cent of the population - does follow Pareto's law, incomes for the remaining 97 per cent fitted a different curve - one that also describes the spread of energies of atoms in a gas.

In the gas model, people exchange money in random interactions, much as atoms exchange energy when they collide. While economists' models traditionally regard humans as rational beings who always make intelligent decisions, econophysicists argue that in large systems the behavior of each individual is influenced by so many factors that the net result is random, so it makes sense to treat people like atoms in a gas. The analogy also holds because money is like energy, in that it has to be conserved.

"It's like a fluid that flows in interactions, it's not created or destroyed, only redistributed," says Yakovenko.

Yakovenko also found that the total income of those in the poorer part of the distribution did not change significantly with time after accounting for inflation. But incomes for those in the Pareto curve shot up nearly five times from 1983 to 2000, before declining with the US stock market crash of 2001. This, along with research data from other countries, suggests that there are two economic classes.

In one, the rich grow richer while in the other the poor stay poor. Yakovenko explains this by going back to the analogy of atoms in a gas. The atoms assume an exponential distribution of energy when they are in thermal equilibrium, and pushing the gas away from this state takes a lot of energy and it could prove similarly difficult to shift an economy to a different state. Randomness in the model does, however, mean that individuals can jump from one class to another.

"It suggests that any kind of policy will be very inefficient," says Yakovenko. It would be very difficult to impose a policy to redistribute wealth "short of getting Stalin", says Yakovenko, who will talk in Kolkata next week. A more sophisticated model developed by Bikas Chakrabarti of the SINP and his colleagues paints a slightly less bleak picture for the poor.

Millionaires Bill Gates and Paul Allen,
co-founders of Microsoft

His team adjusted the gas model to allow people to save various proportions of their money. This model predicts both the wealth classes that Yakovenko found. It also suggests that if you save more you are more likely to end up rich, although there are no guarantees.

Changing people's saving habits could be an effective way of making the wealth distribution fairer, rather than enforcing taxes, says Chakrabarti, who is one of the Kolkata conference organizers.

Macroeconomist Makoto Nirei at Utah State University in Logan, whose own work will be presented at the conference, is supportive of the physicists' work but he has reservations about how they model the exchange of money.

"The model seems to me not like an economic exchange process, but more like a burglar process. People randomly meet and one just beats up the other and takes their money."

Other economists warn it is too early to use such models to inform policies.

"The models are too abstract," says Thomas Lux, an economist at the University of Kiel in Germany.

But J. Doyne Farmer, a physicist from the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico, points out that these models have their place: "Many economic theories don't even come close to producing the wealth distribution we see, and if you can't produce that you're dead in the water."

New Scientist -

Bush Gets C Grade for Human Rights

(AP Photo)

Binghamton University News Release

March 10, 2005 - The Bush Administration has received a "C" on this year's second annual Presidential Human Rights Performance Report Card issued by the Center on Democratic Performance (CDP) at Binghamton University.

The grade shows some improvement over last year. But that progress should be viewed with caution, according to the center's director, Patrick Regan. Last year the CDP gave President Bush a 'C-' in human rights when graded on a curve against other recent administrations, Regan said. This year's marginally better grade reflects some quantifiable improvements in the Bush record, but also results from a more lenient curve, influenced by Bush's own poor mark of the past, he noted.

"While the Bush Administration again gets a passing grade, this 'C" leaves the administration far from the standard-bearing image for which many see the United States," said Regan, who is also a professor of political science at Binghamton.

The Bush Administration improved its standing over the previous year by logging reductions in the number of political prisoners and in the number of official visits to the White House from leaders of countries deemed to be "not free" based on the Freedom House ranking system. But political prisoners recorded by Amnesty International are still hundreds more than any of Bush's predecessors, Regan noted.

In general, grades are established by the CDP by assessing presidential administrations against seven weighted indicators that reflect the policies and preferences of an administration to issues of human rights. Those seven indicators are:

1) references to human rights in the State of the Union address
2) Amnesty International report on human rights violations by the U.S.
3) child welfare provisions
4) approval of requests for asylum from highly repressive countries
5) visits by heads of states from highly repressive countries
6) the number of human rights agreements signed during the year
7) the percent of the discretionary budget allocated for human rights programs.

Each indicator is weighted in accordance with its importance to determining the direction of policy and preferences. The report assumes, for example, that reports of political prisoners and torture bear a greater impact on the record of the Administration than do budget allocations and child welfare provisions.

Data from three previous presidents--Carter, Reagan and George H.W. Bush-- are used to establish a standard by which the grades are determined. Each of these past presidents would have received better grades than the current one.

"While we do not necessarily use the performance of the Administration on our indicators to reflect a comparison to the performance of other countries," Regan said. "we do see it as one mechanism to evaluate the policies of the current administration vis-ŕ-vis its predecessors. In effect, this is a performance indicator of the U.S. policies over time. One might compare, for instance, how likely we would be to hear charges of prisoner abuse and torture if one of the president's predecessors were in office.

"Our report also gives some credence to the charges that abuses at Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons stem from broad policies set at the upper levels of the administration rather than from rogue members of the armed forces."

Binghamton University -

Pokémon Meets NASA

Collect 'em all!

NASA News Release

March 11, 2005 - NASA's Center for Distance Learning and the Pokémon Trading Card Game have developed an in-school program that incorporates science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) themes into activity units for K-6 students.

Since 1996, children have collected and traded over 13 billion Pokémon Trading Cards worldwide. The recent release of the Pokémon Trading Card Game: EX Deoxys and this collaboration with NASA provide an opportunity to teach kids about the real world science behind this Pokémon.

Deoxys is a space virus with extraordinary origins. It came from space and mutated into a Pokémon when exposed to a laser beam. Deoxys' name is derived from deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA, the genetic material of most living organisms, including viruses. The STEM learning units have been developed based on the new EX Deoxys Trading Card Game.

