Earth Rivers Dying!
Driving Deforestation, GM Corn?
Global Dimming, Frozen Dead
Angel Not Fades & More!
Earth Rivers Dying!
New Scientist Magazine News Release

New Scientist Issue: 22 May 2004 - Fresh water will be in ever shorter supply as climate change gathers pace. A new modeling study suggests that increasing temperatures will dramatically affect the world's great rivers.

While flows will increase overall, with some rivers becoming more swollen, many that provide water for the majority of the world's people will begin to dry up.

Some of these predicted changes are already happening.

A second study shows temperature changes have affected the flow in many of the world's 200 largest rivers over the past century, with the flow of Africa's rivers declining over the past 10 years.

Veteran climate modeler Syukuro Manabe and colleagues at Princeton University modeled what effect a quadrupling of atmospheric carbon dioxide above pre-industrial levels would have on the global hydrological cycle over the next 300 years. That looks further ahead than most climate models, but the scenario is inevitable unless governments take drastic action to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Rising CO2 levels will trigger higher temperatures not only at the Earth's surface, but also in the troposphere, the team says.

By factoring this into the models, together with changes to levels of water vapor, cloud cover, solar radiation and ozone, the team predicted the effect that climate change would have on evaporation and precipitation. Both would increase, the researchers found, causing the discharge of fresh water from rivers around the world to rise by almost 15 per cent.

However, while water is going to be more plentiful in regions that already have plenty, the net effect will be to take the world's water further from where the people are. "Water stresses will increase significantly in regions that are already relatively dry," Manabe reports in the journal Climate Change (vol 64, p 59).

Evaporation will reduce the moisture content of soils in many semi-arid parts of the world, including north-east China, the grasslands of Africa, the Mediterranean and the southern and western coasts of Australia. Soil moisture will fall by up to 40 per cent in southern states of the US, Manabe says.

The effects on the world's rivers will be just as dramatic. The biggest increases will be in the thinly populated tropics and the far north of Canada and Russia. For instance, the flow of the river Ob in Siberia is projected to increase by 42 per cent by the end of the 23rd century. This prediction could encourage Russia's plans to divert Siberian rivers to irrigate the deserts around the Aral Sea (New Scientist, 7 February, p 8). 

Similar changes could increase pressure from the US for Canada to allow transfers from its giant Pacific rivers to water the American West. Manabe predicts a 47 per cent increase in the flow of the Yukon river.

By contrast, there will be lower flows in many mid-latitude rivers which run through heavily populated regions.

Those that will start to decline include the Mississippi, Mekong and especially the Nile, one of the world's most heavily used and politically contested rivers, where his model predicts an 18 per cent fall in flow.

The changes will present a "profound challenge" to the world's water managers, Manabe says. They are also likely to fuel calls for a new generation of super-dams and canals to move water round the planet, like China's current scheme to transfer water between north and south. Some of the findings are controversial.

The UK Met Office's climate model predicts that flows in the Amazon could fall this century, while Manabe's team predicts greater rainfall could increase its flow by 23 per cent. And while Manabe foresees a 49 per cent increase in the flow of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers that drain the Himalayas, an international study reported that the Ganges would lose flow as the glaciers that feed it melt away (New Scientist, 8 May, p 7). 

Meanwhile, a team of researchers in France say that climate change is already affecting the world's rivers. David Labat and colleagues at the government's CNRS research agency in Toulouse reconstructed the monthly discharges of more than 200 of the world's largest rivers since 1875.

They took discharge data held by the Global Runoff Data Centre in Germany and the UNESCO River Discharge Database and used a statistical technique to fill in gaps left by missing data, or changes to run-off caused by dams and irrigation projects (Advances in Water Resources, DOI: 10.1016/j.advwatres.2004.02.020). Their findings reveal that changing temperatures cause river flows to rise and fall after a delay of about 15 years, and the team predicts that global flows will increase by about 4 per cent for every 1° C rise in global temperature.

However, climate change over the past few decades has already caused discharge from rivers in North and South America and Asia to increase. Run-off in Europe has remained stable, but the flow of water from Africa's rivers has fallen. 

New Scientist -

Driving Deforestation in Amazonia
Smithsonian Institution News Release

May 21, 2004 - In today's issue of Science (21 May 2004), a team of U.S. and Brazilian scientists show that the rate of forest destruction has accelerated significantly in Brazilian Amazonia since 1990. The team asserts, moreover, that Amazonian deforestation will likely continue to increase unless the Brazilian government alters its aggressive plans for highway and infrastructure expansion. 

