Clean Up Coal!
The Pirahã, The Magic Noose!
Stonehenge Badgers, Assisted Suicide,
Indians Vs Texaco & More!
Clean Up Coal: Kerry Pledges $10 Billion for Clean Power
By Chris Baltimore

WASHINGTON August 20, 2004 (Reuters) — U.S. Democratic presidential challenger John Kerry on Thursday pledged $10 billion over a decade to help U.S. electric utilities find cleaner ways to burn coal, the nation's most abundant energy source. 

In a bid to lure votes from coal-producing states like West Virginia, Kerry said that if elected he would offer incentives, like research grants, to encourage utilities to build coal-fired plants that give off almost no pollutants.

"Coal is abundant, coal mining creates jobs, and I believe that with the right investment and commitment, coal can be an even cleaner part of America's energy future," Massachusetts Sen Kerry said in a statement.

West Virginia's Democratic senators — Robert Byrd and Jay Rockefeller — endorsed Kerry's plan, as did unions representing utility employees and mine workers. Byrd also accused President Bush of ducking a campaign pledge to invest $2 billion in cleaner coal plants over a decade. That promise helped Bush secure West Virginia's electoral votes in the 2000 election.

The U.S. Energy Department did not return calls seeking comment on Kerry's proposal.

Soaring prices for natural gas have sparked renewed interest in "King Coal" as a source of electricity.

The United States is increasingly dependent on foreign countries like Saudi Arabia for its crude oil but holds about one-quarter of the world's recoverable coal reserves. At about 270 billion short tons, that's enough to last more than two centuries at current production rates, according to U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates.

Coal-fired power plants generate about half of the nation's electricity supplies, but few new plants have been built over the last decade because of uncertainty over federal clean air standards.

Utility American Electric Power (AEP), which owns the biggest fleet of U.S. power plants, supports Kerry's plan.

"This country needs to do something to reduce long-term demand and price volatility of natural gas," said AEP spokesman Pat Hemlepp. 

"The only way to do that at this time is the use of coal-fired generation."

AEP, the largest coal consumer in the Western Hemisphere, could build a new plant that uses so-called integrated gasification combined cycle technology, Hemlepp said. This new technology, supported by Kerry's plan, would pulverize coal into gas before burning it, which substantially reduces harmful emissions.

The Energy Department estimates the nation will need more than 100 new coal plants by 2025 to keep pace with growing electricity demand. The department says it is on track to spur development of a cleaner fleet of coal plants.

Last month, it said it has received $6 billion in private-industry proposals for its clean coal initiative, with government funds to be awarded by year-end.

The Pirahã and Perception
Teachers College, Columbia University News Release

August 19, 2004 - During the late 1930s, amateur linguist Benjamin Lee Whorf posed the theory that language can determine the nature and content of thought. But are there concepts in one culture that people of another culture simply cannot understand because their language has no words for it? 

No one has ever definitively answered that question, but new findings by Dr. Peter Gordon, a bio-behavioral scientist at Teachers College, Columbia University, strongly support a "yes" answer. Gordon has spent the past several years studying the Pirahã, an isolated Amazon tribe of fewer than 200 people, whose language contains no words for numbers beyond "one," "two" and "many." Even the Piraha word for "one" appears to refer to "roughly one" or a small quantity, as opposed to the exact connotation of singleness in other languages.

What these experiments show, according to Gordon, is how having the right linguistic resources can carve out one's reality. "Whorf says that language divides the world into different categories," Gordon said. "Whether one language chooses to distinguish one thing versus another affects how an individual perceives reality." 

When given numerical tasks by Gordon in which they were asked to match small sets of objects in varying configurations, adult members of the tribe responded accurately with up to two or three items, but their performance declined when challenged with eight to 10 items, and dropped to zero with larger sets of objects. The only exception to this performance was with tasks involving unevenly spaced objects. Here, the performance of participants deteriorated as the number of items increased to 6 items. Yet for sets of 7 to 10 objects, performance was near perfect. Though these tasks were designed to be more difficult, Gordon hypothesizes that the uneven spacing allowed subjects to perceive the items as smaller "chunks" of 2 or 3 items that they could then match to corresponding groups.

According to the study, performance by the Piraha was poor for set sizes above 2 or 3, but it was not random. "Pirahã participants were actually trying very hard to get the answers correct, and they clearly understood the tasks," Gordon said. Participants showed evidence of using methods of estimation and chunking to guess at quantities in larger set sizes. On average, they performed about as well as college students engaged in more complex numerical estimation tasks. Their skill levels were similar to those in pre-linguistic infants, monkeys, birds and rodents, and appeared to correlate to recent brain imaging studies indicating a different sort of numerical competence that seems to be immune to numerical language deprivation. Interestingly, Gordon noted, while Pirahã adults had difficulty learning larger numbers, Piraha children did not. 

While the Pirahã words for "one" and "two" do not necessarily always refer to those specific amounts, Gordon also found that members of the tribe never used those words in combination to denote larger quantities. In the study, they also used their fingers in addition to their verbal statement of quantity, but this practice, too, was found to be highly inaccurate even for small numbers less than five. 