Posted on NASA's Kids Science News Network (KSNN) website, five interactive activities are accessible to students and teachers in the classroom. They can learn real science from the Pokémon Trading Card Game and use free activities developed by NASA that teach them about extraterrestrials, viruses, meteorites, DNA, and the ozone layer.

As part of the program, Nintendo of America Inc. produced "awareness bracelets" and postcards that were distributed to educators nationwide.

NASA Langley's Center for Distance Learning produces a suite of award-winning television and web series, including NASA's KSNN, (grades K-5), NASA SCIence Files (grades 3-5), NASA CONNECT (grades 6-8) and NASA's Destination Tomorrow (adult).

The Pokémon Trading Card Game, fueled by organized play programs around the world, has spurred global sales of more than 13 billion cards to date, while the Pokémon animated series on Kids WB!, now in its seventh season, consistently ranks within the top three shows for boys 6-11 years old.

For more information on the NASA and Pokémon Trading Card Game collaboration, visit the Kids Science News Network.

NASA Pokémon site -

Canada's Shrinking Ice Caps

This image was taken after surveying the Barnes ice cap
on Baffin Island. (James Yungel, NASA)

NASA News Release
By Katie Lorentz - NASA Langley Research Center

March 6, 2005 - Earth's ice-covered polar regions help to keep our climate cool and hold tremendous amounts of fresh water locked up in their glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets.

The ice contained in these vast freshwater reservoirs is the equivalent of nearly 220 feet of sea level.

However, when most people think of polar ice, they usually do not think of Canada, the location of only a small percentage of the Arctic's polar land ice.

Recent research conducted by NASA scientists has revealed that Canada's ice caps and glaciers have important connections to Earth’s changing climate, and they have a strong potential for contributing to sea level rise.

Canada's Arctic region is covered by approximately 150,000 square kilometers (93,205 square miles) of ice. While this land area is tiny compared to Antarctica's 113.5 million square kilometers (70.5 million square miles), and Greenland's 1.7 million square kilometers (1.05 million square miles) of ice coverage, it is still quite significant.

In the next 100 years, melting glaciers and ice caps outside of Greenland and Antarctica, a significant portion of which includes those in Canada, are expected to raise global sea levels by 20 to 40 centimeters (7.9 to 15.8 inches).

Waleed Abdalati, Head of the Cryospheric Sciences Branch at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), Greenbelt, Md. published research recently in the Journal of Geophysical Research showing that Canada's Arctic ice is one of the more significant and immediate sources of world-wide changes in sea levels.

Abdalati and his colleagues say that Canada's Arctic ice is important because the wide area covered by these ice caps and the dramatic changes that have taken place in the Arctic climate in recent years. Studying this region will help researchers understand how much and in what ways Arctic glaciers and ice caps are contributing to sea level rise.

"The ice-covered parts of the world, and, in particular, of the Arctic are considered to be very sensitive to change," said Abdalati.

To study Canada's ice caps, Abdalati and his colleagues used a laser altimeter mounted on an airplane to measure the precise elevation of the ice surface. By making these measurements over many of the Canadian ice caps once in 1995 and repeating them again in 2000, they were able to determine how much the thickness of the ice sheet changed. By combining this information with temperature and precipitation data from weather stations nearby, and several decades of direct measurement of ice growth and shrinkage on certain ice caps, they were able to put these changes in their appropriate climatological context.

Melting icecap (BBC)

From their research, Abdalati and his colleagues found an increasing trend in both annual temperatures during the second half of the twentieth century. At the same time records showed that accumulation was approximately 15 percent higher during the 1995-2000 time period than for the 1951-1980 period (a data set that is often used as a climatological mean to which new measurements are historically compared). These characteristics contributed to changes in the ice caps in the late 1990s.

The researchers found that in areas where the ice melts very little, there was slight thickening of some ice caps, which could be due to accumulation from increased snowfall; however, overall they found that the ice caps and glaciers were thinning at the lower elevations where melt occurs. In some locations, where the changes were most substantial, this thinning appears to be a continuation of the retreat or melting of glaciers that followed the end of the Little Ice Age -- a period 150 years ago when the Earth was cooler and glaciers were more prevalent. However, the researchers also attributed the melting of the ice caps to the short-term warming trend of the late 1990s, which appears to have been amplified in the Arctic. They determined that the ice loss associated with these combined effects contributed to 0.065 millimeters (0.002 inches) per year to sea level rise during the 1995-2000 time period.

"This research is significant because it is the first large-scale assessment of Canada's ice cap contribution to sea level rise, which has never been put into a comprehensive picture before," said Abdalati. "The ice caps in the Canadian Arctic are shrinking, and though they are relatively small compared to areas like Greenland and Antarctica, their short-term contributions to sea level cannot be ignored."

NASA Langley Research Center -

Titan Revealed As Earthlike World!

This mosaic of Titan's surface was made from 16 images.
The individual images have been specially processed to
remove effects of Titan's hazy atmosphere and to improve
visibility of the surface near the terminator (the boundary
between day and night). (NASA)

CICLOPS/Space Science Institute News Release

March 9, 2005 - Saturn’s hazy largest moon, Titan – a body long held to be a frozen analog of early Earth – has a surface shaped largely by an Earth-like interplay of tectonics, erosion by fluids, winds, and perhaps volcanism. So reports the Cassini imaging team in today’s issue of Nature, in their first published presentation of findings from images of Titan gathered since last July.

Titan is about the same size and density as Jupiter's largest moon, Ganymede. Unlike Ganymede, though, it probably has not undergone tidal heating – a well-known internal engine for modification of planetary surfaces. For these reasons, Titan was expected to have a surface at least as old as Ganymede’s and pocked with at least as many large craters. Over the past billion years, Titan should have accumulated as many as a hundred craters, 20 kilometers (12 miles) wide and larger, across its entire surface.