"The recent deforestation numbers are just plain scary," said William Laurance of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama, the study's lead author. "During the last two years nearly 12 million acres of rainforest have been destroyed--that's equivalent to about 11 football fields a minute." 

Deforestation has risen most sharply in the southern and eastern parts of the Amazon, where rainforests are more seasonal and thus more easily burned. "Since 2002, forest loss has shot up by nearly 50% in the states of Pará, Rondônia, Mato Grosso, and Acre," said co-author Ana Albernaz of the Goeldi Museum in Belém, Brazil. "Plant and wildlife species indigenous to these areas are being severely threatened." 

The rising deforestation is directly linked to Brazilian development policies, says the team. In 2000, Brazil announced the largest infrastructure-expansion plan in the history of the Amazon.

The plan, formerly called 'Avança Brasil' (Advance Brazil), could ultimately involve over US$40 billion in investments in new highways, roads, power lines, gas lines, hydroelectric reservoirs, railroads, and river-channelization projects. 

These huge projects will crisscross the basin, say the team members, providing greatly increased access for loggers and colonists to pristine tracts of forest. "In the past, such projects have led to striking increases in illegal deforestation, logging, mining, and hunting activities," said Heraldo Vasconcelos of the Federal University of Uberlândia in Brazil, another co-author of the study. 

The key drivers of increasing Amazon-forest loss, say the authors, are rising deforestation and land speculation along new highways and planned highway routes, and the dramatic growth of Amazonian cattle ranching and industrial soybean farming. "Soybean farms cause some forest clearing directly," said co-author Philip Fearnside of Brazil's National Institute for Amazonian Research in Manaus. "But they have a much greater impact on deforestation by consuming cleared land, savanna, and transitional forests, thereby pushing ranchers and slash-and-burn farmers ever deeper into the forest frontier. Soybean farming also provides a key economic and political impetus for new highways and infrastructure projects, which accelerate deforestation by other actors." 

Anticipating public alarm about the worsening deforestation trends, the Brazilian government recently announced new measures designed to slow Amazon forest loss. These measures include increased satellite monitoring of deforestation, and the involvement of additional government ministries--not just the Ministry of Environment--in efforts to reduce illegal deforestation and forest burning. "If implemented effectively, the government plans, along with the establishment of new protected areas in Amapa, Amazonas, and Acre, would be a move in the right direction," said co-author Leandro Ferreira of the Goeldi Museum in Brazil. 

But the new measures do not go nearly far enough, say the team members, because they fail to address one of the most critical root causes of Amazonian deforestation: the alarming proliferation of new highways and infrastructure projects that penetrate deep into the heart of the Amazon rainforest. According to team-leader William Laurance, "If Brazil doesn't curtail the expansion of new highways and transportation projects, the net result will not only be further increases in Amazon forest destruction, but fragmentation of the surviving forests on an unprecedented spatial scale."

Smithsonian Institution -

No Extinction -

Off-road Vehicles Killing Beach Life
University of Rhode Island News Release

KINGSTON RI May 20, 2004 - When off-road vehicles drive on beaches, they can reduce the number of creatures living on the beach by as much as 50 percent, according to a recently completed three-year study by a University of Rhode Island graduate student. 

"The effect of traffic on the beaches is significant," said Jacqueline Steinback of East Falmouth, Mass., who studied the creatures living in and around the wrack -- the vegetation that accumulates at the high tide line -- on the beaches of the Cape Cod National Seashore. 

"Scientists originally thought that driving on beaches wouldn't have much impact since beaches are constantly changing and the species are already surviving waves, winds and extreme temperatures. But traffic is still having an effect on certain species," she added. 

Funded by the National Park Service, Steinback's research compared the composition and abundance of beach invertebrates living in and around the wrack on beaches with and without vehicular traffic.

She took core samples, set pitfall traps, and collected wrack samples on three beaches at the Cape Cod National Seashore -- Race Point North, Race Point South, and Coast Guard Beach in North Truro. 

On beaches where traffic was permitted, the number of animals tallied was from 30 to 50 percent lower than on beaches where traffic was prohibited. 

"The wrack line is where a lot of insects and crustaceans congregate and live," she said.

"Birds and other scavengers pick through it. It's an important part of beach ecosystems." 

The wrack is used in many different ways by different animals. For instance, many creatures use it as both food and cover from predators and extreme temperatures; several species of flies use it as a site to lay their eggs; and wolf spiders migrate back and forth from the beach grass to the wrack to feed on small crustaceans called amphipods. 

"Some species, like beach hoppers, are very susceptible to drying out in immature stages, so they hang out and feed under the wrack," Steinback said. But when vehicles drive over the wrack, their tires break up the vegetation, which makes it dry out. "That changes the abundance and diversity of species on the beach." 