The Pirahã language has no word for "number," and pronouns do not designate number--"he" and "they" are the same word. Most standard quantifiers like "more," "several," "all," and "each" do not exist. In general, while containing a very complex verb structure common to many Native American languages, the Pirahã language does not allow for certain kinds of comparative constructions. For example, it was not possible to ask participants whether one group of objects "has more nuts than the other" because of the lack of that construction in the Pirahã grammar. Yet, the word they use for "many," which in that language was derived from a form ob the verb meaning "to bring together," is distinct from a word that means something like "much."

Details of the study appear in the Thursday, August 19, issue of the journal Science. 

Teachers College, Columbia University -

Teddy the Terrorist
WASHINGTON August 20, 2004 (Reuters) - Sen. Ted Kennedy, the archetypal liberal Democrat from Massachusetts, is often called names by Republicans. But until this year he had never been viewed as a threat to U.S. air travel.

Kennedy -- one of the most recognizable figures in American politics -- told a Senate committee hearing on Thursday he had been blocked several times from boarding commercial airline flights because his name was on a "no-fly" list intended to exclude potential terrorists. 

The Senate Judiciary Committee heard Kennedy was eventually allowed on the flights, but it took numerous calls to the Department of Homeland Security to clear up the mistake and get his name off the list. 

Noting it had taken him weeks to resolve the matter, Kennedy wondered aloud how difficult it might be for ordinary Americans to have their names removed if they were also mistakenly placed on the watch list. 

A Kennedy spokesman said the whole thing had resulted from a simple error and had not been politically motivated. 

Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge personally called Kennedy "make sure that the situation was remedied," said a spokeswoman for Ridge's department.
The Magic Noose
CALCUTTA August 21, 2004 (AFP) - He retired after carrying out India's first execution in nearly a decade, but Calcutta's veteran hangman is still in the business.

He is selling strands of his final noose -- rumored to have magical powers -- and finding both a ready market and revulsion.

Nata Mallick, 83, ended his career on August 14 when he hanged Dhananjoy Chatterjee, an apartment guard convicted in the rape and murder of a teenaged girl. 

He has since cashed in on a superstition that a hangman's noose possesses occult powers that can uplift the sick and poor. For a price, Mallick sells lockets made from snippets of the noose that broke Chatterjee's neck. 

"He is pure evil," Sujato Bhadro, secretary of the anti-death penalty Association for the Protection of Democratic Rights, said of the hangman. 

"This sinful man has no right to do this in Calcutta where saints like Mother Teresa worked for hundreds who had given up hope to live," Bhadro said, referring to the Albanian-born nun who was beatified last year. 

Mallick, who has hanged 25 people, shrugs off the criticism at his new-found trade. 

"It is a proven fact that a used noose has magic power and it works miracles for those having a spate of bad luck, flopped business and heavy debt," the retired executioner told AFP. 

He says he accepts whatever money is offered him for a noose-locket. And he has plenty to sell. 

Mallick has chopped up Chatterjee's noose into miniscule pieces, ensuring there are plenty to sell. For those who don't want to splurge on the freshly used noose, old ropes are also available, Mallick said. 

"I collected all the nooses that were lying in the jail when I went there to execute Dhananjoy Chatterjee," Mallick said. He said he would sell lockets from Chatterjee's noose for around 2,000 rupees (43 dollars). Lockets from the old ropes, which, as per the Indian prison manual, are each six meters (20 feet) long were 500 rupees (11 dollars). 

Mallick had a salary of 5,000 rupees (110 dollars) per execution, although his fee was doubled for his finale this month. 

Among the buyers was Joyprakash Mitra, an unemployed 30-year-old whose grandfather advised him to carry a noose-locket. 

"I tried my luck with many things. Now I want to try the magic power of the noose," said Mitra, who declined to say how much he paid. 

The hangman claims that hundreds of buyers had come to him. While the number could not be verified, Babu Roy, who owns a tea stall on the road to Mallick's ramshackle house, said the crowds had been significant. 

"My daily sales have doubled as people are stopping by my shop while going to meet Mallick," Roy said. "This rope locket has become a new craze. They are becoming costlier by the day." 

Others are less amused. Ajoy Banerjee of Calcutta's revered Kalighat temple called the trade "sordid." 

"His aim is just to earn money," said Banerjee, the secretary of the temple management board, who said the Hindu clergy at Kalighat planned a campaign against the lockets. "We are worried that scores of unwed women and jobless youths are thronging the hangman's home for rope lockets."

Mallick's outspoken passion for his job helped fuel criticism in the run-up to his last execution. A jail official said Mallick fell ill at the gallows and was carried away on a stretcher after the hanging. 

The official claimed that Mallick may have had too many drinks.