Yet, that is not what is seen in the images of this world Cassini has obtained so far.

Dr. Elizabeth Turtle, imaging team associate in the Lunar and Planetary Lab at the University of Arizona in Tucson (and co-author on the paper in Nature) said, “We’ve only just begun exploring the surface of Titan, but what’s struck me the most so far is the variety of the surface patterns that we’re seeing. The surface is very complex, and shows evidence for so many different modification processes.”

Images collected over the last eight months during a distant flyby of the south polar region and three close encounters of Titan’s equatorial region have covered 30 percent of its surface with spatial resolutions high enough to pick out features as small as 1 to 10 kilometers (0.6 to 6 miles). At this scale, what has been discovered are geologically young terrains with signs of tectonic resurfacing, erosion by liquid hydrocarbons, streaking of the surface materials by winds and only a few large circular features thought to be impact craters formed in the ice ‘bedrock’. (The largest of these – a 300-kilometer (190-mile) wide, double-annulus structure to the northeast of the large region called Xanadu – was recently imaged by Cassini’s Radar instrument, providing independent confirmation of an impact origin.)

Any large craters that were once there – and there should have been hundreds of them if Ganymede is any guide – appear to have been eliminated or obscured by a combination faulting, viscous relaxation (in which features subside over time due to flow of surrounding material), erosion, and burial. Titan’s surface appears to be as complex as planet Earth’s, though the rates at which the various forces modify its surface may be much slower than on our planet.

Tectonism (brittle fracturing and faulting) has clearly played a role in shaping Titan's surface. Linear boundaries between bright and dark areas are pervasive on Titan at the global and regional scales seen from orbit, as well as the smaller scales seen by Huygens.

Titan's south pole (NASA)

Dr. Alfred McEwen, imaging team member from the University of Arizona, said, "The only known planetary process that creates large-scale linear boundaries is tectonism, in which internal processes cause portions of the crust to fracture and sometimes move – either up, down, or sideways. Erosion by fluids may then serve to accentuate the tectonic fabric by depositing dark materials in low areas and enlarging fractures. This interplay between internal forces and fluid erosion is very Earth-like."

Cassini images collected from orbit have also shown dark, curvilinear patterns in various regions on Titan, but mostly concentrated near the south pole. Some in the polar region extend up to 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) long. Images collected by the Huygens probe during its descent down to the Titan surface in January showed clear evidence for small channels a few kilometers long, probably cut by liquid methane. Cassini imaging scientists are suggesting that the curvilinear patterns seen in their images of Titan may also be channels, though there is no direct evidence for the presence of fluids. If these features are channels, it would make the ones seen near the south pole the Titanian equivalents of the Snake River.

Since most of the cloud activity observed on Titan with Cassini has occurred over the south pole, scientists believe this may be the place where the cycle of methane rain, channel carving, runoff, and evaporation is most active, an hypothesis that could explain the presence of the extensive channel-like features seen in this region.

With presently active geologic and erosional processes similar to those shaping the land areas of Earth, Titan offers scientists an intriguing place to explore and study in the years ahead.

“Throughout the Solar System, we find examples of solid bodies that show tremendous geologic variation across their surfaces. One hemisphere often can bear little resemblance to the other,” said Dr. Carolyn Porco, Imaging Team leader.

“On Titan, it’s very likely to be this and more. Who knows, we may get lucky and have the chance to observe the surface change with time. It’s a good thing we’ll be coming back for more.”

Cassini is scheduled to make 41 additional close flybys over Titan in the next three and one-quarter years.

Images associated with this release, and information about the Cassini-Huygens mission, are available at ,  and

Arizona's Meteor Crater Mystery Solved!

The Arizona crater is 570 feet deep and
4,100 feet across – enough room for 20
football fields.

University of Arizona News Release

March 10, 2005 - The iron meteorite that blasted out Meteor Crater almost 50,000 years ago was traveling much slower than has been assumed, University of Arizona Regents' Professor H. Jay Melosh and Gareth Collins of the Imperial College London report in the cover article of the March 10th issue of Nature.

"Meteor Crater was the first terrestrial crater identified as a meteorite impact scar, and it's probably the most studied impact crater on Earth," Melosh said. "We were astonished to discover something entirely unexpected about how it formed."

The meteorite smashed into the Colorado Plateau 40 miles east of where Flagstaff and 20 miles west of where Winslow have since been built, excavating a pit 570 feet deep and 4,100 feet across – enough room for 20 football fields.

Previous research supposed that the meteorite hit the surface at a velocity between about 34,000 mph and 44, 000 mph (15 km/sec and 20 km/sec).

Melosh and Collins used their sophisticated mathematical models in analyzing how the meteorite would have broken up and decelerated as it plummeted down through the atmosphere.

About half of the original 300,000 ton, 130-foot-diameter (40-meter-diameter) space rock would have fractured into pieces before it hit the ground, Melosh said. The other half would have remained intact and hit at about 26,800 mph (12 km/sec), he said.

That velocity is almost four times faster than NASA's experimental X-43A scramjet -- the fastest aircraft flown -- and ten times faster than a bullet fired from the highest-velocity rifle, a 0.220 Swift cartridge rifle.

But it's too slow to have melted much of the white Coconino formation in northern Arizona, solving a mystery that's stumped researchers for years.

Scientists have tried to explain why there's not more melted rock at the crater by theorizing that water in the target rocks vaporized on impact, dispersing the melted rock into tiny droplets in the process. Or they've theorized that carbonates in the target rock exploded, vaporizing into carbon dioxide.

"If the consequences of atmospheric entry are properly taken into account, there is no melt discrepancy at all," the authors wrote in Nature.