Steinback noted that the beach ecosystem is very variable because environmental conditions change from day to day. As a result, species composition changes daily as well. 

"The important thing is that the Park Service is doing a good job of protecting most of the species diversity by limiting where people can drive and encouraging them to stay away from the wrack. If you protect the wrack, you protect many of the species, especially those that spend part of their life burrowed in the bare sand behind the wrack where vehicles are instructed to drive," she said. 

Steinback suggests that one step the Park Service might take to further protect beach fauna is to close beaches to traffic on an alternating schedule, rather than close some beaches for the entire season and open others. 

"Maybe by alternating closures at various beaches, there wouldn't be such a consistent negative impact on the beaches where traffic is allowed," she said. "The species are flexible and move around a great deal, so by regularly opening and closing the beaches to traffic, the impact may not be as great. 

"This is an environment that few people study, so there are still lots of questions," she concluded. "Off-road vehicles are having a tremendous impact on many natural communities, but on these beaches they haven't yet caused long-term damage that can't be remedied."

University of Rhode Island -

Safe GM Corn?
BRUSSELS May 19, 2004 (AFP) - The European Union defied public opinion and green campaigners by effectively lifting a five-year-old ban on bio-engineered food. The EU's executive commission approved an application by Swiss biotech company Syngenta to import a strain of sweetcorn that has been genetically modified to resist insects, BT-11. 

Syngenta was given approval to import the GM tinned sweetcorn into the 25-nation bloc for 10 years, provided the cans are clearly labeled as containing GM products. EU health commissioner David Byrne said the sweetcorn had undergone "the most rigorous pre-marketing assessment in the world" by EU food-safety scientists. 

"Food safety is therefore not an issue, it is a question of consumer choice," he said. 

A number of other companies are hoping to follow the trail blazed by Syngenta. The EU is studying another 33 applications for the marketing or cultivation of GM foodstuffs in Europe. The EU effectively imposed a moratorium on approving new GM products in 1999 in the face of rising public concern about their environmental impact and safety as food.

The decision on whether to lift the ban was passed back to the commission after EU member states failed last month to break a deadlock on the issue. 

Italy, one of the countries that opposed ending the ban, said it was now up to market forces to decide the success of GM food in Europe.

Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno promised his government would be "vigilant" to ensure GM producers respect tough EU regulations that paved the way for Wednesday's decision. 

Aside from clear labeling on their goods, GM producers must also store all data about the origin, composition and sale of their products for a five-year period, which Brussels describes as the world's toughest GM food regulations. The next front of the GM battle in Europe will be over authorization for growing bio-engineered crops in fields -- which Alemanno called a "much more serious problem". 

He said that on this point, "we must remain especially firm because the use of GM in farming can contaminate non-GM farming... which would threaten the freedom of choice of consumers and producers". 

The EU has been under mounting pressure from the United States, the world's biggest producer of GM foods which has led a group of 12 countries demanding the World Trade Organisation overturn the European ban. But one EU survey suggested that more than 70 percent of Europeans oppose GM products. Activists have lobbied hard against a technology they argue could prove dangerous for human consumption and for the environment. 

The European Association for Bioindustries (EuropaBio) said this was an insult to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which declared BT-11 safe for human consumption. 

"It is a slap in the face for the EFSA, which has spent a tremendous amount of energy in conducting the safety evaluation," EuropaBio secretary-general Johan Vanhemelrijck told AFP. "We're not happy about the number of years we've had to wait. But the EU procedure has been proved safe from scare stories. We are confident that consumers will use their good sense when given the choice in the shop." 

Advocates of GM foods argue that modifications to genes promoting, for example, resistance to certain pests, could greatly increase yields and alleviate global hunger. 

But Greenpeace accused Brussels of kowtowing to "American farmers and agribusiness". 

"It is irresponsible to authorize a product for human consumption when such doubts persist on its safety," said anti-GM campaigner Arnaud Apoteker. Byrne, however, said the commission had listened to objective scientific advice on GM safety after EU governments' repeated failure to reach a decision. 

Asked he if had personally eaten the BT-11 strain of corn, Byrne said he did not think so. 

"But I'm sure I have eaten GM foods, both here in Europe and other parts of the world. And I'm sure pretty well all of you have as well, whether you know it or not," he told reporters.

[And whether you want to or not, apparently. Ed.]

White Rhinos Go Critical
By Astrid Zweynert

LONDON May 21, 2004 (Reuters) — The northern white rhino, one of the world's most endangered animals, could be extinct in the wild within months unless poaching by Sudanese rebels stops, conservationists said Thursday as they launched an urgent appeal for funds. 