Sexathlon Gold
By Ellie Tzortzi 

ATHENS August 20, 2004 (Reuters) - The Athens Olympics organizers tried to ban this month's Greek edition of Playboy, objecting to an article featuring naked women, sports equipment, the Olympic rings and headlines like "Go For A Sexathlon Gold".

The magazine's lawyer said on Friday a Greek court had refused an injunction which Games organizers said they sought to protect their trademarked symbols and a suggestive reworking of the Olympic motto "Faster, Higher, Stronger". 

The magazine remains on sale at Athens newsstands. 

Sandwiched between glossy, statuesque nudes in sporting poses, the article offers tips on how to achieve "2004 Seconds Of Ecstasy" and "Improve Your Personal Best In Bed". 

Editor-in-chief Giorgos Kyparissis said many of the pictures in question were not new but reprints of widely published shots by celebrated international photographers. 

"There is no case of us ridiculing the Games or the Olympic symbols. In actual fact we dedicate many serious articles to the event in the magazine," he told Reuters. 

"We are just having a bit of fun".
Badgering Stonehenge
By Matthew Jones

STONEHENGE August 13, 2004 (Reuters) — Determined digging by badgers living near Britain's Stonehenge, a 5,000-year-old circle of megaliths, is damaging ancient archeological artifacts and human remains. 

The shy nocturnal animals are burrowing into prehistoric burial mounds on Salisbury Plain, southern England. Their excavations have already disturbed some of the thousands of human remains and rare artifacts buried a few feet beneath the surface of the plain on which Stonehenge — a world heritage site — sits.

The danger posed by the badgers' homebuilding has become so serious that Britain's Ministry of Defense (MoD), which owns much of the land in the area, is trying to coax them away to less historically sensitive places.

"We have already moved badgers from two monuments located just north of Stonehenge," said Ian Barnes, one of four archeologists employed by the Ministry of Defense.

Barnes said Neolithic long barrows, burial mounds that date back to 3,500 BC, are most vulnerable to attack, with about half of the 20 sites showing signs of badger activity. Long barrows are elongated, roughly rectangular structures that can be more than 100 feet in length and several feet high.

The characteristic chalk and soft earth of the area is easy work for badgers, who are proficient diggers. The creatures, which have a distinctive black-and-white-striped head, often have more than one underground home, or sett.

Barnes said some monuments will have to be given up to the badgers because the damage they have caused is already too extensive.

There has been talk of culling the animals, but English Heritage, the government's advisor on Britain's historic environment which looks after Stonehenge, said it was not an option.

"Culling badgers has not been considered by English Heritage and is not our policy." an English Heritage spokeswoman said. "We have recently begun work on a project to assess in more detail the impact of the badgers on Salisbury Plain archeological sites. We will be continuing to work on this project over the course of the summer of 2004 and hope the results will help us understand more about the nature of badger damage so we can protect England's archeology as effectively as possible for future generations."

Barnes said the most effective way of moving badgers has been shutting them out of their homes. "A mesh link fence is built around the sett when the badgers are out."

The process costs thousands of pounds (dollars) because each site has to be examined for archeology before barriers are put up.

Badger groups agree the animals can be moved successfully and are working with the MoD and English Heritage.

"Where there are badgers causing problems they can be humanely excluded," said Elaine King, chief executive of the National Federation of Badger Groups. "Badgers can be successfully relocated, but it is important to understand their territorial behavior."

Not Everyone's Furry Friend

Not everyone in Britain is so keen on the badger, which has been protected by law since 1992. Farmers are worried that badgers are behind a rise in bovine tuberculosis because they carry the disease. The National Farmer's Union (NFU) believes more research is needed to investigate possible links.

"There is no concrete proof that badgers are responsible, but given that badgers are carriers, their role needs to be examined more closely," said an NFU spokeswoman. "We are hearing a lot of reports from farmers saying they are seeing a lot more badgers."

Gray-coated adult badgers, which can be nearly three feet in length, have no natural enemies in Britain and posses powerful jaws capable of giving nasty bites. The biggest killer of adult badgers is road traffic.

Rovers Find Oddities
By Robert Jablon
Associated Press

Pasadena August 20, 2004 (AP) — The twin Mars rovers have found a wonderland of weird rocks and enticing dunes, along with more evidence the Red Planet once had water, NASA scientists said this week.

The robotic vehicles landed in January and first found signs in March that Mars had water eons ago.

The Spirit rover has now rolled nearly two miles across the plains of its Gusev Crater landing site and into an area dubbed the Columbia Hills.

Perched about 30 feet above a plain, it recently found indications water had altered an outcropping of bedrock dubbed Clovis, said scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena.

Sulfur, chlorine, and bromine found inside the rock were in much greater concentrations than in rocks on the plain. Those elements are commonly emitted from volcanoes and could have combined with liquid water or water vapor, said Doug Ming, a science team member.

"Here, we have a more thorough, deeper alteration, suggesting much more water," said Steve Squyres, principal investigator for science instruments aboard the rovers.

