F Ring Moons!
Nuclear Waste
, Brain RAM,
DR21 Exposed! Cosmic Lens,
A Plague of Locusts & More!
F Ring Moons: Prometheus and Pandora
NASA/JPL Press Release

April 15, 2004 - Cassini has sighted Prometheus and Pandora, the two F-ring-shepherding moons whose unpredictable orbits both fascinate scientists and wreak havoc on the F ring. 

Prometheus (102 kilometers, or 63 miles across) is visible left of center in the image, inside the F ring. Pandora (84 kilometers, or 52 miles across) appears above center, outside the ring.

The dark shadow cast by the planet stretches more than halfway across the A ring, the outermost main ring. The mottled pattern appearing in the dark regions of the image is 'noise' in the signal recorded by the camera system, which has subsequently been magnified by the image processing. 

The F ring is a narrow, ribbon-like structure, with a width seen in this geometry equivalent to a few kilometers. The two small, irregularly shaped moons exert a gravitational influence on particles that make up the F ring, confining it and possibly leading to the formation of clumps, strands and other structures observed there. 

Pandora prevents the F ring from spreading outward and Prometheus prevents it from spreading inward. However, their interaction with the ring is complex and not fully understood. The shepherds are also known to be responsible for many of the observed structures in Saturn's A ring. 

The moons, which were discovered in images returned by the Voyager 1 spacecraft in 1980, are in chaotic orbits--their orbits can change unpredictably when the moons get very close to each other.

This strange behavior was first noticed in ground-based and Hubble Space Telescope observations in 1995, when the rings were seen nearly edge-on from Earth and the usual glare of the rings was reduced, making the satellites more readily visible than usual. The positions of both satellites at that time were different than expected based on Voyager data.

One of the goals for the Cassini-Huygens mission is to derive more precise orbits for Prometheus and Pandora. Seeing how their orbits change over the duration of the mission will help to determine their masses, which in turn will help constrain models of their interiors and provide a more complete understanding of their effect on the rings.

This narrow angle camera image was snapped through the broadband green spectral filter, centered at 568 nanometers, on March 10, 2004, when the spacecraft was 55.5 million kilometers (34.5 million miles) from the planet.

Image scale is approximately 333 kilometers (207 miles) per pixel. Contrast has been greatly enhanced, and the image has been magnified to aid visibility of the moons as well as structure in the rings. 

The Cassini-Huygens mission is a cooperative project of NASA, the European Space Agency and the Italian Space Agency. The Jet Propulsion Laboratory, a division of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, manages the Cassini-Huygens mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington, D.C.

The imaging team is based at the Space Science Institute, Boulder, Colo. 

For more information about the Cassini-Huygens mission visit, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov  and the Cassini imaging team home page, http://ciclops.org

US Government Will Ship Nuclear Waste
By John Nolan
Associated Press

CINCINNATI April 16, 2004 (AP) — The Energy Department said Thursday it will ship radioactive waste from a Cold War–era nuclear plant in Ohio to Nevada despite that state's threat of legal action.

"They're protesting our legal right to transport low-level defense waste," Energy Department spokesman Joe Davis said from Washington.

"We've got a plan in place. We're going to go forward with it."

The department plans to truck what it says are the most dangerous remaining wastes at the former Fernald uranium-processing plant. 

Fernald processed uranium metal from 1951 until 1989 for use in government reactors to produce nuclear weapons.

The uranium ore sludge residue and powdery, metallic production wastes material will be shipped to the Nevada Test Site, a vast desert tract 65 miles north of Las Vegas that the government uses for disposal of low-level radioactive waste.

Other wastes from Fernald, about 18 miles northwest of Cincinnati, have been shipped for years to the Nevada site. But Nevada officials say the silo waste is more radioactive and is mixed with hazardous waste and will need a more secure disposal site with lined pits.

"I'm very sympathetic with the people of Ohio who want to get rid of it. But we're not the dumping ground for the whole country," said Marta Adams, a senior deputy attorney general for Nevada.

In a letter faxed Tuesday to the Energy Department, Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval said he intends to sue in federal court to stop the shipments unless the government tells him by April 30 that it will voluntarily stop them.

A lawsuit could delay the Fernald cleanup, which has been under way more than a decade and has cost about $4 billion.

Nevada already is battling the government in federal court over Washington's plan to permanently store 77,000 tons of highly radioactive spent reactor fuel from 31 states and waste from the government's nuclear weapons program at Yucca Mountain, 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The Energy Department wants to open that dump in 2010.

Feds Charge Greenpeace with Protesting Under 1872 Law
By Catherine Wilson
Associated Press

MIAMI April 16, 2004 (AP) — A judge refused Thursday to throw out federal charges against Greenpeace for protesting a shipment of Amazon mahogany, setting up a trial that could serve as a test on the limits of political dissent.

The Justice Department charged the environmental group under an obscure 19th-century law enacted to stop pimps from clambering aboard ships heading for port. The government has never successfully prosecuted an activist organization on criminal charges over protest methods.

Although U.S. District Judge Adalberto Jordan allowed the case to move forward, parts of his ruling could give prosecutors reason to be nervous.

"This case is, to put it mildly, unusual," Jordan wrote. Although the law's "lack of use does not prevent the government from going forward against Greenpeace, it does point to how uncommon such a prosecution is."