The world's 25 or so remaining wild white rhinos all live in the Garamba National Park, a United Nations World Heritage Site on the northern border of the Democratic Republic of Congo with Sudan.

Kes Hillman-Smith, a coordinator of the Garamba National Park project, said poaching had increased as Sudanese rebels said to be from the area of conflict around Darfur hunt down the rhinos for their valuable horns and tusks.

"It is the first time they have come into Garamba," said Hillman-Smith, in London for a meeting organized by the UK Save The Rhino group. "It's a worrying situation if the poaching continues at such an alarming rate," he said. "Unless there is a major level of support, we are going to lose the last population of northern white rhinos. We urgently need more funds to bring in better equipment."

The rhino numbers have dwindled from almost 500 in the late 1970s. Last week, two park rangers were killed by a group of poachers, Hillman-Smith said.

Once out of the park, the poachers are thought to head to the southern Sudanese town of Yambio, where traders buy ivory and rhino horn from the Congo and Central African Republic.

The Garamba National Park has long been a magnet for poachers, who prey on its rich wildlife, which also includes elephants, hippos, buffalo, and chimpanzees.

The U.N. cultural heritage body UNESCO runs a project to protect wildlife from the effects of violence in Congo, which is struggling to emerge from a devastating five-year regional conflict that killed at least 3 million people, mostly from starvation and disease.

The United States has been involved in efforts to reach a peace deal between Sudan's government and the Sudanese People's Liberation Army, which has been fighting for 20 years for autonomy for the mainly Christian and animist south.
Global Dimming!
The Earth Institute at Columbia University News Release

May 14, 2004 - Over the last four decades, scientists have observed a 1.3% per decade decline in the amount of sun reaching the Earth’s surface. This phenomenon, coined "solar dimming" or "global dimming," is due to changes in clouds and air pollution that are impeding the sun's ability to penetrate.

Scientists believe that the combination of growing quantities of man-made aerosol particles in the atmosphere and more moisture are causing the cloud cover to thicken. 

Despite this decline in solar radiation, the Earth’s surface continues to warm.

New research, led by Dr. Beate Liepert of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University, suggests an explanation for this paradox, as well as new findings that a warmer world may mean a dryer and dimmer world.

Published in Geophysical Research Letters, Liepert et al. show findings suggesting that solar radiation is being both reflected and trapped in the clouds and aerosol layer, thereby decreasing the amount of radiation that would ordinarily hit the Earth’s surface. It is widely agreed that greenhouse gas trapping is causing the Earth’s surface temperatures to rise.

What has not been understood until now is that temperatures would be rising faster or higher if the aerosol layer and cloud cover were not reflecting some of the radiation away.

Further, the researchers conclude that the imbalance of less solar radiation with warming surface temperatures will lead to weaker turbulent heat fluxes resulting in reduction in evaporation and precipitation, which will lead to a dryer world. 

Although rising temperatures should moisten the atmosphere, the research shows that man-made airborne aerosols will condense the water to form smaller cloud droplets. This process is contributing to the observed thickening of the Earth’s cloud cover. Smaller droplets are not heavy enough to sink through the air as rain. As a result, the cloud cover lasts longer and there is less rain. 

"Water has a characteristic residence time in the atmosphere before it gets rained out. In a warmer world, this residence time is longer because a warmer atmosphere can hold more water. Aerosols affect clouds by suppressing rain and increasing its residence time. The overall effect is that rainwater is about half a day older," said Liepert, Doherty Associate Research Scientist, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.

Examples of data supporting this new hypothesis include studies indicating a steady decline of water evaporation in the Northern Hemisphere over the past 50 years. Over the last 60 years, large regions of Eurasia have seen soil moisture increase by more than one centimeter per decade, yet no significant changes in precipitation are being seen. 

Solar Dimming has also resulted in an observable difference in the lightness of every day. The atmosphere is more polluted and therefore darker, even in remote areas. The fog you see today is about 3% thicker than it was 40 years ago. 

Working with Johann Feichter, and Erich Roeckner, Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, Hamburg, Germany, and Ulrike Lohmann, Department of Physics and Atmospheric Science, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Liepert conducted model simulations for this research that included pre-industrial aerosol and greenhouse gas conditions and present day conditions. Their models incorporated aerosol absorption of sunlight, heating of the aerosol layer, aerosol particles acting as cloud condensation nuclei and increasing reflective power, and cloud lifetime by the suppression of drizzle over oceans.