Meanwhile, halfway around the planet, the Opportunity rover has rolled about 32 feet into Endurance Crater, a stadium-sized depression. At the bottom, it found rippled dunes and a bizarre rock with a lumpy, rounded appearance. Scientists weren't sure how the rock was formed.

"I don't have an explanation for this one," Squires said. "It doesn't look like anything we've seen anywhere."

The team hopes the vehicle can examine the edge of the dunes, although it won't go out in them for fear of bogging down.

"We built a wonderful rover, but we didn't build a dune buggy," Squyres said.

Opportunity found profound differences in rocks that it bored into at different levels of a layered slope. Tiny ripples in a rock dubbed Millstone are clear signs that it had contact with flowing water, Squyres said.

The $280 million mission was designed to seek geological clues about whether ancient Mars had water.

In March, NASA announced that Opportunity found ripples in sedimentary rock that indicated a pool of saltwater — an environment that could have supported life — once existed at the landing site in the vast Meridiani Planum.

The next month, NASA said Spirit had found evidence that limited amounts of water had deposited minerals in a volcanic rock.

Overall, scientists said, the rovers are aging gracefully, despite far exceeding their planned mission times of about 90 days.

NASA's Rover homepage -
Assisted Suicide: 44% Dying Patients Favor It!
Oregon Health & Science University News Release

PORTLAND August 19, 2004 - Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) have published the first study of dying Oregonians' attitudes toward physician assisted suicide (PAS). The survey, which involved family members who had recently lost a loved one, found that while very few Oregonians use PAS to end their lives, a much greater number of patients seriously consider it. Prior to this study, research focused on patients who had ended their lives through PAS and on physician's and specific patient groups' attitudes about the practice. The results of the study are published in the current edition of the Journal of Clinical Ethics. 

"One of the most surprising statistics this study generated was that approximately 17 percent of dying Oregonians consider PAS seriously enough to talk with their family about it," explained Susan Tolle, M.D., director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU and first author of the study. "However, when it comes to actually taking part in PAS, the numbers differ greatly. Approximately 2 percent of dying patients formally request PAS and about one in 1,000 patients die through the use of a lethal prescription. We had no idea prior to our study how many Oregonians personally considered the option." 

The study also provided some valuable information about dying Oregonians' overall attitudes regarding PAS. Researchers learned that 44 percent of dying patients were in favor of PAS, 15 percent were neutral on the issue and 41 percent were opposed. The researchers considered this data notable, indicating that after six years of legal existence, those Oregonians who were morally opposed to PAS appeared to remain morally opposed. In addition, the study revealed certain factors that relate to a person's feelings about PAS. Those factors include race, socio-economic status, religion, education and age. 

"According to this study, patients more likely to personally consider PAS are younger, white, not very religious and battling cancer," added Tolle, also a professor of medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics), OHSU School of Medicine. "However, patients at various levels of education considered PAS. The educational data really stands out here because previous reports have shown that those who ultimately take a lethal prescription tend to have a significantly higher level of education." 

To obtain their data, researchers conducted phone interviews with 1,384 family caregivers who lost an adult loved one through natural causes between June 2000 and March 2002. The family caregivers were identified through a random sample of Oregon death certificates. 

The current issue of the Journal of Clinical Ethics contains a commentary on the PAS study also written by two OHSU authors not involved in the original research. The commentary investigates the possible meanings of the data and its relevance. 

"One major question raised by the study is why many consider PAS but decide not to take part in it," explained Linda Ganzini, M.D., a professor of psychiatry and medicine (general internal medicine and geriatrics) in the OHSU School of Medicine. "There are a number of possible explanations for this. For instance, patients who consider PAS may later dismiss the idea after speaking with their physician about treatment options which include better pain control or treatment of depression. Referral to hospice may also affect a person's wishes for PAS. However, on the other hand, those already in hospice care who make the request are more likely to persist, having found that palliative care does not satisfy their end-of-life expectations." 

Another key question raised by the original article and addressed by the commentary authors is whether legalization of physician-assisted suicide may actually limit its use. 

"When you compare Oregon's data to other states where PAS is illegal, you find, on average, other states appear to actually have more PAS cases," added Ganzini. "About one in 1,000 Oregon patients die through receiving a lethal prescription. In other states, the average rate is approximately four in 1,000 - despite the fact that doctors in those states are breaking the law. One possible reason for this is that Oregon doctors feel they are under greater scrutiny and are therefore less willing to act outside of a safe harbor. Another explanation is that Oregon's Death With Dignity Act has significant hurdles and many patients simply can't make it over them." 

The Center for Ethics in Health Care at OHSU remains neutral on the Oregon Death with Dignity Act, neither supporting nor opposing the option. The center conducts research on all end-of-life issues, including PAS, in its long-term efforts to ensure the comfort of Oregonians near and at the time of death. 

Additional authors for the PAS study include: Virginia Tilden, D.N.Sc., R.N., who is now with the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Katrina Hedberg, M.D., M.P.H.. , of the Oregon Department of Human Services; and Linda Drach, M.P.H., Erik Fromme, M.D., and Nancy Perrin, Ph.D., from OHSU. Funding for the research was provided by the National Institutes of Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. 