Jordan did not make a final decision on Greenpeace's claim that the wording of the old law is too vague but said the argument "looks like a winner." U.S. Attorney's Office spokesman Matt Dates declined comment.

Greenpeace claims the Bush administration is going out of its way to stifle dissent in retaliation for its pushy challenges to pollution, deforestation, and global warming.

The prosecution "has the potential to transform an important aspect of our nation's legal and political life, significantly affecting our tradition of civil protest," said Greenpeace Executive Director John Passacantando.

The charges stem from a 2002 protest on the 965-foot APL Jade more than three miles off Miami Beach. Two protesters jumped aboard the vessel while members in two rubber rafts zigzagged in front of the ship. The crew kept protesters from unfurling a banner reading, "President Bush, Stop Illegal Logging."

Greenpeace claims the ship was carrying illegally cut Brazilian mahogany and that Bush has failed to enforce an international import ban. Six Greenpeace members settled criminal charges over the boarding, but a misdemeanor indictment charged the group with conspiracy and an illegal boarding under the 1872 law. Each count carries a possible $10,000 fine plus probation, a chilling prospect for an organization that is afraid it could be forced to open its records to government inspection.

The judge said the fears were "unfounded" and specifically noted that Greenpeace's membership list would be protected.

The jury trial will begin May 17.

Greenpeace - http://www.greenpeace.org
Brain RAM
NIH/National Institute of Mental Health Press Release 

April 16, 2004 - Some people are better than others at remembering what they have just seen – holding mental pictures in mind from moment to moment. An individual's capacity for such visual working memory can be predicted by his or her brainwaves, researchers funded by the NIH's National Institute of Mental Health have discovered. 

A key brain electrical signal leveled off when the number of objects held in mind exceeded a subject's capacity to accurately remember them, while it continued to soar in those with higher capacity, report University of Oregon psychologist Edward Vogel, Ph.D., and graduate student Maro Machizawa, in the April 15, 2004 Nature. 

Analogous to a computer's RAM, working memory is the ever-changing content of our consciousness. It's been known for years that people have a limited capacity to hold things in mind that they've just seen, varying from 1.5 to 5 objects. "Our study identifies signals from brain areas that hold these visual representations and allows us to coarsely decode them, revealing how many objects are being held and their location in the visual field," explained Vogel. 

To find out if the amplitude of detectable signals reflects the number of object representations held in visual memory, the researchers presented 36 subjects with a series of trials containing an increasing number of objects. Subjects briefly viewed a picture containing colored squares, followed by a one-second delay, and then a test picture. They pressed buttons to indicate whether the test picture was identical to -- or differed by one color -- from the one seen earlier. The more squares a subject could correctly identify having just seen, the greater his/her visual working memory capacity. Subjects averaged 2.8 squares. 

Electrodes on the scalp recorded neural activity during the one-second delay to pinpoint signals reflecting activity of brain areas involved in holding the images in working memory. Asking subjects to remember just one of two sets of colored squares that appeared on the left and right sides of the screen revealed signals near the opposite rear side of the head as emanating from the brain area involved.

The researchers found that the more squares a subject correctly identified, the higher the spike of corresponding brain activity – up to a point. 

Amplitude of the signal for correct trials was much higher than incorrect ones, suggesting that the delay activity specifically reflects the maintenance of successful representations in visual memory.

Neural activity of subjects with poorer working memory scores leveled off early, showing little or no increase when the number of squares to remember increased from 2 to 4, while those with high capacity, who correctly remembered more squares, showed large increases. 

Using a similar task with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), a research team at Vanderbilt University reports in the same issue of Nature that the posterior parietal cortex, an area at the top rear part of the brain, is the brain area responsible for holding representations in visual working memory – and likely source of the signal in the Oregon study. 

"Simply by measuring the amplitude increase across memory array sizes, we can accurately predict an individual's memory capacity," said Vogel. 

Since working memory capacity is strongly predictive of performance on a broad array of of cognitive abilities - reasoning, language, flexible problem solving - Vogel foresees the physiological measure as finding applications in assessing individuals who are behaviorally or verbally impaired, such as in cases of stroke or paralysis. The technique has also been used to study development of cognitive abilities in pre-verbal children.

NIH/National Institute of Mental Health - http://www.nimh.nih.gov

Cheney Says Kerry a Threat to Gun Owners
Associated Press Writer 

PITTSBURGH April 18, 2004 (AP) - Vice President Dick Cheney portrayed President Bush and himself as champions of the Second Amendment — and Democratic candidate John Kerry as a potential threat to gun owners — in a speech at the National Rifle Association's 133rd annual convention Saturday.

"John Kerry's approach to the Second Amendment has been to regulate, regulate and then regulate some more," Cheney said, citing votes against legislation that would protect gun makers from lawsuits and in favor of allowing federal authorities to randomly inspect gun dealers without notice. 

Cheney lauded the NRA for its safety programs and said the best way to prevent gun crimes was to enforce existing laws. Federal prosecutions of crimes committed with guns increased 68 percent under President Bush, he told the crowd. 

Bush "has shown you respect, earned your vote and appreciates your support," Cheney said. 

Cheney spoke for about 25 minutes after he was greeted by a standing ovation punctuated by chants of "Four more years." 