"Earth's atmosphere is an effective but selective screen that prevents smaller meteoroids from hitting Earth's surface," Melosh said.

When a meteorite hits the atmosphere, the pressure is like hitting a wall. Even strong iron meteorites, not just weaker stony meteorites, are affected.

"Even though iron is very strong, the meteorite had probably been cracked from collisions in space," Melosh said. "The weakened pieces began to come apart and shower down from about eight-and-a-half miles (14 km) high. And as they came apart, atmospheric drag slowed them down, increasing the forces that crushed them so that they crumbled and slowed more."

The intact half of the Meteor Crater
meteorite exploded with at least 2.5
megatons of energy on impact

Melosh noted that mining engineer Daniel M. Barringer (1860-1929), for whom Meteor Crater is named, mapped chunks of the iron space rock weighing between a pound and a thousand pounds in a 6-mile-diameter circle around the crater. Those treasures have long since been hauled off and stashed in museums or private collections. But Melosh has a copy of the obscure paper and map that Barringer presented to the National Academy of Sciences in 1909.

At about 3 miles (5 km) altitude, most of the mass of the meteorite was spread in a pancake shaped debris cloud roughly 650 feet (200 meters) across.

The fragments released a total 6.5 megatons of energy between 9 miles (15 km) altitude and the surface, Melosh said, most of it in an airblast near the surface, much like the tree-flattening airblast created by a meteorite at Tunguska, Siberia, in 1908.

The intact half of the Meteor Crater meteorite exploded with at least 2.5 megatons of energy on impact, or the equivalent of 2.5 tons of TNT.

Elisabetta Pierazzo and Natasha Artemieva of the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Ariz., have independently modeled the Meteor Crater impact using Artemieva's Separated Fragment model.

They find impact velocities similar to that which Melosh and Collins propose.

Melosh and Collins began analyzing the Meteor Crater impact after running the numbers in their Web-based "impact effects" calculator, an online program they developed for the general public. The program tells users how an asteroid or comet collision will affect a particular location on Earth by calculating several environmental consequences of the impact.

University of Arizona -

Impact Effects Calculator -

Barringer -

Alaska Oil Drilling Plan Big Mistake
By David Ljunggren

Ottawa March 11, 2005 (Reuters) - Canada said Thursday that a U.S. plan to drill for oil in an Alaskan wildlife refuge was "a big mistake" and vowed to keep pressuring Washington to scrap the idea.

Ottawa says drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in northeast Alaska would ruin the calving ground of the Porcupine caribou herd, on which native Gwich'in Indians in Alaska and Canada have depended on for thousands of years.

President Bush says drilling in ANWR would help reduce reliance on imports of foreign oil. The Senate, which shelved an earlier drilling proposal two years ago, is due to vote on the plan next week.

"We think it's a big mistake and we will continue to pressure (Washington) so that it should not happen," Canada's environment minister, Stephane Dion, told Reuters.

Ottawa, which says both countries should provide permanent protection for wildlife populations that straddle the border, has banned development in areas frequented by the Porcupine herd on the Canadian side of the border.

"We must be sure the caribou are protected. It's a very frail ecosystem there. I'll meet my (U.S.) counterpart pretty soon and will continue to look at that very carefully," Dion said.

ANWR -- which covers 19 million acres (7.7 million hectares) and is also home to polar bears and 160 species of migratory birds -- is estimated to contain 10 billion to 16 billion barrels of crude.

The Bush plan would open 1.5 million acres on Alaska's north coast for exploration, although only 2,000 acres could be under development at any given time.

Dion said that when he goes to Washington he will also raise plans by North Dakota to divert waters from Devil's Lake into the Red River, which runs north from the U.S. state into the central Canadian province of Manitoba.

Authorities in Manitoba fear the Devil's Lake water could be polluted and contain alien species. They say the diversion plan has the potential to harm the Red River, which flows into Lake Winnipeg -- one of the world's largest fresh water lakes.

"Devil's Lake ... is something I want to put a lot of pressure on to be sure it will not happen. The project is almost 80 percent completed and it's threatening the ecosystem of the 10th largest fresh water lake on Earth and a key one for Manitoba and the whole of Canada," Dion said.

"So these are the kinds of issues we need to look at carefully and tell the United States that they should be respectful of their own ecosystem and our ecosystem."
Got Soap?

Good old-fashioned soap and
water (USDA)

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill News Release

CHAPEL HILL March 10, 2005 – The largest, most comprehensive study ever done comparing the effectiveness of hand hygiene products shows that nothing works better in getting rid of disease-causing viruses than simply washing one's hands with good old-fashioned soap and water.

Among the viruses soapy hand washing flushes down the drain is the one that causes the common cold. Other removable viruses cause hepatitis A, acute gastroenteritis and a host of other illnesses.

A separate key finding was that waterless handwipes only removed roughly 50 percent of bacteria from volunteer subjects' hands.

"We studied the efficacy of 14 different hand hygiene agents in reducing bacteria and viruses from the hands," said Emily E. Sickbert-Bennett, a public health epidemiologist with the University of North Carolina Health Care System and the UNC School of Public Health. "No other studies have measured the effectiveness in removing both bacteria and viruses at the same time."

For the first time, too, the UNC researchers tested what happened when people cleaned their hands for only 10 seconds, Sickbert-Bennett said. That represented the average length of time researchers observed busy health-care personnel washing or otherwise disinfecting their hands at work.

"Previous studies have had people clean their hands for 30 seconds or so, but that's not what health-care workers usually do in practice, and we wanted to test the products under realistic conditions," she said.

Anti-microbial agents were best at reducing bacteria on hands, but waterless, alcohol-based agents had variable and sometimes poor effects, becoming less effective after multiple washes, Sickbert-Bennett said. For removing viruses from the hands, physical removal with soap and water was most effective since some viruses are hardy and relatively resistant to disinfection.