Steven Dobscha, M.D., of OHSU, is co-author of the commentary

Oregon Health & Science University -
Five New Moons for Neptune
Neptune August 18, 2004 (BBC) - Five new satellites - and one candidate moon - have been discovered orbiting the giant planet Neptune, bringing its tally of moons to 13. Two orbit in the same direction as the planet rotates, while the orbits of the others are opposite to Neptune's spin. 

The tiny outer satellites are probably captured asteroids, astronomers say. 

Cataclysmic events connected to the capture of Neptune's moon Triton were thought to have destroyed any outer satellites the planet once had. 

The new moons, named S/2002 N1 to N4 and S/2003 N1, are in eccentric, tilted orbits. They are all between 30km and 50km in diameter. 

An international team of astronomers searched for the satellites between 2001 and 2003 using the 4m Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory and the 3.6m Canada-France-Hawaii telescope. 

The researchers used a technique to look for the new moons that was originally developed to detect very faint objects in the outer Kuiper Belt. 

They also observed a sixth candidate moon, which they have named c02N4. This was discovered on 14 August 2002 and seen again at the Very Large Telescope (VLT) on 3 September 2002. But further attempts to spot this object failed. 

The researchers say this could be Centaur - an object that has migrated from the outer Kuiper Belt. But its lack of movement relative to Neptune is more consistent with it being a satellite. 

The satellites are unlikely to have condensed from material around Neptune. 

Instead, these so-called irregular moons may be the product of a parent body that collided with Neptune's moon Nereid and were then disturbed in their orbits by the capture of Triton from the Kuiper Belt.
Indians Vs Big Oil: Ecuadorean Indians Challenge Texaco
By Amy Taxin

Ecuador August 20, 2004 (Reuters) — After a decade of court battles, this week lawyers took a lawsuit by Ecuadorean Indians accusing U.S. oil firm ChevronTexaco Corp. of polluting the Amazon jungle into the field. 

Scientists started taking soil samples from the Amazon, hoping to prove or disprove that a Texaco subsidiary contaminated groundwater supplies during its oil operations in Ecuador from 1972 to 1992.

The tests near the sweltering jungle town of La Joya de los Sachas marked the beginning of six months of inspections that plaintiffs and defendants believe will be definitive.

"I think we stand a good chance that science will provide the truth that everyone down here has been looking for for 30 years," said Steven Donziger, attorney for 30,000 jungle dwellers who accuse Texaco of polluting the environment.

The case is one of a kind in Ecuador. Lawyers sweating through button-down shirts trudged through high jungle brush to point out the sites they planned to have drilled, bringing the judge to the site of the evidence rather than filing it in court.

Both sides have asked to inspect 122 sites across the crude-rich Amazon to test for toxins in residents' drinking water, remediated oil pits, and area rivers and streams.

Plaintiffs accuse a Texaco subsidiary of dumping 16.5 billion gallons of oil-laden water into the environment while producing crude under a contract with Ecuador's government.

Texaco merged with Chevron in 2001. The company says it paid for a $40 million clean-up that was approved by the Ecuadorean government and that its oil production practices met industry standards at the time.

Plaintiffs say the area requires a $6 billion clean up. They say oil pits covered with soil have seeped toxins into the groundwater that have killed livestock and made people sick.

ChevronTexaco says the remediated pits pose no health risk.

Both plan to use standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization for hydrocarbon levels to measure the risks.

Plaintiffs filed suit in Ecuador last year after a U.S. court threw out the 1993 case over issues of jurisdiction.

"Up until now, for 10 years it's been procedural and legal, and now it's science," said ChevronTexaco spokesman Chris Gidez, as plaintiffs' scientists clad in white hazardous materials suits prepared to drill. "Science has to be allowed to prevail."

Inspections hit a rocky start when ChevronTexaco accused plaintiffs of tampering with evidence by taking preliminary samples without a judge present to prepare the field.

As lawyers debated under a tent in sweltering heat, a handful of local residents gathered to watch the trial on the fringe of this rundown town 113 miles (180 km) east of Quito.

Wearing a traditional red robe, Secoya Indian Milton Payaguaje traveled four hours to demand Texaco clean up the rivers where he lives. "Animals drink water and die, and people get sick when they go swimming," the 19-year old said.

Plaintiffs and defendants will send samples taken from the field to laboratories in Ecuador and the United States. Once inspections are completed, another group of scientists appointed by Judge Efrain Novillo will review the results.

Genre News: AvP, Horror Channel, Nick Lachey Charmed, Nip/Tuck, Brian Wilson & Elmer Bernstein
Alien Vs. Predator (AvP)
Review by FLAtRich

August 22, 2004 (eXoNews) - Two Big Bads from outer space really do their dance in AvP! What could have been another "let's milk the franchise" film may be a surprise to some because this one is pretty good, thanks to excellent special effects, quick editing, and two outstanding actors.