Cheney did not address the federal assault weapons ban, which expires in September, and which the NRA maintains has been ineffective.

Kerry, in a statement issued before Cheney's address, said "most voters don't know that (Bush and Cheney) are standing against major police organizations and breaking their promise to renew the assault weapons ban — which helps keep military-style assault weapons out of the hands of criminals and terrorists." 

Earlier in the day, Tom Mauser, whose son, Daniel, was killed with an assault weapon in the Columbine High School killings five years ago, tried to enter the convention hall where the NRA was meeting, seeking to urge Cheney to support extending the assault weapons ban. 

Mauser was turned away by a security guard as several conventioneers applauded. A couple of conventioneers yelled "Get a life" and "Vote for Bush." 

Mauser, who marched three blocks to the convention hall literally in his son's shoes, said before the march that continuing the ban would be common sense. 

"What is the useful purpose to these weapons? ... They are the weapons of gangs, drug lords and sick people." Mauser said. "It is a weapon of war and we don't want this war on our streets." 

Mauser called the NRA "an organization with a Field-and-Stream-magazine membership but a Soldier-of-Fortune-magazine leadership." 

The NRA expected up to 60,000 people at its weekend convention, dubbed "Freedom's Steel." The association, which endorsed Bush and Cheney in the 2000 election, will not endorse a candidate until the fall, spokesman Andrew Arulanandam said. 

Associated Press Writer Joe Mandak contributed to this report. 

National Rifle Association at www.nra.org 
DR21 Exposed!
Spitzer Space Telescope JPL Press Release

April 13, 2004 - Hidden behind a curtain of dusty darkness lurks one of the most violent pockets of star birth in our galaxy. Called DR21, this stellar nursery is so draped in cosmic dust that it appears invisible to the human eye. 

By seeing in the infrared, NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope has pulled this veil aside, revealing a fireworks-like display of massive stars. 

The biggest of these stars is estimated to be 100,000 times as bright as our own Sun. 

"We've never seen anything like this before," said Dr. William Reach, an investigator for the latest observations and an astronomer at the Spitzer Science Center, located at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, Calif. "The massive stars are ripping the cloud of gas and dust around them to shreds." The principal investigator is Dr. Anthony Marston, a former Spitzer astronomer now at the European Space Research and Technology Centre, the Netherlands. 

Located about 10,000 light-years away in the Cygnus constellation of our Milky Way galaxy, DR21 is a turbulent nest of giant newborn stars. The region is buried in so much space dust that no visible light escapes it. Previous images taken with radio and near-infrared bands of light reveal a powerful jet emanating from a huge, nebulous cloud. But these views are just the tip of the iceberg. 

Spitzer's highly sensitive infrared detectors were able to see past the obscuring dust to the stars behind. The new false-color image spans a vast expanse of space, with DR21 at the top center. Within DR21, a dense knot of massive stars can be seen surrounded by a wispy cloud of gas and dust. Red filaments containing organic compounds called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons stretch horizontally and vertically across this cloud. A green jet of gas shoots downward past the bulge of stars and represents fast-moving, hot gas being ejected from the region's biggest star. 

Below DR21 are distinct pockets of star formation, never captured in full detail before. The large swirling cloud to the lower left is thought to be a stellar nursery like DR21's, but with smaller stars. A bubble possibly formed by a past generation of stars is visible within the lower rim of this cloud. 

The new view testifies to the ability of massive newborn stars to destroy the cloud that blankets them. Astronomers plan to use these observations to determine precisely how such an energetic event occurs.

Launched on August 25, 2003, from Cape Canaveral, Florida, the Spitzer Space Telescope is the fourth of NASAÕs Great Observatories, a program that also includes the Hubble Space Telescope, Compton Gamma Ray Observatory and Chandra X-ray Observatory. 

JPL manages the Spitzer Space Telescope mission for NASA's Office of Space Science, Washington. Science operations are conducted at the Spitzer Science Center. JPL is a division of Caltech. Spitzer's infrared array camera, used to capture the new image of DR21, was built by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. The development of the camera was led by Dr. Giovanni Fazio of Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, Cambridge, Mass.

Full-sized images available online at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu  and http://photojournal.jpl.nasa.gov

Additional information about the Spitzer Space Telescope is available at http://www.spitzer.caltech.edu

Sony, Toppan Develop Optical Disc Made from Paper
TOKYO April 16, 2004 (Reuters) - Japanese electronics conglomerate Sony Corp and Toppan Printing Co Ltd have developed a new optical disc, made mostly from paper, that they say will be compatible with next-generation DVD technology. 

In a joint news release distributed late Thursday, the two companies said the new disc was comprised 51 percent of paper, enabling lower production costs. 

The disc can store up to five times more information than current discs, because it is based on blue-laser DVD technology. 

Blue-laser DVD players are expected to replace the current generation of red-laser DVD players in a few years' time. 

The paper disc is based on a version of a blue-laser DVD technology, called Blu-Ray, that is supported by a consortium of electronics makers including Sony, Matsushita Electric Industrial and Dutch firm Philips 

Toppan, the world's leading maker of color filters for liquid crystal displays, said the new discs could be more secure, since disposal of used discs can be done easily. 