A report on the findings appears in the March issue of the American Journal of Infection Control. Other authors are Drs. William A. Rutala and David J. Weber, professors of medicine and epidemiology at the UNC schools of medicine and public health; Dr. Mark D. Sobsey, professor of environmental sciences and engineering in public health; and medical technologist Maria F. Gergen-Teague. Dr. Gregory P. Samsa, a Duke University biostatistician, helped analyze the data.

"These findings are important because health-care associated infections rank in the top five causes of death, with an estimated 90,000 deaths each year in the United States," Rutala said. "Hand hygiene agents have been shown to reduce the incidence of health-care associated infections, and a variety of hand hygiene agents are now available with different active ingredients and application methods.

"Our study showed that the anti-microbial hand washing agents were significantly more effective in reducing bacteria than the alcohol-based handrubs and waterless handwipes," he said. "Our study also showed that, at a short exposure time of 10 seconds, all agents with the exception of handwipes demonstrated a 90 percent reduction of bacteria on the hands."

Alcohol-based handrubs were generally ineffective in demonstrating a significant reduction of a relatively resistant virus, Rutala said. While the use of alcohol-based handrubs will continue to be an important infection control measure, it is important to recommend or require traditional hand washing with soap and water throughout each day.

Researchers first had volunteers clean their hands and then contaminated their hands with Serratia marcescens and MS2 bacteriophage. Those are, respectively, a harmless bacterium and virus comparable to, and substituted for, disease-causing organisms. After that, scientists had the subjects clean their hands with various agents and measured how much of the bacteria and virus remained afterwards.

Sixty-two adults volunteered for and participated in the study. Investigators performed five evaluations on each of the 14 agents.

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill -

Not Counting Iraqi Casualties Irresponsible

(AP Photo)

British Medical Journal News Release

March 10, 2005 - An international group of public health experts has accused the British and American governments of being "wholly irresponsible" over their failure to count Iraqi casualties.

In a statement published online by the BMJ today, 24 experts from the United Kingdom, United States, Canada, Spain, Italy and Australia call for an independent inquiry into Iraqi war-related casualties. "We believe that the joint US/UK failure to make any effort to monitor Iraqi casualties is, from a public health perspective, wholly irresponsible," they write.

They argue that the British government's reliance on Iraqi Ministry of Health figures is "unacceptable." These figures "are likely seriously to underestimate casualties," since they do not take into account deaths during the first 12 months since the invasion, only include violent deaths reported through the health system, and they do not allow for reliable attribution between different causes of death and injury.

The inadequacy of the current US/UK policy was highlighted when the Lancet published research suggesting that Iraq had suffered around 100,000 excess deaths since the 2003 invasion, but the UK government rejected this survey as unreliable.

The experts call for a large, scientifically independent study to "remove uncertainties that remain," but both the British and American governments contend that they have no legal responsibility to count civilian casualties.

A Foreign Office spokesman told the BMJ: "We continue to feel that the Iraqi Ministry of Health figures are the best available in an uncertain situation, being based on an actual head count instead of extrapolation. In the current security climate, more accurate research is not feasible."

Professor Klim McPherson, public health epidemiologist at Oxford University, and instigator of the statement, said: "Basically this is a response to the government's continuing procrastination. Counting casualties can help to save lives both now and in the future … we have waited too long for this information."

Source: BMJ Volume 330, p 557/Editorial: Counting the dead in Iraq BMJ Volume 330, pp 550-1


Protoplanets Made of Sticky Ice?

PNNL researchers armed with a high-speed
camera observed that ceramic bb's consistently
rebounded about 8 percent of their dropped
height from so-called fluffy ice grown at 40
Kelvin; the rebound on the much-higher-
temperature ice people encounter on Earth,
which is also much more compact, is 80%.
This cushioning feature of extreme low-
temperature ice is a key attribute in planet
formation. (PNNL)

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory News Release

RICHLAND WA March 8, 2005 - How dust specks in the early solar systems came together to become planets has vexed astronomers for years. Gravity, always an attractive candidate to explain how celestial matter pulls together, was no match for stellar winds.

The dust needed help coming together fast, in kilometer-wide protoplanets, in the first few million years after a star was born, or the stellar wind would blow it all away.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, reporting in the current issue of Astrophysical Journal, offer a cool answer to the planet- formation riddle: Micron-wide dust particles encrusted with molecularly gluey ice enabled planets to bulk up like dirty snowballs quickly enough to overcome the scattering force of solar winds.

"People who had calculated the stickiness of dust grains found that the grains didn't stick," said James Cowin, PNNL lab fellow who led the research. "They bounce, like two billiard balls smacked together. The attraction just wasn't strong enough."

Cowin's team has spent years studying, among other things, the chemical and physical properties atmospheric dust and water ice, using an array of instruments suited to the task at the PNNL-based W.R. Wiley Environmental Molecular Sciences Laboratory.

Much of the pre-planetary dust grains were either covered by or largely composed of water ice, having condensed at temperatures close to absolute zero, at 5 to 100 Kelvin. Evidence of this icy solar system can be seen in comets, and planets and moons a Jupiter's distance from its star and beyond are icy.

"This ice is very different from the stuff we chip off our windows in winter," Cowin said. "For example, we saw that at extreme cold temperatures vapor-deposited ice spontaneously becomes electrically polarized. This makes electric forces that could stick icy grains together like little bar magnets."

PNNL staff scientist Martin Iedema, a member of Cowin's group with an astronomy undergraduate degree, surveyed the astrophysics literature and found that the planet growth mystery resided in the same cold temperatures of the lab ices.