AvP was written and directed by Paul W.S. Anderson, who wrote and directed the original Resident Evil (2002) and directed the far more forgettable Event Horizon (1997).

Dan O'Bannon, who wrote the original Alien (1979) added some character writing to this one, as he did in the other Alien sequels. O'Bannon also wrote the screenplay for Total Recall and two lesser-known sci-fi favorites, Lifeforce (1985) and Screamers (1995). Jim and John Thomas, who wrote the original Predator films, also contributed on AvP.

Sanaa Lathan steals the show as Alexa Woods, the team leader. Miss Lathan recently got a 2003 Tony nomination for A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway.

She also played Ann Harrison in Out of Time opposite Denzel, for which she won a Best Actress Black Reel award and won awards for her work in Love and Basketball (2000).

Lathan doesn't need to rest on past accomplishments in AvP. She is definitely the star here from the beginning of the film.

A scene where she joins the hunt - Alien spear and shield in hand - is a picture of genre perfection on a Frank Frazetta level.

The "Whoever wins... We lose" promotional tag for AvP clearly does not apply to Sanaa Lathan.

Lance Henriksen is the only cast member from the original Alien series to show up for AvP and his fans should be more than satisfied with his role as billionaire explorer Charles Bishop Weyland.

As Alien fans know, Mr. Henriksen was the android Bishop in Aliens (1986), a role he reprised in Aliens3 (1992) before becoming Frank Black in Chris Carter's MillenniuM (1996-1999), one of the great TV genre heroes of all time.

Season One of MillenniuM was released on DVD this month by Fox, to be followed closely by Season Two.

[I've been watching it for the last couple of weeks and man, MillenniuM was good TV! Ed.]

Lance is fairly active for an actor in his sixties - he's in 10 films in 2004 alone, which puts his credits at about 100 projects so far. Not necessarily all the best films (a few baddies on Sci Fi Channel lately), but Lance easily rises above lesser material and is always memorable in the good ones.

So how about the plot? Not to worry. Charles Bishop Weyland (Henriksen) mounts the expedition to a newly found mysterious temple under the ice, which is a remnant of a time when the Predator Big Bads used the Earth as a ritual hunting ground every century or so.

Their seeded prey, the Alien Big Bads. Earth people were on hand for gestating these and we do get to see some of this in a flashback, but not much time for that because the Weyland team discovery coincides with the return of the Predators.

While exploring the temple, Alexa (Lathan) and our band of heroes accidentally unfreeze an Alien queen, who proceeds to hatch lots of slobbering uglies for the Predators to fight.

All this corn and yet AvP moves so fast that it is thoroughly entertaining and somehow avoids becoming just another Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman.

I don't mean to slight the ugly guys here either. The Aliens have come a long way from Rick Baker in a monkey suit and the swarms of acid-dripping cockroach Aliens and crab-faced Predators do their best to make a genuine monster film fun to watch.

Note that AvP is a prequel to all of the other films in the Alien franchise, but only a second sequel to the Predator franchise so you can probably expect to see more of both eventually.

AvP Official -

Buy the first season of MillenniuM on DVD from the Fox Store.

Official Lance Henriksen site -

MillenniuM Fan site -

Horror Channel from Universal?
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK August 17, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - NBC Universal is considering creating a cable outlet devoted to horror-themed programing, drawing from a library of creepy film classics including marquee heavies Dracula, Frankenstein's monster and Wolfman. 

It would mark the company's first in-house launch since it was formed in May by the merger of General Electric's NBC with most of French firm Vivendi Universal's showbiz assets, including Universal Pictures, USA Network and Sci Fi Channel. 

The channel also would nicely complement Sci Fi, which has abandoned the horror genre in recent years for a more mainstream focus but could serve as the ideal venue for cross-promotion. NBC Universal declined comment. 

The channel is said to be one of several ideas NBC Universal is tossing around; another natural application of the Universal library might come in the detective genre to capitalize on the likes of venerable Universal gumshoe dramas a la "The Rockford Files," "Columbo," "Magnum, P.I.," "Kojak" and, more recently, "Monk." Universal operates such a crime-centric channel in Latin America. 

Meanwhile, the Trio network twists in the wind as NBC Universal devises a strategy to boost the niche outlet's distribution. Without a long-term plan in place, Trio could lose its slot to a new channel concept as early as next month, sources said.

Nick Lachey Charms The Charmed Ones

NEW YORK August 19, 2004 (AP) - He had a crush on her, but Alyssa Milano doesn't mind — she thinks "he's hot." Nick Lachey told "Access Hollywood" in a recent interview that he had to tell his "Charmed" co-star about his former crush to avoid the humiliation of having her find out from someone else.

Lachey plays Milano's love interest in an upcoming six-episode arc on the WB show. 

"The first day I came I said, `I'm just going ... to tell you right now that your poster was hanging in my locker. Because you're going to hear about it and I don't want to be embarrassed later on.'" 

Milano says the feeling is mutual. 