The two companies said they planned to continue development of the disc for practical use.
Cosmic Lens - Microlensing 17,000 Light Years from Earth

April 15, 2004 - Like Sherlock Holmes holding a magnifying glass to unveil hidden clues, modern day astronomers used cosmic magnifying effects to reveal a planet orbiting a distant star. 

This marks the first discovery of a planet around a star beyond Earth's solar system using gravitational microlensing. A star or planet can act as a cosmic lens to magnify and brighten a more distant star lined up behind it. The gravitational field of the foreground star bends and focuses light, like a glass lens bending and focusing starlight in a telescope. Albert Einstein predicted this effect in his theory of general relativity and confirmed it with our Sun.

"The real strength of microlensing is its ability to detect low-mass planets," said Dr. Ian Bond of the Institute for Astronomy in Edinburgh, Scotland, lead author of a paper appearing in the May 10 Astrophysical Journal Letters. The discovery was made possible through cooperation between two international research teams: Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics (Moa) and Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment (Ogle). Well-equipped amateur astronomers might use this technique to follow up future discoveries and help confirm planets around other stars. 

The newly discovered star-planet system is 17,000 light years away, in the constellation Sagittarius. The planet, orbiting a red dwarf parent star, is most likely one-and-a-half times bigger than Jupiter.

The planet and star are three times farther apart than Earth and the Sun. Together, they magnify a farther, background star some 24,000 light years away, near the Milky Way center.

In most prior microlensing observations, scientists saw a typical brightening pattern, or light curve, indicating a star's gravitational pull was affecting light from an object behind it. The latest observations revealed extra spikes of brightness, indicating the existence of two massive objects.

By analyzing the precise shape of the light curve, Bond and his team determined one smaller object is only 0.4 percent the mass of a second, larger object. They concluded the smaller object must be a planet orbiting its parent star. 

Dr. Bohdan Paczynski of Princeton University, Princeton, N.J., an OGLE team member, first proposed using gravitational microlensing to detect dark matter in 1986. In 1991, Paczynski and his student, Shude Mao, proposed using microlensing to detect extrasolar planets.

Two years later, three groups reported the first detection of gravitational microlensing by stars.

Earlier claims of planet discoveries with microlensing are not regarded as definitive, since they had too few observations of the apparent planetary brightness variations. 

"I'm thrilled to see the prediction come true with this first definite planet detection through gravitational microlensing," Paczynski said.

He and his colleagues believe observations over the next few years may lead to the discovery of Neptune-sized, and even Earth-sized planets around distant stars.

Microlensing can easily detect extrasolar planets, because a planet dramatically affects the brightness of a background star. Because the effect works only in rare instances, when two stars are perfectly aligned, millions of stars must be monitored. Recent advances in cameras and image analysis have made this task manageable. Such developments include the new large field-of-view Ogle-III camera, the Moa-II 1.8 meter (70.8 inch) telescope, being built, and cooperation between microlensing teams.

"It's time-critical to catch stars while they are aligned, so we must share our data as quickly as possible," said Ogle team-leader Dr. Andrzej Udalski of Poland's Warsaw University Observatory.

Udalski in Poland and Paczynski in the U.S lead the Polish/American project. It operates at Las Campanas Observatory in Chile, run by the Carnegie Institution of Washington, and includes the world's largest microlensing survey on the 1.3 meter (51-inch) Warsaw Telescope. 

NASA and the National Science Foundation fund the Optical Gravitational Lensing Experiment in the U.S. The Polish State Committee for Scientific Research and Foundation for Polish Science funds it in Poland.

Microlensing Observations in Astrophysics is primarily a New Zealand/Japanese group, with collaborators in the United Kingdom and U.S. New Zealand's Marsden Fund, NASA and National Science Foundation, Japan's Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology, and the Japan Society support it for the Promotion of Science.

For animated Quicktime versions of the pictures above, go to http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/releases/2004/103a.cfm

Female Chimps Upstage Males
Tanzania April 15, 2004 (BBC) - It would seem young female chimpanzees take their studies a little more seriously than their male classmates, a study in the journal Nature has shown. 

Females learn from their mothers how to gather termites much faster than males - who prefer to spend more of their time playing, US scientists say. 

Elizabeth Lonsdorf and colleagues conducted their research on wild chimps in Tanzania's Gombe National Park. 

They say the gender differences are similar to those seen in young humans. 

Girls and boys pick up fine motor skills such as writing at different rates, and the team suggests its research could therefore indicate that sex-based learning differences may have an ancient origin. 

Educationalists trying to develop learning strategies for children could find the work instructive, the scientists believe. 

"This finding is a heads-up to researchers studying the learning of relatively complex skills that they should take sex into account," said Dr Lonsdorf, the director of field conservation at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. 

In a four-year-long field study, the team observed 14 young chimps and their mothers engaged in the practice of "fishing" termites out of mounds with tools made from vegetation. The research found the females learnt the skills earlier, spent more time at it and tended to catch more termites with each try. 

The young males spent a lot of their time playing and swinging around - behaviours the team says may help them in typically male adult activities later in life, such as hunting and struggling for dominance. 