"Aerosols are highly variable in space and time, which is why aerosol forcing of climate has generally not been taken into account in climate studies. Furthermore, aerosols are found near the Earth’s surface and affect mainly the fluxes of energy and water at the surface. Because good surface observations are sparse, validating models is a very difficult task. Carbon dioxide concentrations are much more homogeneous and easier to measure than aerosol concentrations," said Liepert. "These new ideas on the affects of aerosols might open up many avenues and solve more discrepancies in the climate change debate."

This research was funded by the National Science Foundation and the Max Planck Society.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University -

Detroit Zoo to Free Elephants on Ethical Grounds
By Michael Ellis 

DETROIT May 20, 2004 (Reuters) - The Detroit Zoo will become the first major zoo to stop exhibiting elephants on ethical grounds because they can develop arthritis and stress-related ailments in captivity, officials said on Thursday.

The Detroit Zoo has one of the largest facilities in the country, but its Asian elephants Winky and Wanda still have recurring foot problems due to the cold weather, Director Ron Kagen told Reuters. 

In the wild, elephants roam vast areas, live in large families, and exhibit some of the same social traits as humans such as forming friendships and mourning for their dead. 

"Elephants seem to be intelligent and even social in ways that are similar to humans," Kagen said. "Elephants can suffer from similar things to what we suffer from when we're in difficult environments." 

Confined to zoos and circuses, elephants develop physical problems and neurotic behaviors such as rocking back and forth and aggressive behavior, he said. 

"If we don't feel like we can (keep elephants), then the question is, who can and how?," he said. "For us, there really is a big question about whether elephants should be in captivity at all." 

Kagen likens the change to the decision to stop performances by elephants and chimpanzees years ago at the zoo because of the stress it placed on the animals. 

The zoo expects to send Winky and Wanda to an animal sanctuary this summer where they can roam with other elephants. 

"I think it is an enormously important precedent," Wayne Pacelle, chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, told Reuters. "It should trigger the examination of the treatment of elephants in other zoos and in circuses throughout the country." 

Other zoos have also given away their elephants because they had health problems due to inadequate faculties, Pacelle said. But the Detroit Zoo is the first with sizable grounds and adequate care to end its elephant exhibit on ethical grounds, he said.
Frozen Dead
Lyr Sweden May 19, 2004 (AFP) - An environmentally-friendly method of burying the dead is offering stiff competition to traditional funerals, transforming corpses into organic compost and giving people the chance to come back as flowers.

Six-feet-under burials and cremations hurt the environment by polluting air and water, and upset the ecology of the sea, prompting Swedish biologist Susanne Wiigh to come up with an alternative. 

"Nature's original plan was for dead bodies to fall on the earth, be torn apart by animals, and become soil," Wiigh told AFP in Lyr, a small romantic island off Sweden's southwestern coast, where she lives with her family and runs her company, Promessa AB. 

Wiigh, who also manages the island's only shop well-stocked with organic food next to an impressive greenhouse, acknowledges that "we clearly can't go back to that", but claims that her method is as close to nature as modern ethics will allow. 

The method is chilling: It consists of taking the corpse's temperature to minus 196 degrees Celsius in a liquid nitrogen bath and breaking the brittle body down into a rough powder through mechanical vibrations.

The remains are then dehydrated and cleared of any metal, reducing a body weighing 75 kilograms in life to 25 kilograms of pink-beige powder, plus the remains of the coffin. 

The whole process takes place in a facility resembling a crematorium and lasts for about two hours. A corpse buried in a coffin will take several years to decompose completely. 

Wiigh says compost has always been her passion. "For me it's really romantic. It smells good, it feels like gold," she said. And like all compost, human remains should be used to feed plants and shrubs, planted by a dead person's family, and would disappear completely into the plant within a few years, she believes. 

"The plant becomes the perfect way to remember the person. When a father dies, we can say: the same molecules that built Daddy also built this plant" said Wiigh, whose dead cat, Tussan, currently nourishes a rhododendron bush in her front garden. 

Wiigh herself, a quiet-spoken woman with an easy smile who dedicates 60 hours a week to Promessa, would herself also like to turn into a rhododendron, of the white variety. What may look like no more than an ecologist's dream vision may well have serious business potential, breathing new life into an innovation-shy industry, which seems almost as inanimate as its customers. 

Industrial gases company AGA Gas, part of Germany's Linde group, has invested in the idea, taking a controlling stake of 53 percent in Promessa, alongside Wiigh's 42 percent and 5 percent which are held by the Church of Sweden. 

"The commercial potential could be quite large," AGA spokesman Olof Kaellgren, whose company contributes expertise of the nitrogen cooling process, told AFP. But he stressed that AGA considers the new method to be "a complement to already existing methods and therefore giving a new opportunity to make a choice that for many people feel better than today's alternative." 