"His eyes are like lavender," the 31-year-old actress told the syndicated entertainment TV show. "I can't even look at him when I'm working with him ... Yeah, he's hot." 

The new season of "Charmed" premieres Sept. 12. 

When Lachey was asked if his pop star wife, Jessica Simpson, would have a problem with his on-screen lip lock with Milano, the 30-year-old singer replied: "I'm in the clear here because when she did `That '70s Show,' she had to kiss Ashton (Kutcher). They did like five takes of the scene, so I got a free pass on the kiss thing!" 

Alyssa Official -

Charmed Official -,7353,||156,00.html

Joan Rivers Meets Nip/Tuck!

NEW YORK August 19, 2004 (AP) - Joan Rivers, the fashion critic who has openly joked about her own cosmetic surgery, will guest star as herself on the season finale of the FX drama series "Nip/Tuck."

In the episode to air Oct. 5, Rivers will play herself and meet with the show's plastic surgeons, played by Dylan Walsh and Julian McMahon, for an unusual cosmetic consultation. It is so unusual that in the show, Rivers flies to the surgeon's Miami practice to avoid the glare of the paparazzi. 

Though FX is tight-lipped about the nature of the discussed procedure, Scott Seomin, a publicist for the cable station says, "It's definitely not something she's had done before." 

Rivers is best known for her celebrity red-carpet coverage on cable's E! Entertainment network. In June, she and daughter Melissa joined the TV Guide Channel to cover the entertainment world. 

Official Nip/Tuck - 

Howard Stern As Toon

LOS ANGELES August 18, 2004 (Reuters) - Ribald radio host Howard Stern is making a new foray into television next summer, appearing this time as a teenage cartoon character of himself.

The male-oriented cable channel Spike TV said on Wednesday it has ordered 13 episodes of a new animated series tentatively titled "Howard Stern: The High School Years," which is aimed for launch in the summer of 2005, a network spokesman said. 

Stern is serving as executive producer of the series, based on his teenage years growing up on New York's Long Island, but it has not been determined whether the shock jock will lend his voice to his own character, the Spike TV spokesman said. 

The spokesman said Stern's parents, who have made frequent call-in appearances on his syndicated weekday radio show over the years, would be "major characters" on the cartoon series. 

As of this week, episodes are still being written and producers are conducting animation tests, he said. 

Spike TV is looking to rebuild a staple of adult-oriented cartoons after two other animated series featuring high-profile talent were dropped from the schedule - "Gary the Rat" with Kelsey Grammer and "Stripperella," starring Pamela Anderson. 

The upcoming Stern cartoon is hardly the first venture into TV for the self-proclaimed "king of all media." 

A weekly late-night TV compilation of highlights from his daily radio show ended its three-year run on syndicated television in November 2001. 

But the cable TV series "The Howard Stern Show," which also features clips from his radio program, continues to air on the E! Entertainment Television channel. Stern's production company also produced the FX network comedy "Son of the Beach." 

Spike TV part of media conglomerate Viacom Inc.'s cable TV channel group.

Brian Wilson Smile on Showtime
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK August 17, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Showtime will premiere a new documentary about the long-delayed completion of former Beach Boy Brian Wilson's album "Smile" Oct. 5. 

"Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of 'Smile"' chronicles the masterwork from its aborted undertaking 37 years ago to its resumption in February, including a London concert performance. 

"'Smile' is among history's great unfinished works, and this extraordinary documentary will explain why," said Showtime entertainment president Robert Greenblatt said. "Music fans, as well as the average viewer, will all be able to relate to the story of this remarkable record's birth, demise and triumphant return to life." 

The documentary includes interviews with Wilson, collaborator Van Dyke Parks, session bass player Carol Kaye and drummer Hal Blaine. Wilson and Parks began work on "Smile" in 1966, but a paranoid Wilson reportedly destroyed most of the tapes. The sessions yielded such tracks as "Heroes and Villains" and "Surf's Up," which turned up on later albums.

Brain Wilson Official -

Elmer Bernstein
By Jon Burlingame

[If you go to the movies, you've heard his music. It's really as simple as that. A great composer passes. Ed.]

Hollywood August 17, 2004 (Variety) - Elmer Bernstein, the Oscar-winning composer whose music graced such 1950s and '60s classics as "The Man With the Golden Arm," "The Magnificent Seven," "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "The Great Escape," died Wednesday afternoon at his home in Ojai after a long illness. He was 82. 

Bernstein won his only Oscar for "Thoroughly Modern Millie" in 1967, but themes for many of his 150-plus films and 80-plus television scores were familiar to millions -- especially "Magnificent Seven," which became the signature tune for Marlboro cigarette ads throughout the 1960s. 

He received 13 other Academy Award nominations, including those for "Golden Arm" (1955), "Magnificent Seven" (1960), "Mockingbird" (1962), "Hawaii" (1966), "The Age of Innocence" (1993) and "Far From Heaven" (2002).

He was nominated in every one of the six decades since the 1950s. 