"The availability of animal protein is limited for chimpanzees. They can fish for termites or hunt colobus monkeys," explained Dr Lonsdorf, who caried out the study with Lynn Eberly and Anne Pusey. "Mature males often hunt monkeys up in the trees, but females are almost always either pregnant or burdened with a clinging infant. This makes hunting difficult. But termites are a rich source of protein and fat. Females can fish for termites and watch their offspring at the same time."

"Adult females spend more time fishing for termites than males do. The young of both sexes seem to pursue activities related to their adult sex roles at a very young age."
Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) Press Release

UK April 16, 2004 - A consortium of astronomers is celebrating the commissioning of the SuperWASP facility at the astronomical observatory on the island of La Palma in the Canary Islands, designed to detect thousands of planets outside of our own solar system.

SuperWASP has a novel optical design comprising up to eight scientific cameras (currently starting operation with five cameras), each resembling in operation a household digital camera, and collectively attached to a conventional telescope mount. SuperWASP has a field-of-view some 2000 times greater than a conventional astronomical telescope. The instrument, which will eventually be capable of running under robotic control, is housed in its own customized building.

Only about a hundred extra-solar planets are currently known, and many questions about their formation and evolution remain unanswered due to the lack of observational data.

This situation is expected to improve dramatically as SuperWASP produces scientific results.

The SuperWASP facility is now entering its operational phase. Construction of the instrument began in May 2003, and in autumn last year the first test data was obtained which showed the instrument's performance to exceed initial expectations.

SuperWASP is the most ambitious project of its kind anywhere in the world. Its extremely wide field of view combined with its ability to measure brightness very precisely allows it to view large areas of the sky and accurately monitor the brightnesses of hundreds of thousands of stars.

If any of these have nearby Jupiter-sized planets then they may move across the face of their parent star, as viewed from the Earth. While no telescope could actually see the planet directly, its passage or transit, blocks out a small proportion of the parent star's light i.e. we see the star get slightly fainter for a few hours. In our own solar system a similar phenomenon will occur on 8th June 2004 when Venus will transit the Sun's disk.

One nights' observing with SuperWASP will generate a vast amount of data, up to 60 GB - about the size of a typical modern computer hard disk (or 42000 floppy disks). This data is then processed using sophisticated software and stored in a public database within the Leicester Database and Archive Service of the University of Leicester.

The Principal Investigator for the Project, Dr Don Pollacco (Queens University Belfast), said "While the construction and initial commissioning phases of the facility have been only 9 months long, SuperWASP represents the culmination of many years work from astronomers within the WASP consortium. Data from SuperWASP will lead to exciting progress in many areas of astronomy, ranging from the discovery of planets around nearby stars to the early detection of other classes of variable objects such as supernovae in distant galaxies".

Dr René Rutten (Director of the Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes) said "SuperWASP is a very nice example of how clever ideas to exploit the latest technology can open new windows to explore the universe around us, and shows that important scientific programs can be done at very modest cost."

The history of the project over the last ten years including the exciting discovery of the Sodium Tail of Comet Hale-Bopp in 1997.

The SuperWASP facility is operated by the WASP consortium involving astronomers from the following institutes: Queen's University Belfast, University of Cambridge, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes (La Palma), University of Keele, University of Leicester, Open University and University of St Andrews.

The SuperWASP instrument has cost approximately £400K, and was funded by major financial contributions from Queen's University Belfast, the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council and the Open University. SuperWASP is located in the Spanish Roque de Los Muchachos Observatory on La Palma, Canary Islands which is operated by the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias (IAC).

Pictures of the SuperWASP facility and some of its astronomical first-light images.

The SuperWASP project home page - http://www.superwasp.org

A Plague of Locusts Descends on Oz
SYDNEY April 16, 2004 (Reuters) — Millions of locusts swarmed toward Australia's second biggest city of Melbourne on Thursday, as the insects were also reported near the southern city of Adelaide.

Brought to life in February by drought-breaking rains, billions of locusts first swarmed along a 1,200-km (745-mile) front from southwest Queensland state to the central New South Wales town of Dubbo, across an area twice the size of England.

The move to major cities by the crop-devastating insects widened the battlefront in Australia's three-month effort to contain the swarms. Despite an aerial spraying campaign since February, the locusts have now spread a further 700 km (435 miles) southwest to establish a 5-million-strong swarm north of Melbourne.

"We had somebody phone up this morning to say they had a locust in the back garden," said Laury McCulloch, a director of the Australian Plague Locust Commission.

Officials in Adelaide also confirmed the arrival of locusts.

Numbers in the outback have not been officially estimated but are recognized as the most serious since up to 100 billion locusts swarmed in late 2000.

The return of very dry weather to much of New South Wales has driven the locusts to search for more favorable conditions in the south, said McCulloch.

Aerial spraying is now in progress in hot spots north of Dubbo, a town on the edge of Australia's eastern population zone and which was invaded by the insects last month.

The swarm 80 kms (50 miles) north of Melbourne probably did not justify aerial spraying but was being monitored, officials said.

Australia's major crops have so far escaped damage from the outbreak, which has occurred between the end of the winter harvest and the planting of new wheat, barley, and canola crops. However, some oat crops in the central west of New South Wales had been devoured by the locusts, McCulloch said.

Locusts were also laying eggs in northwest New South Wales and would hatch in spring, in six months' time, when wheat crops would be maturing for harvest, he said.
Genre News: Uma Kills, Angel Movie, Hitchhiker's Guide, David Duchovny, Brian Wilson, Valentino & More!