The infancy of hotter inner planets like Earth involved silicate
dust grains instead of ice. (NASA)

Iedema found that the high background radiation in the early solar system would have neutralized a polarized, micron-sized ice grain in days to weeks--or hundreds of thousands of years before it could accrete a critical mass of material and grow to the size of a medicine ball, enabling it to get over the critical size hurdle in planet formation.

But, Iedema said, ice grains colliding into each other would have chipped and broken in two to upset electrical equilibrium and, in essence, recharging the ice grains and restoring their clinginess. Then he discovered an additional feature that gave the sticky ice theory a new bounce.

"More of an anti-bounce," Cowin emended, "from the cushioning, or fluffiness, of this ice. The more technical phrase is 'mechanical inelasticity.' We knew that ice, when grown so cold, isn't able to arrange its molecules in a well-ordered fashion; it becomes fluffy on a molecular scale."

Cowin conjured an image of "billiard balls made of Rice Krispies." Such balls would barely bounce. "Colliding fluffy ice grains would have enough residual electrical forces to make them stick, and survive subsequent collisions to grow into large lumps."

To test this, PNNL postdocs Rich Bell and Hanfu Wang grew ice from the vapor in a chamber that reproduced primordial temperatures and vacuum. They measured bounce by dropping hard, 1/16th- inch hard ceramic balls on it. With a high-speed camera, they observed the balls consistently rebound about 8 percent of their dropped height from fluffy ice grown at 40 Kelvin, whereas on the hard, warmer and much more compact ice that forms naturally on Earth, the ice rebound was as high as 80 percent.

"This huge inelasticity provides an ideal way for fluffy icy grains to stick and grow eventually to protoplanets," Cowin said. Cowin and colleagues further speculate that similar electrical forces, minus the fluffy cushioning, were at work during the infancy of hotter inner planets like Earth, involving silicate dust grains instead of ice.

DOE/Pacific Northwest National Laboratory -

Genre News: Jackson Broke and Crazy? Serenity, Boston Legal, Crossing Jordan, Blind Justice, Jim Morrison & More!
Is Michael Jackson Broke and Crazy?
By FLAtRich

Michael Jackson a bankrupt nut? (AFP)

Santa Maria March 12, 2005 (eXoNews) - Michael Jackson a bankrupt nut? That was the week's buzz story beneath the continuing vague headline tales of the Jackson sex trial.

Despite 24 hour news coverage in every conceivable news outlet [now even eXoNews! Ed.], the trial itself is not being televised and reportage of what is happening in the Santa Maria California court house is mostly hearsay.

According to the Associated Press, Assistant District Attorney Gordon Auchincloss has requested copies of Jackson's financial records hoping to prove that the singer was so close to financial ruin that he held his accuser's family hostage to force them to deny the sexual molestation charges they made in a British television documentary.

Judge Rodney S. Melville said he would allow introduction of minimal financial evidence and charged lawyers on both sides with reaching an agreement by Thursday on what records would be released.

Robert Sanger, the lawyer defending Jackson said the allegations of Jackson's financial despair were false and that his current finances were not relevant to 2003, the year that the alleged sexual molestation and other events were purported to occur.

A Michael Jackson marionette
created by supporter Eveline
Popp of Venice, Ca. outside the
child molestation trial. Popp has
traveled over 5000 miles with
the doll attempting to convince
people to concentrate on the good
things Jackson has done and not
just the bad publicity that he
attracts. (REUTERS/ Jackson)

Assistant District Attorney Auchincloss described Jackson as "a spend-a-holic" with "an insatiable appetite for money." Auchincloss said Jackson was "in debt to the tune of $300 million and has liabilities close to $400 million."

The Assistant District Attorney claims Jackson was earning $11-12 million a year from 1999-2001 but spending $35 million a year.

How Broke Is He?

Interesting figures, but Jackson has many other assets including a 50% partnership in Sony/ATV Music Publishing, which holds the legendary ATV Lennon-McCartney publishing rights among others. Jackson bought ATV in 1985, gaining ownership of most of the Beatles' publishing. ATV merged with Sony in 1995 as a 50-50 joint venture, paying out $95 million to Jackson in the deal.

Song rights continue to pay royalties to both authors and publishers every time a song is played on TV or radio, bought legally for your iPod or used in a movie or TV show.

Paul McCartney (who passed on the chance to buy ATV before Jackson snapped it up) and the estate of John Lennon get paid royalties from author's rights to all Lennon-McCartney songs, but Jackson can count on considerable future income from his share of the Beatles' publishing alone.

Considering his own record sales and future royalties from records released between 1969 and 2005, it is unlikely that Michael Jackson could ever be bankrupt.

How Nuts Is He?

A sheriff watches Michael Jackson walk
through a metal detector wearing pajama
pants to a courtroom in Santa Maria.
(REUTERS/ Kimberly White)

The press has already convicted him. Even Jon Stewart thinks Michael Jackson is nuts. Previous press field days have successfully shifted the singing star's public image from eccentric to criminal.

In 1993, Jackson was accused of molesting a 13-year-old boy, but that case was settled out of court. The press had a wonderful time frying Jackson and represented his subsequent marriage to Lisa Marie Presley as a cover-up of Jackson's true sexual preferences.

Jackson and Presley divorced 19 months later. Jackson remarried in 1996 and had two children before another divorce in 1999.

More scandal for Jackson in 2001 when Sony canceled his post-911 tribute single and video, "What More Can I Give", after the press revealed that the video's executive producer Marc Schaffel was in the porn business.

Jackson went to war with Sony in 2002, accusing then Sony Music chairman Tommy Mottola of racism.

In this artist rendering, faceless Michael
Jackson accuser holds up evidence at the
Santa Barbara County Superior Court in
Santa Maria. (AP Photo/ Bill Robles)

And there was the famous dangling of Jackson's 11-month old son "Blanket" AKA Prince Michael II off a hotel suite balcony in Germany. Not exactly the kind of guy you'd want as a babysitter.