The city of Joenkoeping, in southwestern Sweden, has already decided that it will not replace its outdated crematorium, instead becoming the first customer of Promessa. The installation, which will be cheaper than the 2 million euro price tag for a new crematorium, is to be ready next year. Promessa has applied for patents in 35 countries. Its immediate foreign markets are in ecology-conscious Northern Europe and include Scandinavia, Britain, Germany and the Netherlands, where the next installation is likely to be built. 

But queries have come from as far away as South Africa, where the soil often lacks the depth needed for ordinary burials. 

There may also be sales potential in countries where religion makes cremation difficult or impossible, such as Muslim countries. And Swedish designers have been stirred into action by the new method, focusing their attention on making containers which are smaller than traditional coffins, but larger than ash urns, and biodegradable. 

Stockholm design graduate Linda Jaerned has made two prototypes, for those who would like the freeze-dried remains to be buried in a container, rather than just mixed with soil. One is a soft tube made of felt, resembling a paper dragon in a Chinese New Year parade, while the other is a more traditional-looking box made of plywood and linen. 

"The first one will disintegrate completely in about a year, and the second one will last longer, maybe up to five years," Jaerned told AFP at the Stockholm design school. 

"I think this is the future. We don't have so much space for the dead. The living will take more and more space."

Genre News:  Angel - Love Is Love
Angel - Love Is Love
By FLAtRich

Hollywood May 22, 2004 (eXoNews) - In the end, Angel takes on a dragon. How completely appropriate! Culled down to a fighting force of four in the final scenes, Joss Whedon's last assault on the Big Bads was fast and fun, a bit sad but never disappointing.

"I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be 
You're gonna give your love to me"

I can only guess that the title of the Angel Series Finale, "Not Fade Away", was a reference to the song by Buddy Holly. Like all things television, that is for future scholars to dig up. The lyrics to Holly's 1957 song, transposed to 2004, are a perfect eulogy for Whedon's Buffyverse and its audience. There is always promise in a Whedon script, no matter how bleak the horizon.

"I'm gonna love you night and day 
Well love is love and not fade away"

But TV has a funny habit of disappearing overnight. Now that Angel is gone from the small screen, so is the Whedon fanbase. A lot of executives at The WB, Fox and UPN must be relieved. Things were getting dicey - a little too sexy and a little too violent for that 14-year-old mentality that network television sets as a limit.

"My love is bigger than a Cadillac 
I try to show it but you're drivin' me back"

With the passing of Angel, network television has returned to its roots - and I know I use this next quote a lot - as "chewing gum for the mind". Bucky Fuller isn't the only one who recognized the insipid lack of reason or rhyme in the "vast wasteland". Things were looking up at the end of the 20th Century. TV production had surely reached a new "Golden Age". But the Big Bads are a greedy lot, and there's more money to be made pandering than painting masterpieces.

"Your love for me has got to be real 
For you to know just how I feel"

Whedon has returned to his original loves, feature films and comic books. The movie Serenity is written, cast and in production - thumbing a nose at Fox who didn't see the real future of Firefly. Joss is also writing X-Men comics and maybe playing Buddy Holly songs on his guitar when he has a free instant.

"Love is real and not fade away 
Well love is real and not fade away"

Angel fans shifted into high gear last March when their Dark Champion was forced into early retirement by The WB. Campaigns to "Save Angel" did not succeed in making The Big Bads change their mind, but they did a lot of good raising money for charities and reminding viewers that there is an alternative to lying down and telling the bully to go ahead and kick you. Paraphrasing a Whedon remark (said jokingly), there isn't any conflict that can't be resolved with fisticuffs. The fans put on their boxing gloves and fought the good fight.

"I'm gonna tell you how it's gonna be 
You're gonna give your love to me"

This little website hosted the surprisingly successful Angel Fan Poll throughout Angel Season Five, so it's time to announce the final results. If anyone else is counting, at least 30,000 votes were cast by thousands of fans (some voted more than once, to say the least) to determine seven favorites: Favorite Season, Favorite Character, Favorite Actress, Favorite Actor, Favorite Big Bad, Favorite Episode and the most burning question - Who Should Return to Angel in Season 5?

"Love to last more than one day 
Well love is love and not fade away"

It was interesting watching subdivisions of the Angel and Buffy fanbase react to events real and television during the season. Old flame returns and twists in a story threads sent fans to their browsers. The month of the cancellation announcement brought in more voters than all other months combined.

"Well love is love and not fade away 
Well love is love and not fade away"

When the poll opened, Angel was the favorite character on the show. When it closed, the clear favorite was Spike. (The blonde vamp has a subdivision of fans we refer to here as "the Spikettes". They are very persistent voters.) Sarah Michelle Gellar was also high on everybody's list when the poll began, but she gave way to Charisma Carpenter in the final tally.