Uma Kills - Tarantino's Muse
AP Entertainment Writer

LOS ANGELES April 14, 2004 (AP) - Uma Thurman is one bride who wears red — from other people's blood.

Her character The Bride in Quentin Tarantino's ruthless revenge fantasy "Kill Bill — Vol. 1" and the new "Kill Bill — Vol. 2" began when the two worked together 10 years ago on "Pulp Fiction" and began making up stories about a woman, marked for death on her wedding day, who goes on a gruesome killing spree.

Thurman is Tarantino's crimson-soaked muse. 

"Together, we talked about The Bride forever," Thurman said.

"We were out one night talking and he was telling me about genres and filmmaking, and (the 1973 blaxploitation revenge film) `Coffy' and different movies ... " 

Thurman, who turns 34 April 29, said their conversations would run hours.

"We got going back and forth and cooked up the character of The Bride together. Like, wouldn't it be great to play this woman ... assassin ... wedding chapel massacre ... and da da da da dah. Usually that kind of talk is cheap but not with him. He went and sculpted the seed ideas of the movie."

Thurman, he said, would play a sexy assassin who wants out of the business. Her boss and lover, Bill, would slay her groom and entire wedding party and leave her for dead. Resurrected years later, she would embark on a mission of revenge to kill you know who (David Carradine) and his squad of hired murderers (Lucy Liu, Daryl Hannah, Vivica A. Fox and Michael Madsen). 

But like the character, the story of "Kill Bill" and The Bride would remain comatose for years. After "Pulp Fiction," Thurman and Tarantino crossed paths less and less. They met again at a Miramax Oscar party about four years ago, and Thurman inquired about the fate of their limb-slicing heroine. 

"Somehow or another he got completely excited about the idea again and went and found the pages and started writing again. He just put it somewhere, on some yellow legal pad, somewhere in his files. I just asked out of interest, in case he lost them. That led to his two years of writing." 

He wrote so much that the saga of The Bride became two movies. The first installment came out in November and was praised for its stylish action sequences in which the violence was almost cartoonish (one extended scene was animated). 

Sliced-off arms and decapitated necks blasted blood like firehoses as Thurman wielded a mystical sword against a legion of foes. After that, what's left for the second half? 

Tarantino tones it down. "The first movie in its own sort of wild way is expressionistic, sensorial action piece that's almost a setup for this movie. It's the source. You see the bride in all of her fierceness and streamlined rage," Thurman said. "The second one is where you really see her origin and her struggle and what she lost."

Tarantino did not make himself available for an interview with The Associated Press to talk about "Kill Bill — Vol. 2." 

Thurman said the key to her relationship with the director is contrast.

"I think we're really different people actually, but that's what's fun about talking to each other. We have very different perspectives. He's a very extroverted, public person. I'm a very introverted person. We're just very different characters, but somehow or other ..." She finished the sentence with a shrug. 

The "Kill Bill" saga has provided Thurman with a career renaissance, restoring her status as a guy-flick vixen after late-1990's flops "Batman & Robin" and "The Avengers." 

Her screen presence waned during her three-year marriage to Ethan Hawke. She appeared in little-seen dramas such as 2000's "The Golden Bowl" and 2001's "Chelsea Walls," which Hawke directed. She's currently at work on "Be Cool" a sequel to the mobster-in-Hollywood comedy, "Get Shorty." 

Hawke and Thurman, who have two children together, split up last summer after reports that Hawke had an affair with a Canadian model. "It hasn't been a big issue for a long time," she said of the breakup.
"It's something I don't want to talk about anymore, because I just don't think it's good for my children." 

Although a credit at the end of the "Kill Bill" movies states: "Based on the character of 'The Bride' created by Q & U," the U in that equation shies away from recognition for the story. 

She said The Bride's dialogue is a mixture of Tarantino's rat-a-tat-tat speechifying with Thurman's sleepy-sexy delivery. "It's a weird, interesting melding of his and my voice."

Kill Bill Official - http://killbill.movies.go.com

WB Considers Angel Movies and Wonderfalls 

Hollywood April 16, 2004 (Sci Fi Wire) - The WB has approached Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel creator Joss Whedon about doing at least a movie-of-the-week or two—and possibly as many as six—next season, thanks in large part to a fan campaign organized by Saving Angel, E! Online's Watch With Kristin column reported.

But the columnist added that, despite Herculean efforts by fans to save the canceled vampire show, Angel won't be coming back as a regular series, either on the frog network or on UPN or Fox, which have both passed.

"I think a Buffy movie is more likely to happen now," Angel cast member James Marsters (Spike) told the columnist. "And they may be given better budgets, seeing this kind of interest, because there's a feeling that there's a guaranteed audience. So the effort that I've seen, it is not in vain."

Meanwhile, E! Online reported that The WB executives have decided to review an episode of Fox's canceled fantasy series Wonderfalls along with its pilots, which means it is in the running for a fall-season pickup.

Malkovich Adds Star Power to Hitchhiker's Guide
By Liza Foreman

LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - John Malkovich is thumbing a ride on "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," a Disney adaptation of the Douglas Adams novel.

Malkovich will play a religious cult leader called Humma Kavula, created by the late author especially for the long-gestating film. 