In an era when Tchaikovsky and Wagner-style film scores were popular, Bernstein was one of the first to bring a specifically American sound to film music, particularly in the many Western scores he wrote in the aftermath of "Magnificent Seven," including "The Comancheros" (1961), "The Hallelujah Trail" (1965), "True Grit" (1969) and "The Shootist" (1976). 

In addition to his robust, often rambunctious Western scores, he was among the first to import jazz sounds to the big screen, initially on "The Man With the Golden Arm" but later in "The Sweet Smell of Success" (1957), "The Rat Race" (1960) and "Walk on the Wild Side" (1962). He also eschewed the large orchestras that were commonplace, preferring smaller, chamber-sized ensembles for intimate dramas such as "To Kill a Mockingbird," which is today recognized as a film-music classic. 

He spent weeks coming up with the right approach to that film, which he characterized as "the piano being played one note at a time ... music-box sounds, bells, harps, things that suggested a child's world" -- because the film was largely told from the point of view of the children of the Southern lawyer played by Gregory Peck. 

He often spoke of having to reinvent himself decade after decade. After the jazzy films of the '50s and Westerns of the '60s, he found himself in high demand for comedy scores beginning with "National Lampoon's Animal House" (1978). He did "Airplane!" (1980), "The Blues Brothers" (1980) and "Ghostbusters" (1984) before that trend ended. 

For the past 15 years or so, Bernstein often returned to the sound of small instrumental combinations for quiet dramas that included "My Left Foot" (1989), "Rambling Rose" (1991) and "Far From Heaven," along with the occasional quirky score like "The Grifters" (1990) and large-scale orchestral works for Martin Scorsese, including the remake of "Cape Fear" -- in which he adapted the 1962 score for the original by his friend Bernard Herrmann -- and "The Age of Innocence." 

The New York City native began piano studies with Juilliard teacher Henriette Michelson at the age of 12. The great American composer Aaron Copland encouraged Bernstein as a youngster; Bernstein later studied with composers Roger Sessions and Stefan Wolpe. 

His first career was that of concert pianist. He gave his first concert at the age of 15 in New York's Steinway Hall. 

During WWII, he arranged American folk music and wrote dramatic scores for Army Air Corps radio shows. He continued after the war as a classical pianist, but it was his radio composing that led to an offer to score a Hollywood movie in 1950. He scored "Saturday's Hero" and "Boots Malone" for Columbia; his unusual score for the Joan Crawford thriller "Sudden Fear" (1952) first brought him wide attention. 

As a result of his left-leaning political sympathies, he was "graylisted" during the McCarthy era, resulting in fewer offers and scores for such low-budget films as the now cult favorites "Robot Monster" and "Cat Women of the Moon." 

An offer to write dance music for Cecil B. DeMille's "The Ten Commandments" altered his career; when an ailing Victor Young dropped out as composer of the underscore, Bernstein got the main assignment, too. 

The multithematic, rich orchestral tapestry of "Commandments" (1956) and the jazz backgrounds of "Golden Arm" made Bernstein a bankable commodity. He remained on Hollywood's A list of composers for nearly half a century. 

Nat'l Geo jingle 

Bernstein also worked extensively in television, including themes and scores for "General Electric Theater," "Staccato," "Riverboat," "Julia," "The Rookies," "Ellery Queen" and perhaps his best-known TV signature, the fanfare for "National Geographic" specials. He also scored many documentaries for producer David L. Wolper, winning a 1964 Emmy for "The Making of the President 1960." 

His telepic and miniseries scores included "Captains and the Kings," "The Chisholms," "Little Women," "Gulag" and the HBO movie "Introducing Dorothy Dandridge." 

Bernstein enjoyed long relationships with several major directors including Scorsese, John Landis ("Animal House," "Trading Places"), John Sturges ("Magnificent Seven," "The Great Escape"), Robert Mulligan ("Mockingbird," "Baby the Rain Must Fall"), George Roy Hill ("Hawaii," "The World of Henry Orient") and Charles and Ray Eames (who made a series of short subjects including "Toccata for Toy Trains"). 

Showbiz leader

He was also a leader in the music community, serving as president of the Composers & Lyricists Guild of America throughout the 1970s. He also was a past VP of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, a founding life member of the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences, a former president of the Young Musicians Foundation and former president of the Film Music Society. He taught film-scoring classes at USC during the late 1990s. 

Bernstein received Golden Globes for his scores for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and "Hawaii" and five Grammy nominations; he also earned two Tony noms for his rare excursions into the field of Broadway musicals -- "How Now Dow Jones" and "Merlin." 

In recent years he had also turned his talents to the concert hall, writing a guitar concerto for Christopher Parkening as well as two song cycles, suites for symphony orchestra and compositions for viola and piano. 

Bernstein enjoyed a career resurgence in 2001 and 2002, celebrating his 50th year in motion pictures with a tribute by AMPAS, a film series at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and the Oscar nomination for "Far From Heaven." 

Survivors include his wife, Eve; two sons; two daughters; and five grandchildren.

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