"Well love is love and not fade away 
Well love is love and not fade away"

We also ran an Angel Fan Profile survey from the beginning of the season until March 1st. Among other factoids collected from Angel fans: 43% of respondents believe magic was once real but is now lost to the ages; 98% would pay to see an Angel feature film; 52% never watched Firefly; 46% watched some episodes of Smallville; 44% said maybe alien races had visited our planet; 50% never watched Star Trek Enterprise; 53% did not know the name James A. Contner (a leading genre TV show director); and 60% would rather watch TV than read a book.

"Not fade away 
Not fade away"

Here are the "winners" and percentage they received of the total vote, keeping in mind that few Angel fans would want to characterize any actor, character or episode of Angel as a "loser". Also note that the poll closed on the day after the final episode and many viewers would probably agree with us that the last was one of the best!

Favorite Season 
Season 5 - 43% 

Favorite Character 
Spike - 47%

Favorite Actress 
Charisma Carpenter - 47%

Favorite Actor 
James Marsters - 52%

Favorite Big Bad 
Angelus - 34%

Favorite Episode 
Damage - 30%
Season 5, Episode 11 - A.K.A. "Dana the psycho slayer"
Writers: Steven S. Deknight and Drew Goddard
Director: Jefferson Kibbee 

Who Should Return to Angel in Season 5? 
Cordelia - 30%

You can see all the results at the eXoNews Angel Fan Poll site and eXoNews thanks you all for participating. (We are glad that's over, however!)

"Not fade away 
Not fade away"


Not Fade Away
Words and Music by: Norman Petty and Charles Hardin
Publisher: Wren Music Co Inc (BMI)
Artist: Buddy Holly (1957)
[Note: Charles Hardin = Charles Hardin "Buddy" Holley = Buddy Holly. There are several "versions" of the lyrics to Not Fade Away. We like this one best. Ed.]

eXoNews Angel Fan Poll site -

[Here are a couple of hold-over stories from last week. With Angel's passing, we just didn't have the heart to run anything else new this time. Ed.]

Fahrenheit 9/11
By Paul Majendie

Cannes May 17, 2004 (Reuters) - The fast-paced film by Oscar-winning Michael Moore is a telling work of propaganda by a moviemaker whose zeal to deride Bush exudes from every frame.

Two years ago, the director's anti-gun lobby documentary "Bowling for Columbine" grabbed the headlines at Cannes and then went on to gross $120 million worldwide and win him an Oscar. 

Fahrenheit 9/11 has already whipped up an international media storm after the Walt Disney Co barred its Miramax film unit from releasing such a politically polarizing work in a U.S. election year. 

The film focuses on how Americans and the White House responded to the Sept. 11, 2001 hijacking attacks and traces links between the Bush family and prominent Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden. 

The screen goes dark. The sound is of planes crashing into the Twin Towers before the grief of the victims is contrasted with Bush sitting, apparently impassively, in a Florida schoolroom for nine minutes after the news was broken to him. 

Moore uses a pop soundtrack to mocking effect. 

As shots are shown of members of the bin Laden family being hastily flown out of the United States after September 11, up surges the song: "I gotta get out of this place." 

He shows gum-chewing pop star Britney Spears supporting the president. Outside the White House, a woman doubles up in grief, sobbing uncontrollably over the death of her son in Iraq. 

In the light of the current controversy over pictures of Iraqi prisoners being abused, the film is bang up-to-date, showing film of American soldiers mocking the dead and posing with hooded Iraqi detainees. 

Sarcastic humor abounds. Moore even shows a clip of Bush shouting at him: "Behave yourself will you. Go find real work." 

In Washington, Moore goes on a bizarre recruiting drive. 

He stops Congressmen in the street and asks "There's not that many Congressmen that have got kids over there (in Iraq) ... in fact only one. Maybe you guys should send your kids there first." 

"What do you think about that idea?" he asks before getting the brush-off. 

From the front-room of a grieving family, he switches to big businesses looking for contracts in Iraq. 

An executive working for an armored vehicles company tells him: "Unfortunately, at least for the near term, we think it is going to be a good situation ... good for business, bad for the people." 

But the film is most effective when focusing on raw emotion. 

The camera pans in on a grieving mother, her voice cracking as she reads out the last letter she received from her son before he was killed in Iraq. 

Telling how she collapsed on hearing the news over the phone, she said: "Your flesh just aches. You're just not supposed to bury your own son."