"Galaxy" begins shooting this month in London, with Garth Jennings at the helm.

Mos Def, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell and Martin Freeman also star.

Mos Def plays Ford Prefect, an undercover alien who sets off on an intergalactic journey with his best friend and the film's protagonist, earthling Arthur Dent (Freeman). The duo hitch a ride through space - with the two-headed ex-hippie Zaphod (Rockwell); his girlfriend, the beautiful scientist Trillion (Deschanel); and a robot - to discover the meaning of life. 

Adams adapted his novel for the screen. After Adams' death in 2001, Karey Kirkpatrick did a rewrite before Robert Ben Garant came on board. Malkovich's recent acting credits include "The Dancer Upstairs," which he also directed, and "Knockaround Guys."

[If you've never heard the original BBC radio version, try to find it! Ed.]

Douglas Adams Official - http://www.douglasadams.com/movie

BBC H2G2 Official - http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/h2g2

Duchovny Is No Drag

LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (AP) - Slave to women's fashion that he is, David Duchovny jokes that he wishes he could have put on a dress for the new drag-queen comedy "Connie and Carla." 

"I was kind of disappointed when I saw I was going to be the literal straight guy," said Duchovny, who co-stars with screenwriter Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette in the movie. "That there wasn't going to be that scene where I come out in a dress, which I was hoping for, lobbying and campaigning for." 

Duchovny plays the brother of a drag queen who finds himself oddly attracted to Vardalos' character — a singer hiding out from mobsters by posing as a man in a drag-queen revue. 

Before he became a star as FBI agent Fox Mulder on "The X-Files," Duchovny had some experience with women's clothing, playing another FBI guy on "Twin Peaks." Duchovny had a recurring role as a cross-dressing agent in the early 1990s series. 

Duchovny brought in a tape of himself in women's clothes on "Twin Peaks" for his co-workers to watch while making "Connie and Carla." 

"All I remember from my personal experience is that it's really uncomfortable what women have to wear," Duchovny, 43, told The Associated Press. "It's all tight, it's kind of confining. It's no fun."

Connie and Carla Official - http://www.connieandcarla.com

Prepare for X-Files II with the eXoNews X-Files Fan Poll - http://richlabonte.net/keyofx/x.htm

New Brian Wilson Studio Album in June
By Tamara Conniff

LOS ANGELES April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - Brian Wilson's first new studio album in six years, "Gettin' in Over My Head," will be released by Warner Music Group's Rhino Records on June 22. 

The 61-year-old former Beach Boy recently resurrected and finished his legendary "Smile" sessions, which he debuted live in the United Kingdom. Wilson is expected to tour Europe in the summer in support of "Gettin' in Over My Head" and possibly bring the "Smile" concert to the United States in the fall.

He is currently in the studio working on the final version of "Smile," which will likely also be released through Warner. 

"Gettin' in Over My Head" features guest appearances by Eric Clapton , Elton John, Van Dyke Parks and Paul McCartney.

The album also includes a duet with his late brother Carl Wilson titled "Soul Searchin'." 

"Gettin' in Over My Head" features a number songs which Wilson had worked on earlier but had not yet completed, including the title track and "Desert Drive," which are culled from his mid-1990s collaboration with producer Andy Paley. Wilson's last studio album was 1998's "Imagination."

Official Brian Wilson - http://www.brianwilson.com

WB Does Kurt Cobain?
By Andrew Wallenstein

NEW YORK April 16, 2004 (Hollywood Reporter) - The WB Network, home to such clean-cut fare as "Everwood" and "Smallville," is developing an original movie about late rock icon Kurt Cobain, the troubled frontman for "grunge" band Nirvana.

The network has obtained the rights to Charles Cross' 2001 book "Heavier Than Heaven: A Biography of Kurt Cobain." Robert Munic ("They Call Me Sir") has been commissioned to write the script for the untitled film, which could get a primetime berth as early as next season. Cobain killed himself 10 years ago. 

"The day Kurt Cobain died was the day the music died for a generation," said Tana Nugent Jamieson, senior VP of the WB's new longform original programing unit. "His story is perfect for our audience." 

No casting or director is attached. 

The film will trace Cobain's life from his troubled youth near Seattle to his pioneering role in the emergence of the grunge music genre as the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana. Taking its cue from Cross' unauthorized bio, the film will detail Cobain's bouts with depression and drug abuse as well as his turbulent relationship with rocker wife Courtney Love. 

Jamieson hopes to give the film a cautionary tone, with a public-service announcement on the dangers of depression possibly following the film. "We can do this right without seeming preachy," she said. 

Munic said the film was "not your traditional biopic," noting that "the storytelling will have a nonlinear style, flashing to different parts of his life out of chronological order."

Plummer As Cardinal Law

HOLLYWOOD April 12, 2004 (Variety) - Christopher Plummer will star as Boston's controversial Cardinal Law in the Showtime original pic "Our Fathers," based on the David France book examining the pedophilia scandal that shook the Roman Catholic Church. 

Showtime greenlit the pic earlier this year with Dan Curtis ("The Winds of War") on board to direct from a script by Thomas Michael Donnelly ("A Soldier's Sweetheart"). 