Jackson arrived late for court in Santa Maria on Thursday wearing pajama pants and complaining of back pains. Jon Stewart commented on the pajamas on The Daily Show, calling Jackson "crazy."

Maybe not so crazy? Maybe SpongeBob PJs are a perfect set-up for a future insanity defense if Michael is convicted in the Santa Maria trial?

Recent reports that SpongeBob is gay might certainly help.

Michael Jackson Official -

Serenity's Big Bad

Chiwetel Ejiofor

Hollywood March 10, 2005 (Sci Fi Wire) - Chiwetel Ejiofor, who plays the main villain in the upcoming SF movie Serenity, told SCI FI Wire that he enjoyed working with writer-director Joss Whedon on the big-screen version of Whedon's canceled Fox TV series, Firefly.

The film reunites the cast of Whedon's show, including Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Alan Tudyk and Morena Baccarin, and features Ejiofor in the pivotal role of a character referred to simply as The Operative.

"You know, Joss is just a terrific talent," Ejiofor said in an interview while promoting his new film, Woody Allen's Melinda and Melinda.

"And if you've seen any of his TV shows, his line of science fiction is very intelligent and drama- and character-based. That's what he brought to this."

Like Firefly, Serenity centers on the crew of a salvage ship 500 years in the future.

"I'd read the script, and I thought it was great," Ejiofor said. "I hadn't really thought of doing science fiction, but just reading the script was really inspiring. I thought it was great."

Joss Whedon directing actress Summer Glau

Asked to describe The Operative, Ejiofor said, "I'm just hunting them down, basically."

The role is a major change of pace for the British actor, who's best known his dramatic works in such films as Amistad, Dirty Pretty Things and She Hate Me.

"It's so different from anything I've done," Ejiofor said. "Like I say, SF and all that involves martial arts and wires and green screens. It's a whole different world in terms of the acting experience."

Universal Pictures will release Serenity on September 30th.

Serenity Official site -

Serenity Action Figures
Official Serenity Site Posting

March 11, 2005 - Diamond Select Toys and Collectibles has entered into a licensing agreement with Universal Studios Consumer Products Group to produce action figures inspired by Universal Pictures’ upcoming futuristic action-adventure film, Serenity.

The Serenity action figure line will be based on several of the main characters from the film.

This is Diamond Select Toys’ third addition to their Joss Whedon product line. Like the Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel lines, each figure will be approximately 6” high and will feature character-specific accessories and multiple points of articulation.

Diamond Select Toys will present a first look at some of the figures and accessories at this weekend's SciFi Summit in Pasadena.

Boston Legal Censored?
AP Television Writer

LOS ANGELES March 11, 2005 (AP) - When the ABC drama "Boston Legal" takes on the issue of alleged media bias in Sunday's episode, it doesn't name names — specifically Fox News Channel.

William Shatner as Denny
Crane in Boston Legal (ABC)

In the original script, a high school principal blocks Fox News from being aired on campus television sets because he considers the channel biased and inflammatory, according to the network.

But ABC asked executive producer and writer David E. Kelley to remove references to Fox; instead, there is criticism of TV news in general and one network, which is unidentified, in particular.

"We did make some changes to the script per ABC's request, but managed to tell the same story in what we believe is an even more subversive and provocative way," Kelley spokeswoman Stacey Luchs said Thursday.

The revision represents business as usual, the network said in a statement Thursday.

"While real-life situations are often used as original inspiration for fictionalized programming story lines, it is a long-standing industrywide practice not to use real people or actual events," ABC said.

Messages left seeking comment Thursday night from Fox News Channel were not immediately returned.

The Emmy-winning "Boston Legal" stars James Spader and William Shatner. In Sunday's episode (10 p.m. EST), a student seeks an injunction against the TV ban enacted by his principal (Chi McBride, reprising the role he played on a past Kelley series, "Boston Public").

"Look, I know all the networks pander," McBride says in one scene, but he goes on to condemn one in particular that he claims promotes "a political agenda."

Fox News may be safe from ABC, but it's taken hits on a network closer to home. "The Simpsons," which airs on corporate sibling Fox TV, has repeatedly poked fun at the news channel. "It's such an easy target the jokes write themselves," "Simpsons" creator Matt Groening once told The Associated Press.

(In a related corporate relationship oddity, "Boston Legal" is produced by David E. Kelley Productions in association with 20th Century Fox Television — also part of News Corp.'s Fox family.)

The "Boston Legal" episode retains a reference to "Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," filmmaker Robert Greenwald's documentary accusing Fox News of Republican bias.

ABC rejected Greenwald's attempt to buy commercial time during the episode. That was because it contained repeated references to a competitor, ABC spokesman Kevin Brockman said Thursday.

A message seeking comment from Greenwald Thursday night was not immediately returned.

Denny's competition still alive and well (NBC)

Crossing Jordan Renewal Likely
By Nellie Andreeva

Hollywood March 11, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - "Crossing Jordan" creator/ executive producer Tim Kring has inked a new two-year deal with the series producer NBC Universal Television Studio.

Under the seven-figure pact, Kring will remain as showrunner on NBC's "Jordan," which is expected to be picked up for next season, while developing new series projects for the studio.

"Jordan's" continued success has been gratifying for NBC this season because it has remained highly competitive in its 10 p.m. Sunday slot despite the lead-in advantage that its chief competitor, ABC's "Boston Legal," has from "Desperate Housewives," NBC Universal Television Studio co-president Angela Bromstad said.

Blind Justice in Focus

Ron Eldard and friend (ABC)

LOS ANGELES March 9, 2005 ( - Although it didn't reach the heights of "NYPD Blue's" finale a week ago, the latest cop show from Steven Bochco got off to a pretty decent start on ABC Tuesday (March 8).