Update 052204 - Fahrenheit 9/11 won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival today. The Palme d'Or is the top award at Cannes. According to Reuters, Mr. Moore responded to a standing ovation by saying : "I want to make sure if I do nothing else for this year that those who have died in Iraq have not died in vain." 

Star Trek: New Voyages - Come What May
Review by FLAtRich
Federation Stooge

Planet Earth May 15, 2004 (eXoNews) - Safe to say that "Come What May", the first episode of Star Trek: New Voyages, is a must for all Trek fans.

Series producers James Marshall and James Cawley have assembled a die-hard crew and young cast with a stated intention to continue Gene (Eugene Wesley) Roddenberry's vision of what we know as Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS). The new mission has impressed producer Rod Roddenberry enough to sign on for future voyages.

"Come What May" is available in Windows Media Player format as a free five-part download from selected servers. (Dial-up users should expect a minimum six-hour investment for all 100 megabytes.)

You can optionally pay homage to the Creators by contributing some cash to the project through PayPal. Check out the New Voyages homepage for details.

TOS fans will definitely get a kick out of New Voyages' strict adherence to the Star Trek bible and even post-TOS fans may find some cheer in the idea of reworking Captain James T. Kirk and the crew of the original Enterprise for a 21st Century audience.

The opening episode has very impressive special effects for an inexpensive, non-Franchise Star Trek entry, good costumes and a reasonably pre-STTNG plot.

Fans not steeped in TOS lore may have a harder time sitting through "Come What May". Compared to the rather non-Roddenberry universe of the current Star Trek: Enterprise and taken as a work of fans, Star Trek: New Voyages serves a greater good, but there are awkward moments.

I suppose I'm almost a hardcore Trek fan. I watched TOS when it was new. Never missed an episode of STTNG. Danced for joy when Spike TV recently resurrected DS9. I gave Star Trek: Nemesis not one, but two good reviews. I also thought that Michael Piller's script and Jonathan Frakes' direction made Insurrection one of the best Star Trek movies ever.

On the other hand, I don't have full collections of the TV shows or any Spock dolls. I've only been to two Star Trek conventions - one in 1976 and one in this century - and I've never dressed up as a Klingon.

This puts my credentials as a critic somewhere in the Neutral Zone, so I hope I don't hurt anybody's feelings.

"Come What May" suffers in direction and editing, both credited to Mr. Marshall, who also wrote the episode. I'd add individual actors to the bad list, but a good director can make any actor better, so I'll shut up about the cast except to note that some were good and some were not. James Cawley was admirable as Kirk, keeping in mind that John Belushi is the only other actor other than William Shatner that I can remember in the part.

Advice to the Captain - a good officer learns to delineate responsibility.

That said, maybe the direction would have been better with the help of a seasoned director of photography. "Come What May" is rather static and stiff visually (minus the cutaways to special effects.) If the TOS look to the sets and budget restricted his camera, Mr. Marshall the director could have used more imaginative angles and more extreme close-ups, the latter being a trademark of the TOS era of television.

A seasoned editor might have helped too. The editing in "Come What May" is downright frustrating. Scenes begin too slowly and linger too long. TOS was always snappy and quick. "Come What May" lacks pace.

Attempts at humor were far too "Trek". Shatner and the rest of the original cast were casually funny, but not because they were originating their now classic quips and asides. Keep in mind that they didn't think that they were creating anything monumental back in the mid-60s. They were just having fun with their parts. Loosen the reins and New Voyages will find its own humor.

There are some excellent TOS-style "flash forwards" where Cawley and his crew reenact scenes from TOS and various Star Trek movies, but the bows to the past are over the top. "Come What May" is so heavily TOS that it sometimes seems more like a forgotten rerun than a New Voyage. I could have done without recasting Vina the green dancing gal made immortal by the late Susan Oliver, repeated references to the Tribble episode, Spock playing an instrument, and that awful pink backlighting.

Thankfully, Marshall did not write Bones saying "He's dead, Jim."

One nice scene where Kirk complimented Yeoman Janice Rand made up for a lot of pandering to the past. I don't know if Shatner's Kirk ever thanked Grace Lee Whitney's Rand, but he should have. This scene indicates a direction New Voyages should take - moving beyond what has come before while maintaining the original timeline.

Make no mistake: there is great promise here. The entire cast and crew deserve a standing ovation for what they have begun.

I think Gene Roddenberry would have liked the idea of New Voyages and Rod Roddenberry's involvement certainly gives us hope that Kirk, Spock and the rest of TOS may indeed be reborn in the future.

Star Trek: New Voyages -

UPDATE 051904 - The STNV Official site was down for a while, but now appears to be alive and well. If you try in the future and can't get in, one of the mirror download sites is LCARSCOM.NET -

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