Curtis and David Kennedy are exec producers. Showtime's Joan Boorstein is the creative exec on the project. 

"Our Fathers" follows the decades-long battle child abuse victims have waged against the priests accused of the crimes. Production is slated to begin in June. 

"Plummer will bring authority, humanity and an appropriately chilling detachment to the portrayal of a real-life character whose indelible involvement in this tragedy will never be forgotten," said Showtime entertainment prexy Robert Greenblatt. 

Plummer, who portrays King Lear on Broadway, last partnered with the pay cabler on the original movie "Possessed." Thesp's credits include the features "The Insider," "A Beautiful Mind" and "Nicholas Nickleby."

Brigitte Bardot Defends Whales to Danish Queen 
Associated Press Writer 

COPENHAGEN, Denmark April 15, 2004 (AP) - French film legend turned animal rights campaigner Brigitte Bardot on Thursday sent birthday wishes to Danish Queen Margrethe and asked her to put a stop to whaling off the Faeroe Islands. 

Pilot whales, which can be hunted legally by Faeroe whalers, have been a popular and inexpensive food for generations on the 18 semiautonomous Danish islands located halfway between Scotland and Iceland. 

By sending her wishes to Margrethe, who turns 64 on Friday, Bardot said she seized the opportunity "to share my profound sadness, my revolt about a barbaric 'tradition.'" 

"The small whales are circled (by boats), driven ashore where they are slaughtered with knives and hooks," Bardot said in the open letter. "This open sky butchery is unbearable, unacceptable in the 21st century." 

At the bottom of the letter, which was mailed to the Danish Embassy in Paris, the former actress added in handwriting "my best wishes for a wonderful birthday." 

A copy of the letter was faxed to The Associated Press. 

There was no immediate reaction from the Royal Palace. 

In the late 1980s, Faeroese were criticized by animal rights advocates about their method of driving passing herds of pilot whales ashore and slaughtering them on the beach.

Islanders claim the mammals are an important source of food and contend they have restricted the use of gaffs and spears in the hunt to make it more humane. Once beached, the whales' spinal cords are severed and bled dry by cutting the arteries. 

Dorete Bloch, a Faeroese biologist, said that pilot whales are not an endangered species. 

Every year, between 800-900 pilot whales are killed in the Faeroes. 

There an estimated 700,000 pilot whales swimming in the ocean, said Kate Sanderson, a whale hunt adviser with the Faeroe Islands' foreign department. 

"The killings are quick and humane," she said, adding that veterinarians and the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission monitor the hunt. 

"The whale hunt looks more dramatic on television because the ocean becomes red because of the blood," Sanderson said by telephone from Torshavn, the Faeroese capital. 

Pilot whaling in the Faeroes has been traced as far back as 1584. The Museum of Natural History in Torshavn has monitored annual catches sine 1709 and estimates that about 850 are taken yearly. 

Earlier this week, Bardot wrote a letter to Sweden's culture minister asking her to put an end to the artwork made by Nathalia Edenmont, an artist who uses dead animals in her works. 

She has, Bardot wrote in the letter to Marita Ulvskog, "transformed her studio into a a slaughterhouse for animals." 

Faeroes pilot whaling site -  http://www.whaling.fo

Long-Lost Rudolph Valentino Film Found

AMSTERDAM April 17, 2004 (Reuters) - The Dutch national film archive has discovered a complete copy of the long-lost 1922 silent classic "Beyond the Rocks" starring Rudolph Valentino and Gloria Swanson in a private collection, it said on Saturday. 

"Film historians and restorers have been looking for 'Beyond the Rocks' -- a classic melodrama about impossible love -- for almost three-quarters of a century," the Filmmuseum, the Dutch national center for cinematography, said in a statement. 

Jan van den Brink, a film historian and Valentino expert who works for the Filmmuseum, said the 1922 hit film had turned up among well over 2,000 film canisters bequeathed to the archive in 2000 after the death of a collector in the town of Haarlem. 

"We are feeling rather excited because it is a wonderful rediscovery especially as the film is the only film in which Valentino and Swanson starred together," he told Reuters. 

The deceased collector, whose family van den Brink said did not want to be named, had a strange way of organizing his films, so it took the archive several years of searching through the reels to realize there was a full copy of "Beyond the Rocks." 

Van den Brink said the 81-minute romantic melodrama about a woman pushed into a marriage with an older man who falls for Valentino's nobleman character on her honeymoon was in good condition apart from about two minutes which were damaged.

"It is a complete feature film in six acts with a beautiful story in which Valentino plays a rather decent character," he said, adding he believed the collector had the copy for decades. 

The Filmmuseum is restoring the film, repairing scratches and other minor damage, and has asked Dutch composers to write a new score to be performed live when it shows the silent movie at its festival in Amsterdam next year. 

Van den Brink said the Filmmuseum expected interest in the film from archives around the world as well as the film's producers, Paramount, and planned to produce a copy for international distribution. 

Born in 1895 to a middle-class Italian family, Valentino moved to New York in 1913 and rose to star status in the early 1920s, wooing fans with steamy performances until his premature death in 1926 following complications from a perforated ulcer. 

Swanson, best known for her portrayal of Norma Desmond in Billy Wilder's 1950 "Sunset Boulevard," was one of the most popular and influential female stars of the 1920s.

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