"Blind Justice" premiered to an audience of about 12.4 million people in the 10 p.m. ET spot occupied by "Blue" for most of the past 12 seasons, according to final Nielsen numbers. That's a pretty big jump over the 10.1 million viewers "NYPD Blue" averaged this season, although not as strong as the show's March 1 finale, which drew 16.1 million folks.

Nor was the "Blind Justice" premiere big enough to outdo NBC's "Law & Order: SVU," which continued its strong season Tuesday with an episode that averaged 14.7 million viewers.

It did, however, help knock CBS's "Judging Amy" down to 9.8 million viewers, one of its smallest audiences ever for an original episode.

"Blind Justice," which stars Ron Eldard as a detective who returns to his job after being blinded in the line of duty, also posted a healthy 4.5 rating among adults 18-49, the key demographic for advertisers, and a 2.9 in the smaller, harder-to-reach adults 18-34 group. Both are up substantially over the network's season average for the hour.

Aside from the "Blue" finale, "Blind Justice" generated the biggest audience and best adults 18-49 number for regular programming in the time period since May 2003.

Colm Meaney

Colm Meaney, Elisabeth Rohm and Robert Patrick
By Nellie Andreeva

LOS ANGELES March 11, 2005 (Hollywood Reporter) - Irish actor Colm Meaney will co-star in "Briar & Graves," a pilot for Fox.

Meaney will play the supporting character of Alistair in the drama, which revolves around a doctor (Elisabeth Rohm) and a priest (Charles Mesure) who team up to investigate unexplained religious phenomena.

Meaney's numerous film credits include "the Commitments" and "The Van."

Elisabeth Rohm

In other pilot-casting news:

Robert Patrick will play one of the members of a Special Forces unit in CBS' drama "The Unit."

The actor, who appeared in the feature "Ladder 49," next appears in CBS' "Elvis" miniseries.

Lenny Clarke will star in ABC's untitled Mike Caleo project (formerly "Neighbors"), in which he'll play one of two dueling neighbors. Clarke, who has a talent deal with Touchstone TV, had a recurring role on FX's "Rescue Me."

Johnny Messner has landed the lead in Fox's "Deviant Behavior," a procedural crime drama revolving around a team that tracks serial killers. Messner, one of the stars of "Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid," has a role in the current Bruce Willis starrer "Hostage."

Amy Acker in The Unit

Amy as Fred turned blue in Angel (WB)

LOS ANGELES March 9, 2005 ( Scott Foley, Amy Acker and Regina Taylor are the latest additions to the ensemble of CBS' drama pilot "The Unit."

Based on Eric Haney's book "Inside Delta Force," "The Unit" looks at members of a Special Forces unit and their families. David Mamet ("Glengarry Glen Ross," "Heist") and Shawn Ryan ("The Shield") are executive producing the 20th Century Fox TV production. Dennis Haysbert ("24"), Michael Irby ("Line of Fire") and Regina King ("Ray") were previously announced for the cast.

Foley, last seen in a guest starring role on FOX's "House," is best known for his run as Noel Crane on The WB's "Felicity." The actor, who also starred in NBC's "A.U.S.A.," has also done recent spots on "Scrubs" and "Jack & Bobby."

This will be Acker's first regular television gig since she ended her run on The WB's "Angel" last spring. In addition to playing Winifred Burkle from 2001-2004, Acker has appeared on "Wishbone" and in the 2003 telefilm "Return to the Batcave: The Misadventures of Adam and Burt."

Taylor has been a regular on "I'll Fly Away" and "The Education of Max Bickford."

The Hollywood Reporter has no specifics on which parts the various actors will play.

Jim Morrison Film Found
Associated Press Writer

Jim before The Doors (AP)

TALLAHASSEE March 10, 2005 (AP) - Thirty-four years after his death, the state of Florida has found and restored what it believes to be the earliest film of Jim Morrison, shot in the early 1960s when he was a student at Florida State University.

In the FSU promotional film, Morrison plays a clean-cut prospective student who is denied enrollment at the school.

"We would like to accept you," Morrison's character is told.

"Indeed, we'd like to offer more courses, more sections, but we just don't have the space — that together with the lack of professors."

"But what happened?" he asks. "How come my parents, and the state and the university didn't look ahead?"

Morrison, who became lead singer of The Doors, attended FSU before enrolling in UCLA's film school. He died in Paris in 1971 at age 27.

The black-and-white clip was discovered last year among films that WFSU, a PBS station operated by the university, donated to the state in 1989. It was recently posted on the state's film archive Web site after being digitally converted.

It will air Friday on VH1.

FSU Site -

Blogs Insignificant

New York March 11, 2005 (Editor and Publisher) - New York media and political types are currently obsessed with the newfound influence of blogs, but is the trend being overhyped? According to a new CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll, relatively few Americans are generally familiar with the phenomenon of blogging.

Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs, Gallup reports.

More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. And even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs.

Theres no question that blog popularity is spreading by leaps and bounds. But as of late February, when this poll was conducted, only 3% of Americans said they read blogs every day. Fewer than one in six, 15%, read blogs at least a few times a month.

Not surprisingly, there is an age gap here. About 21% of those 18 to 29 read blogs at least monthly, but only 7% of those over 65 do so.

Gallup found no gender gap but some political angle, as 24% of liberals say they read blogs at least monthly while only 15% of conservatives do.

In a separate question focusing on those who read blogs that cover political issues, Gallup found that 2% of all adults read them every day, 4% once a week, 6% once a month, and 11% less than that, with 48% never reading them.

Among all those prone to visit blogs in general, 7% said they visited political blogs once a day, 13% once a week, and 20% once a month.

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